cover image The Complete Sylvie and Bruno

The Complete Sylvie and Bruno

Lewis Carroll. Mercury House, $30 (416pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-009-7

In 1895, 30 years after publication of his masterpiece, Carroll explained that he didn't want to retrace the path to Alice , because it had become a ``beaten highroad.'' Instead, he produced a two-volume tale of the eponymous fairy siblings, combined here under one cover. It is essentially a philosophical tract on morality, politics and religion, written in somewhat fussy Victorian prose and packed with puns, paradoxes, puzzles, poetry and Carroll's own brand of inspired nonsense. Carroll entwines two plots, set in two alternate worlds, one the fairytale kingdom of Elfland, the other a realm called Outland, which mirrors and satirizes English society. In the former, Bruno and Sylvie endure adventures typical of classic fairytales; in the latter, two men vie for the love of a beautiful woman. The combination of sentimental love story and fairytale unfortunately lacks the magic of the Alice stories. It satisfies on another level, however, as an early example of what modernist writers were later to pursue: the attempt to portray several simultaneous levels of reality. This gift edition, with illustrations not seen by PW , is the first in the publisher's neglected classics series. To coincide with its publication, Mercury House and the Lewis Carroll Society of America are sponsoring a contest for the best poem written in Carroll's style. (Oct.)