Monday, July 28, 2014
Yes, yes, yes, that’s all very well, dear reader … aren’t you clever to have remembered that Lewis Carroll’s colleague, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was named after his dear uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington (gesundheit) Lutwidge.
I also know that you have made arrangements to force your attentions upon some local chorus girls and impress upon them the coincidence of the Snark’s origins; how Lewis Carroll commenced that poem’s composition in the town of Guildford on July 18, 1874 — the precise time and place where Dodgson himself was playing the role of "dear uncle" whilst nursing a terminally ill, tubercular nephew.
But there’s more. While going through an old dustbin the lid flew off and you emerged clutching the proof positive of an avuncular trifecta : a dog-eared account of dear uncle Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge being murdered by a lunatic armed with a large, rusty nail, the point of which had been recently sharpened in anticipation of its lethal purpose.
Enough of these dear uncles and these dear readers! It's this defective pen of mine, it will not draw uncles properly — curse these cut-rate penmongers! This hand-me-down drawing of a telegram of a newspaper clipping of a photograph of a simulated second-hand uncle will have to do for now … at least until that time when all our "dear uncles", like laughter, are doomed to disappear.
Monday, July 21, 2014
The story so far … there once was a Snark … but it will be a Boojum, alas!
The Baker is suffering from what we now know to be angst. Once upon a time we would have pinned the label of big, fat crybaby upon him but these are dangerously litigious times for thought-criminals.
Boojum-angst was first used as a legal defense by the Baker’s legal counsel, the Barrister, AKA Martin Heidegger, in his seminal brief (naughty boy!) : Sein und Zeit. He excused the Baker’s regression into a second childhood with the then-novel defense of angst, which he explained as an objectless and generalized dread occasioned by the growing presence of Nothing. The boojum, a nonexistent being, fit this description nicely and the Barrister won an acquital for his client on the grounds that he was an idiot anyway. We shall see more of the Barrister’s weasel-skills in Fit the Sixth.
From whence comes this fashion to label all things boojum in the German language? Angst, schadenfreude, strafe (straffen), weltschmertz — all of ‘em teutonic and hardly a laugh in the lot. May we quote the poet Heinrich Heine (finally getting some good reviews in the doggedly illiterate American press) on this subject :
"… the Germans have the curious custom of always attaching a thought to whatever they do.”
Schnitzel for thought, indeed! All it needs is this mustard-like condiment, from the cupboard of the truly inspired and genuinely missed American illustrator, Edward Gorey :
"I have a dumb theory that a creative piece of art is only interesting if it purports to be about something and is really about something else."
Milord, the defense rests in its usual, pretzel-like position. Like the Baker — at play in the ontic fields of the lord — to all the above charges of unlawful boojumizing and multiple neologizing we shall plead : ignorance, madam, pure ignorance. Or in the very best Clochetic-cum-Orwellian manner : ignorance, madam, double-plus pure ignorance.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Achtung literati! Avoid any authors unwilling to suffer their own characters’ fate. Eschew the likes of Samuel Beckett and whomever was behind the Book of Job, spurn the fictions of Dante and the Marquis de Sade, turn instead to more egalitarian raconteurs such as Lewis Carroll. Carroll’s sudden referral to childhood in this stanza provides some therapeutic respite to the Baker’s boojum-anxiety complex.
The Baker has responded positively to this authorial auto-suggestion and has infantilized both himself and his parents into an easily digestible and perfectly oedipal size, as we can see in this fine drawing. I will not tell you which of the several nursery room objects are the Baker’s parents, I’ll leave that to you to work out! Just place one after another into your mouth whilst cooing and gurgling.
The more indolent reader might be wondering how this authorial auto-suggestion works. In short, the Baker "hears" his author’s narration and description, etc., as a voice inside his head. Naturally, he has told no one else of this phenomenon. Please note that I have chosen to provide the Baker with the physiognomy of Lewis Carroll himself and thus created an epistomological escape hatch (or trap door) of sorts for the Baker, bless his farinaceous heart.
With all this in mind, the Baker is enjoying a rich and satisfying internal life these days. He goes through the motions of a Snark hunt with his fellows whilst simultaneously believing himself to be a 42-year old Oxford mathematics don plotting the destiny of a hermetic and even pseudo-gnostic Snarkian Multiverse (similar in nature though larger in scope to Le Garage Hermétique de Jerry Cornelius) which revolves and devolves and evolves solely and utterly upon a nonexistent entity which only he can comprehend — and which only he, the Baker, will apprehend!
