Much is made of the endlessly reflexive structure of this narrative (who invented whom?), and it is certainly the most brilliant satire of academic wrongheadedness and pedantry, but it is ultimately a novel about obsession, whether born out of profound emotional grief, or sheer maniacal delusion. The witty and revealing epigraph, from Boswell’s Life Of Johnson, really tells you all you need to know to get started:
This reminds me of the ludicrous account he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. “Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.” And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, “But Hodge shan’t be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.”
Given to me initially as a gift, as it happens, from the loving daughter of a highly-respected art historian academic.