I’ve hesitated to write about The Hunting of the Snark because I don’t understand it, and I am not alone in my befuddlement. There are entire societies devoted to the deciphering of literary puns and allusions in this complex masterwork by the writer of the equally complex but perhaps more accessible Alice in Wonderland. However, an incomplete grasp of the text is not an impediment to the enjoyment of this bit of nonsense. Even a small child can take pleasure in the sheer inventiveness of the wordplay, the first circle of Carrollian delight. Entry to the other circles of understanding is optional, and by optional I mean, I could go back to university and get an advanced degree in 19th century history, literary symbolism, and English banking practices, but I’m busy. And some very good and clever people have already gone to extraordinary lengths to unfuddle the Snark, giving the rest of us a free pass to the poetry behind the poem.
Never let it be said that I’m not up for the occasional literary challenge, especially where snark (of the more pedestrian variety) is concerned, displayed, or encouraged, but the real reason I picked up The Hunting of the Snark is for the gorgeous illustrations by Mahendra Singh~artist and Snark Hunter of the highest order. But beware: drawing attention to the loveliness of Singh’s illustrations is in no way to suggest they are lacking in a complexity equal to Carroll’s text. On the contrary, there is an agony of literary and artistic referencing in every illustration housed within the eight ‘fits’ of The Hunting of the Snark.
But, for now, just enjoy the ride. It’s a long, strange, and wonderfully rewarding trip