Thursday 18 November 2010

Christmas Solved By A Snark

If, and the thing is wildly possible, you are even now, dear reader, trembling at the thought of all the horrible gifts that you will have to hand out to sundry and all to mark the celebration of the birth of Our Lord; weep no more, for your confusion about presents for young and old have softly and suddenly vanished away.

I don't know how many of you have been following The Hunting of the Snark blog, but, dammit, you should have been.

Essentially, there's a fellow in Montreal called Mahendra Singh who has been lovingly illustrating Lewis Carroll's poem and providing an erudite commentary on each picture. His is a combination of art and interest that cannot be commended to too high an altitude.

I remember once seeing a copy of Moby Dick, on the cover of which the illustrator had put a picture of a blue whale. It is a sad truth of illustrations that they are often drawn by people who care not a jot or tittle for the content of the book. Not so here. The chap, obviously, cares. Indeed his care may border on lunacy, but that's none of my business. The point is that this is not some fly-by-night illustrator knocking out a job in a week: it is a labour of love, a work of whimsy, and an opus of obsession.

The relation of all this to December 25th?

His work is now being published by Melville. It will be, I don't doubt, one of the finest editions of our times. Moreover, it can be given as a present to both children and adults: from cradle to care-home. Moreover, you don't even need to worry that the receptor of the gift might already have a copy: the point is that he doesn't have a copy with those lovely illustrations. I already own four editions of Snark, but am rabid for this one.

Thus the problems of Christmas are solved with one fell swoop and swooping fall.

Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

And the blog itself is here.

Others, I'm sure can find it by going to Amazon and searching.

Since you ask, dear reader, my favourite lines from the Snark are the following:

He had brought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
"They are merely conventional signs!"

"Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we've got our Captain to thank:"
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best --
A perfect and absolute blank!"

Christmas with the Inky Fool

N.B. I need hardly mention that I have never met the illustrator in question and that this advice aims to profit only you, dear reader.

N.Better. I shall return to tribes tomorrow.


  1. A belated but heartfelt thanks for the praise heaped upon my ever so 'umble Snark, it is a shy wee timorous beastie but if you leave it a saucerful of gin every night, it may become reasonably house-trained.

    A correction … I live in Montreal, Canada, which is sort of the attic of North America. It is also the last bastion of genuinely stylish debauchery in North America, despite what New Yorkers think.

    This blog is really quite good, the Sonnet 21 exposé was brilliant, kudos!

    I have a theory about the Snark … the meaning is obscured by the simple fact that the entire poem is one enormous word, a word belonging to the mysterious Adamic protolanguage of the Carrollian Multiverse.

    Or not.

    I'm also blogging about my Snark & some related issues at MobyLives, it's all good clean fun …

  2. Montreal, New York: it would hardly be appropriate if my geography were too fastidious.

  3. Your geography is worthy of the Bellman's Blank Map!