The infinite melancholy of a long-ago summer’s day in Guildford, compressed into the infantile desire to put the entire world inside one's mouth (it's the Hindu thing to do) … this Snark could be bounded in a nutshell and still count himself king of infinite space! It’s all child’s play for the talented Mr. Carroll.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Martin Gardner, in his indispensible Annotated Snark, cites Eric Partridge’s assertion that the Baker’s use of antediluvian is "one of those rare instances in which Carroll uses a standard word in a completely whimsical sense". Gardner also notes the opposing theory of antediluvian being used as a foreshadowing of the Baker’s tears-to-come.
However, you and I know that he’s speaking Adamic, the universal language spoken before the Flood and the dispersal of tongues at the Tower of Babel. This antediluvian language, designed to facilitate Edenic communication between discreet data points in a secure and lossless environment (think FORTRAN or KVIKKALKUL), remains the Baker’s preferred flavour of postlapsarian blarney*. If we waxed poetic, we might even say it’s the angelic language in which animals dream and children babble when the adults are gone to bed.
But we’ll wax not, as yet, for deep, deep, deep underneath the surface, the Baker’s very shallow. Bless his simple Adamic soul but he’s just a Chomskian idiot-savant suffering from untreated postdiluvian stress syndrome. He sees the sun going down and the world spinning round and he macadamizes a postmodern, postlapsarian, postdiluvian and postbabelian man of sorrows on the comeback trail.
As for the Baker’s curious epithet of Ho; it is a typical bit of Snarkolinguistic bandinage, an orientalist snarkwallah’s reference to the eponymous language spoken in eastern India and Bangladesh, a language whose word for man is ho.
The word, the language, the man — all together now — tally ho!
* The reconstruction of the Adamic language is a wholesome pastime for the protosurrealist insomniac. Its a priori ontological perfection requires an infinite vocabulary in which every word is a homophone of the other. All conjugations in the infinitive, all declensions nominative, no prepositions needed since every speaker is every thing and thus consubstantial, no interrogatives since they imply a lack of faith, etc. Might we not conjecture that Adamic survives today as the uneasy silence between phonemes?
Monday, June 23, 2014
They roused him with mustard and cress —
They roused him with jam and judicious advice —
They set him conundrums to guess.
Fit the Third of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark starts off with a hearty English breakfast … the very mention of that hateful word Boojum had sent our Baker into a swoon and he now reclines artfully upon his hot-buttered-charpoy, just so. His duenna, a woman whose two-faced duplicity beggars the imagination, intercepts the stimulating nourishment which rains upon him like pennies from heaven. The ice, greens, jams and muffins, all of ‘em will vanish into her outstretched apron to reappear in a day-old, half-baked, no-goods shop she runs on the side. The Baker is left with only a conundrum to guess. Naturally, the conundrum is to guess what the conundrum is.
Oh, these Boojums! Is there no deviltry that they will not stoop to? Great god, save the earth from ever bearing such monsters! No history has proved that there were any such. Through the efforts of the authorities, no one will be exposed to them any longer.
To-say-the-thing-which–is-not and to-draw-the-thing-which-is-not is the Way of the Boojum! That way leads to the Dark Side! Fortunately, our Baker is a simpleton and his foolish mind is the hobgoblin of more consistent ones. Like those buxom Greek girls locked up in bronze towers by their upset daddies, he has no need for conundrums, he just wants to have fun!
Monday, June 16, 2014
The Baker, immer très über-courant, now practises psychogeography upon himself! Psychogeography — the urban flâneur’s deliberate mapping of his internal world upon the external world through which he flânes — it’s all the rage! The Baker’s zen-like state of internal vacuity is no impediment to the above process, he simply reverses the procedure. When one’s mind is entirely given up to all things snark, causal logic is a mere bagatelle.*
On the sand, half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lips once proved a disquieting muse to the snark-hunter P.B. Shelley. The uncertainty of the poet crystallizes into the philosophical banana-peel of Romanticism upon which Surrealism eventually slipped and fell (cogitatus interruptus in medias snark).
