Loved Books


A more pristine book today, which ironically has travelled less far than some. This was bought in a bookshop in the Upper Blue Mountains near Sydney (Leura? Wentworth Falls? I can’t remember – it was a day trip and I went to both places that day.)

The Hunting of the Snark is the most distilled work of Lewis Carroll, short and repeatedly hitting the highly structured nonsense.

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”

There’s a precipitous feeling of the whole thing almost making sense but it never does. Less obviously whimsical than the Alice books and not as obscure as Sylvie & Bruno, it is a monument to structure over meaning.

And speaking of meaning – the unpacking of references and connections to Carroll’s life work and historical events and a whole pile of other things, is here deftly done by Martin Gardener. Gardener’s populist take on mathematics, puzzles, philosophy and the boundary of science and pseudoscience made him a likely candidate to explain Carroll’s hidden depths to a wide audience. Gardener’s Annotated Alice is a treat but I kind of like this book better.

This particular book is also something of a monument to lost books. I had some old penguin (pelican?) editions of collections of Gardener’s Scientific American columns. Now long since lost. Also a copy of Gardener’s Annotated Alice which went missing not long after I was given it.

4 responses to “Loved Books”

  1. I have The Hunting of the Snark as illustrated by Mervyn Peake. And the Alice books. I also have a copy of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by a female artist whose name escapes me currently. It’s a few thousand miles away so I won’t be able to check it any time soon either. I also have a copy in Japanese. I gave my (English) copy with the Tenniel illustrations to my now ex-girlfriend. I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t take the opportunity to buy the bilingual Korean/English version while I was in Korea.

    I really, really like the Alice books.

    I also have a copy of Alice in Sunderland signed by Bryan Talbot, while we’re not on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

      • If you can get your hands on a copy it’s well worth a read. he goes down some interesting biographical paths about both the real Alice and Carroll, and connections to the north (specifically Sunderland and the surrounding area) as well as linking in things like The Lambton Worm and other things of interest.

        Also I note, rather belatedly, the second stanza of Snark that you quoted must be paraphrased in the Puppy Guide to Arguments (what I tell you three times is true!)

        Liked by 1 person

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