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How 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' changed the life of Joyce Carol Oates

As the 150th anniversary of the publication date of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' approaches, Joyce Carol Oates praises 'Alice' as 'the singular book that changed my life – that made me yearn to be a writer.'

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    W.W. Norton is honoring the 150th anniversary of author Lewis Carroll’s celebrated children’s tale with 'The Annotated Alice,' a deluxe, lavishly illustrated edition of the classic.
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This year marks the 150th anniversary of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” first published as “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” in 1865.

W.W. Norton is honoring this landmark for author Lewis Carroll’s celebrated children’s tale with “The Annotated Alice,” a deluxe, lavishly illustrated edition of the classic that’s copiously footnoted with insights from “over half a century of scholarship by leading Carrollian experts.” It’s an updated version of Martin Gardner’s 1960 “Annotated Alice,” expanded by Mark Burstein.

The new “Annotated Alice” doesn’t roll out until Oct. 5, but in the meantime, Alice fans can take note of a just-released tribute to Carroll’s heroine in “The Lost Landscapes,” Joyce Carol Oates' new memoir of her upstate New York childhood at the start of World War II.

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Oates, one of America’s most prolific authors, has written dozens of novels, essay collections and works of criticism, and in “The Lost Landscape,” she credits “Alice” with giving her an enduring literary spark. Oates calls “Alice” “the singular book that changed my life – that made me yearn to be a writer,” and she praises her grandmother for giving her a lovely oversized edition for her ninth birthday in 1947.

“To this day I treasure, and keep prominently on a bookshelf in my study, this gift book with its eerily beautiful quasi-‘realistic’ illustrations by John Tenniel,” says Oates.

Through Alice, writes Oates, she learned the independent stance needed to be a writer.

“I think I learned from Alice to be just slightly bolder than I might have been, to question authority – (that is, adults) – and to look upon life as a possibility for adventures,” Oates tells readers.

That possibility of adventure still awaits readers of “Alice” a century and a half after it first appeared.

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