Through the Looking Glass

This beautifully epileptic passage is from the manuscript for Alice in Wonderland hand written and illustrated by the Lewis Carroll, 1862.
This beautifully epileptic passage is from the manuscript for Alice in Wonderland hand written and illustrated by the Lewis Carroll, 1862.

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Lewis Carroll was epileptic. Through the Looking Glass is very much an epileptic way of seeing things, and drawings (of words no less) like this here are classic signs of temporal lobe epilepsy. In fact they’re even a symptom. Beginning when I was maybe eighteen years old (adult onset epilepsy they call it, with the seizures and whatnot appearing as the brain reaches its full size at the end of adolescence) I would draw all kinds of things like this. Pages of writing with drawings in the middle of them, often made up of words themselves. I only have a few left. And while words still flow, lots and lots of them, medication ended the drawings years ago. I never thought of myself as an artist or even as someone who drew anything. It just happened, those drawings. I’d get very quiet (I’m told) and start drawing. I never finished them. They weren’t art. They were just symptoms. Some were really intense and even to me now look very strange. As do the stories from back then. And the lists. Epileptics have a thing for lists. I switched medications at some point and never wrote a list again. Never drew again either. I didn’t realize either till years later, looking through a box full of old writing. Lists of everything, reams of vivid writing with an odd sense of the passage of time, and those drawings, sadly artless but sometimes nearly pointillistic in their detail, done with infinite patience and intense concentration. An epileptic temporal lobe is a marvelous thing, though best seen from the outside, looking in.
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(For a fascinating discussion of temporal lobe epilepsy and Lewis Carroll, among others, pick up Seized by Eve LaPlante. An amazing read.)

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