The Baker knows none of this for his cerebral cortex is being overwhelmed by a shocking revelation of the secretive, amorous gigantism of the inanimate world towards the animate world … the love song of a rubber glove for its plongeur, the melancholy and mystery of a street lusting for a solitary Turinese pedestrian … an entire world whose very mind is as solely and entirely snark as his own!
Oh, gentle Baker, forever parsing the Snark’s enigma of arrival … when this riddle is solved, your tale will come to a devilish end …
* There are those psychogeographistes who insist on navigating their way, for example, through a suburb of Utrecht with only the aid of a street map of central Rome. None of this is to be confused with mere confusion, a paltry condition unworthy of the true snark hunter and smacking more of those be-boojumed unfortunates whose wives insist that they stop and ask for directions.
Monday, June 9, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version of THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK is still wending its way through the anapestic speed bumps of Fit the Second …Utter bedlam has broken out amongst the B-Boyz at the mention of the B-Word! The Baker, mortally wounded by the tusks of the dreaded Boojum, languishes in the arms of the cytherean Beaver, who tenderly nibbles the ear of her farinaceous Adonis. The Billiard-Marker, wracked by hunger pangs, is searching for the hidden compartment within the Baker with which he transforms stones into bread for the crew’s sustenance. The Banker is auctioning off the Baker’s personal effects to pay off his creditors; he is demonstrating a telescope made of copal to the Bonnet-Maker, who ignores him entirely, the latter is measuring himself for a strait-jacket. The Boots’s evolutionary solipsism has taken a turn for the worse, the frightened Butcher wrings his hands in despair at his monarchical frenzy. In the lunatic sky of the Desierto Pintado, startled doves take flight, fleeing the preternaturally sinuous lineaments of the bioglyph upon which the Bellman’s magic lantern rests.
Only the Bellman retains his wits! He has seen this before, this nesting of parody within parody, reference within reference, this rake’s progress towards the inevitable bankruptcy auction of all one’s semiotic inheritance and then — off to bedlam! Oh, shun this Boojum of Infinitely Regressive Reference, this Snark’s Progress to protosurrealist ruin!
Monday, June 2, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark is still wending its way through the anapestic plumbing of Fit the Second …
The Bellman continues his Indictment with the accusation of Ambition, tempered with the observation that all Snarks, like intestines or the Carolinas, are further divided into two parts*.
First, you have your biting Snarks, those goody-two-shoes who brush their teeth every night and limit their ambitions to lime jello with their salisbury steak dinner. Their purported bite is as gentle as the nibblements of curious goldfish upon a giggling baby’s bum, a mere trifle. They are the auspicious Snarks, the best of Snarks, the heppiest of Snarks, no ill wind will ever ruffle these li’l ainjils’ feathers.
Then there are those other scratching Snarks, addicted to back-room jobbery in used woolen underwear and race-track skullduggeries. They are Snarks fallen from grace, they loathe hairnets, electrolysis and the consumption of soup and cotton candy. We see an example of this latter Snark in the above illustration. He is lost in his own private pandemonium, shuffling to a distant armegeddon in his mismatched,postlapsarian slippers, forkéd tail and second-hand wings. He has been consumed entirely by the itch of Ambition, an old itch for an Old Scratch!
*An odd inconsistency which seems to have escaped most Snarkologists. The Bellman commences his Indictment by specifically stating that there are 5 Snarkian qualities The feathered-whiskered speciation that follows the 5th Indictment is obviously another distinct, yet unannounced 6th Indictment. In light of the Bellman’s demonstrated inability to enunciate the number 6, might we conjecture that the number of this particular beast is 6? One's pursuers certainly cannot hunt what they cannot count, or so goes the Snark's reasoning. Using the Clochetic Rule-of-Three, we might even bandy about the number 666, a number of apocalyptic import which might well presage the lethal approach of the dreaded Boojum!
Monday, May 26, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark is still wending its way through the anapestic plumbing of Fit the Second …
Given : Only with one’s bathing-machine can one bathe properly and thoroughly.
Given : The divinely-ordained, absolute and ineffable perfection of any place cannot be achieved without a bathing-machine.
Ergo : Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Not a surprising sentiment coming from the pen of an English clergyman’s son but is it an accurate depiction of the Snark’s true character and motives? Read on, MacDuff …
Given : The Snark’s sentimental attachment to bathing-machines does nothing to improve the beauty of scenes.
Given : The Snark’s sentiments are open to doubt.
