Why The Mad Hatter's Library?
I remember still, quite clearly, the excitement I felt when, at my family home in Melbourne in the late 1960’s, I was allowed to stay up well past my normal bedtime in order to watch the Disney animated film version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Even on our modest black and white TV the array of amazing and amusing characters on show excited and inspired the mind of this young viewer.
As the years passed - and, in particular, having recently re-visited the text of Lewis Carroll's original book:
I have, somewhat reluctantly, been forced to admit that of all those wonderful characters encountered in Alice the one I most resemble is almost certainly The Mad Hatter. How so, you ask?
First up, of course, the man loves his tea. Drunk only from a pot. No new-fangled teabag technology for this traditional tea-totaller. No thankyou very much.
And then there is his propensity for pseudo-intellectual banter, regularly bordering on downright rudeness. The kind of banter that leaves one wondering whether you have just caught the poor fellow on a bad day – when in reality you almost certainly haven’t!
The Mad Hatter has an uneasy relationship with Time - which, he informs Alice, is most definitely a him not an it. This uneasiness is something I can very much identify with. The cheeky bugger (Time that is) regularly runs me a merry dance, despite all my best efforts.
And he (The Mad Hatter that is) apparently shares my love of manipulating the lyrics of well‑known songs to suit his own purposes. Witness, by way of example, what he does to the words of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
As many of my close friends and family will attest, I regularly ask questions without notice; often quite thorny, philosophical conundrums. Commonly these brain teasers are enquiries I have only just thought of, and therefore have no answer to.
In a similar vein, the Mad Hatter asks Alice, within seconds of meeting her:
Why is a raven like a writing-desk?
Only to confess later on in the piece, when Alice seeks a solution to the riddle, that “I haven’t the slightest idea”.
And then finally, but by no means least, there’s the fact that the Hatter is Mad. Now although I’m reasonably confident I don’t (yet) belong in the stark raving, immediately certifiable category of madness, I’m equally certain that a close inspection of my roof would reveal a couple of loose or possibly even broken tiles.
But hey, a little madness just might be an advantage in this crazy modern world mightn’t it? Let’s hope so.
So you see, The Mad Hatter and I are kindred spirits. And although Lewis Carroll makes no mention in Alice of TMH having a library, I feel quite sure he does.
And equally sure that it is chockful of a diverse assortment of artistic jetsam – the kind of literature that is bound to provoke and challenge, shock and confound, amuse and entertain.
And if the collection you have agreed to delve into here, as of now, can do any, and hopefully all of those things, then this mad hatter will be very glad indeed.