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Alice in Wonderland

Another book that I really need to reread: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Recently I asked Robin "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?". It's a purely nonsense-riddle, or so I assumed, by Lewis Carroll that appears in Chapter VII ("A Mad Tea-Party"). Robin responded instantly with the brilliant, "Poe wrote on both!" He credited it to a forgotten online source. A lookabout suggests that puzzle-expert Sam Loyd came up with it in 1914. Carroll himself said in a later edition of Alice:

Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter's Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.

(Note that "nevar" is "raven" spelled backwards.)

Another reason to return to Alice is the observation by computer scientist Alan Perlis:

The best book on programming for the layman is Alice in Wonderland, but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.

And there's the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, with its philosophical discussion of the name-value distinction in Chapter VIII ('It's my own Invention') as the White Knight offers to sing to Alice:

' ... The name of the song is called "HADDOCKS' EYES."'

'Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested.

'No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. 'That's what the name is CALLED. The name really IS "THE AGED AGED MAN."'

'Then I ought to have said "That's what the SONG is called"?' Alice corrected herself.

'No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The SONG is called "WAYS AND MEANS": but that's only what it's CALLED, you know!'

'Well, what IS the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

'I was coming to that,' the Knight said. 'The song really IS "A-SITTING ON A GATE": and the tune's my own invention.'


(correlates: NumisAphorism, Hot and Sour, 1 Comment on DeliberateOpinion, ...)