Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hunting of the Snark - Lewis Carroll

"He was thoughtful and grave—but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, 'snarked.'"

I received this book as part of the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

"The Hunting of the Snark" tells the tale of a group of intrepid adventurers who set off to find a Snark, a strange creature that can be threatened with railroad shares or charmed with soap. The group is composed of several odd characters, led by the Bellman. Together this odd assortment of men which include a Beaver, a Butcher, a Bonnet Maker, a Barrister, a Broker, a Billiard-Maker, a Banker and a Baker must hunt for one of the most elusive creatures known to man. Random nonsense is spread throughout and encourages the reader to stretch their imagination to accommodate Caroll's expanse of wordplay and whimsy.

I loved "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" for all their silly settings and descriptions and this book is a great addition to Caroll's bibliography. This poem follows the same formula as his previous work, with strange characters and an even stranger plot. The only issue is that as a poem there are fewer words with which the reader can work to discover what exactly is going on. As Caroll wasn't really one for explaining his works, any symbolism or meaning in this poem is up for debate, which can cause frustration for the reader. I'm not sure that there's meant to be a second layer to the poem. I just enjoyed it for what it was, a fun little bit of nonsense.

The book is divided up much like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with many of the characters having their own section labeled after their profession such as "The Butcher's Tale". As well the book is peppered with portmanteau such a "frumious" a combination of "fuming" and "furious". These little tidbits lent an air of otherworldliness to the story and fit in with the rest of Carroll's made up diction such as "Boojum" and "Jubjub".

As well, I must say that that illustrator Oleg Lipchenko did an amazing job! The illustrations were awesome and had a very Graeme Base feel to them. They were very detailed and entertaining, adding to the enjoyment of the story and giving the reader something to hold onto when Caroll's descriptions defied the rules of physics and logic. Scenes which may otherwise have been difficult to imagine on one's own were brought to life, complimenting the story and making the book one to keep.

If you're a fan of Lewis Carroll be sure to check out this book and pay close attention to the illustrations!


Melwyk said...

I think Oleg Lipchenko is an amazing illustrator -- I haven't seen this volume yet so will have to check it out now. I think Carroll's oddness is so endearing ;)

theduckthief said...

He is great! After doing some research I discovered that he's one of ours! A true blue Canadian! I'm definitely going to check out more of his work.