Jul 23

Evertype is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of John Kendrick Bangs’ Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream, an economic parody of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream
From the introduction:

John Kendrick Bangs (1862–1922) was born in Yonkers, New York, and is known for his work as an author, editor, and satirist. In 1884 he became an Associate Editor of Life, later working at Harper’s Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and Harper’s Young People, in the position of “Editor of the Depart­ments of Humor” for all three from 1889 to 1900. Later he worked as editor of Munsey’s Magazine, of Harper’s Literature, and of the New Metropolitan magazine, and in 1904 he was appointed editor of Puck, perhaps the foremost American humour magazine of its day.

Bangs made two contributions to the Carrollian world. In 1902 with Charles Macauley he wrote what Caroline Sigler calls “an Alice-like fantasy”, Emblemland, a in which a young American boy named Rollo visits a strange country peopled with symbols and icons. Macauley’s line drawings are charming and some of the verse in the book is reminiscent of Carroll’s.

In Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream, Bangs makes light of a range of economic issues familiar to his 1907 readers—all of which are topical and all-too familiar to today’s reader as well. High taxes, corporate greed, bribery, institutional corruption, and govern­mental incompetence are among the themes of this book.

As an Alice imitation per se, Bangs’ Alice in Blunderland is not, perhaps, one of the most successful in recreat­ing the atmo­sphere of Wonder­land. In some regards it relies more on absurdity than it does on nonsense, and some of the humour is indeed rather American. A sequel like A New Alice in the Old Wonder­land by Anna Matlack Richards has considerably more weight as a novel, but to some degree this reflects Richards’ interest in responding to, and subverting, Carroll’s original story. Bangs’ intention—and in this he succeeds—is to make his reader smile wryly rather than laugh out loud, for his satire is very much on target.

“Yes,” said the Hatter. “The March Hare and the White Knight and I. We’ve started a city to do it with. We’ve sprinkled our streets with Rough on Copperations until there isn’t one left in the place. Everything in town belongs to the People—streetcars, gutters, pavements, theatres, electric light, cabs, manicures, dogs, cats, canary birds, hotels, barber shops, candy stores, hats, umbrellas, bakeries, cakeries, steakeries, shops—you ca’n’t think of a thing that the city don’t own. No more private ownership of anything from a toothbrush to a yacht, and the result is we are all happy.”

“It sounds fine,” said Alice. “Though I think I should rather own my own toothbrush.”

“You naturally would, under the old system,” assented the Hatter. “Under a system of private ownership, owning your own teeth, you’d prefer to own your own toothbrush, but our Council has just passed a law making teeth public property. You see we found that some people had teeth and other people hadn’t, which is hardly a fair condition under a Republican form of Government. It gave one class of citizens a distinct advantage over other people and the Declaration of Independ ence demands absolute equality for all. One man owning his own teeth could eat all the hickory nuts he wanted just because he had teeth to crack ’em with, while another man not having teeth had either to swallow ’em whole, which ruined his digestion, or go without, which wasn’t fair.”

“I see,” said Alice.

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