I love to read. I keep a list — over 250 long — of all the books that I’ve read, or most of them. A few from grade school have probably slipped my memory. And I keep a list — around 130 long — of books that I want to read. That list is missing quite a few selections, too, as I’ll make a note to the effect that “I want to read something by Hemingway.” This generally means more than one book…and I occasionally list a set of books as one.

Lately I haven’t read nearly as much as I prefer (proofreading notwithstanding). But today I finally read Alice in Wonderland. That’s right, I had never read this classic (yet sophisticated) children’s tale. Shel Silverstein yes, Lewis Carroll no. I could see better the fun that Hofstadter had writing GEB, which only made Carroll the more delightful. I got stuck on one sentence (one which I’m sure most people either get stuck on till their eyes glaze, or just plain skip):

…never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

Yes, I wrote it down when I saw it. (Ok, truth be told, I laughed a fair bit first.) I tried to block off the separate bits of the sentence, but I can’t make it make sense in modern English grammar.

{Insert 10-minute pause here.}

Ok, I tried to separate the tangled knots of linguistic insanity, but I would need a linguist’s expert help. If that would help, of course. If I clump one phrase in one way that makes sense, the others only get more confused. How frustating (and delicious!).

Thoughts welcome. Also, thoughts welcome on bookshelf widgets that will work on — I recently joined Shelfari and added all my books, even ticked off favorites, owned and wishlist books, only to find that I can’t post my bookshelf on the sidebar here. And it’s such a pretty little bookshelf, too. :sad face:


2 thoughts on “Bookish

  1. Carroll was very clever. I recently took a logic class that focused on little bits such as the Duchess’, and this is problem is actually logically impossible. Getting rid of all the unnecessary words and phrases, the resulting sentence makes no logical sense. It’s just written in a way were it seems that it might.

    If you’re a Carroll fan, you might be interested in the new Alice movie:

    • It’s like an extended round of “Before & After” from Wheel of Fortune – you can make one part make sense, but then the next doesn’t fit. But if you make the second part make sense, the first doesn’t work; and so on, in a chain of three or four such phrases.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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