Ergo : When in doubt, do nothing.
A Fabian approach to the hunting of Snarks but will the lumpen tolerate it? History warns us otherwise! Je me souviens Cannae …
Given : The utility of a bathing-machine lies solely in its property of not allowing an observer to know what is inside it.
Given : The Snark’s chief happiness is the transportation of its bathing-machine from one place to another.
Ergo : Ignorance is bliss.
And there you have it, another Clochetic validation of the platitudinous proverbs with which we usually stave off our lexical and cognitivehorror vacui. I have illustrated all of the above palaver with another infamous platitude, one of the Comte de Lautrémont’s most infamous bromides: the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. I think the bathing machine lends a certain banality to the whole thing, don’t you? Even surrealism (and especially protosurrealism) has its sentimental, even hackneyed picture-postcard moments!
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark is still wending its way through the anapestic root-canal of Fit the Second … long in the tooth …
The story so far … the Snark stands accused of Bad Taste, Poor Timing and now — Humorlessness! The Bellman’s Indictment of the Snarkseems to have shifted to the tactics of an inebriated heckler pestering a talentless Las Vegas stand-up comedian, not a pleasant scene at all for our Snark!
Yes, the Bellman’s caught our poor Snark doing his surrealist schtick in one of those postmodern, off-Strip venues and frankly, it hurts to watch him trying his luck with outdated material cribbed from old René Magritte routines … trying to to make the audience laugh by pulling their legs with his grave sort of puns … untranslatable from English to boot and his Belgian style of humor is so phlegmatic, one might even say flemish, owing to his persistent coffin … but our Snark cracks wise one last time, that old protosurrealist chestnut about Madame Récamier owing Manet some Monet and when he comes to collect, she’s such a dead-beat that she stiffs him.
Looking grave, eh? Feeling distressed? The Snark … it is you …
Monday, May 12, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version ofThe Hunting of the Snark is still wending its way through the anapestic root-canal of Fit the Second … long in the tooth …
The Bellman continues his Exposition of the Snark with a second accusation — Sloth!* We illustrate his text with this shameless, paranoiac-critical crib of Salvador "Avida Dollars" Dali. Dali’s paranoiac-critical method of picture-making is itself a shameless crib upon 20 centuries of artists lying on the sofa with their feet up and eyes shut in search of inspiration.
But beware the paranoiac-critical method — it’s bad juju! Once you start using it, you can’t stop — gateway surrealism I call it! Image generating out of image, a maelstrom of vivid mental pictures at the very speed of thought itself, free-association finally run amuck while perceptual reality as we know it disintegrates in a chain reaction of infinite visual meanings — until you’re trapped in a causally frozen world in which one breakfasts at five-o’clock tea and thinks nothing of it!
We find our hapless Snark trapped in a world not of his own making! Within this glacial Lost World of the paranoiac-critical zone, it is only the persistence of memory which allows the Snark to find nourishment. Its primitive intellect swamped with the visual overload of everything-being-at-once, it will starve to death if it cannot remember to eat its supper, even if a day too late. It even carries on its person a railway watch (shown above) with which it plans its desperate, solitary meals.
And so … our Bellman confounds for Sloth what we now know to be Hunger! Come on, guv'nor, spare a kind thought for a ‘ungry Snark, eh? He’s not such a bad fellow after all … (cue orchestra) … for when a Snark’s not engaged in his employment or maturing his felonious little plans, his capacity for innocent enjoyment is just as great as any honest man’s. Take one consideration with another, the Snark’s lot is not a happy one!
*It should be noted that the Bellman’s sermon upon this sin of Sloth is amplified with instances of Gluttony which are thematically derived from the Snark’s prior sin of Bad Taste. Whether the Bellman’s general exposition is a catalog of Sins (Snarkian lapses from its ideal state of nonexistential perfection) or of Elements (qualifications of the Snark’s non-qualifiable nonexistence) is for the more subtle reader to decide. The distinction is scholastic, and thus, genuinely protosurrealist. The final word on the sinful ontology of the Seven Deadly Elements might be Max Ernst’s masterpiece, A Week of Kindness. Like The Hunting of the Snark, Max Ernst’s personal composition upon this earth was finished before his decomposition, his birthday being Wednesday, April 2nd and his deathday being April 1st. We tug on our ink-soaked forelocks in salute to Max Ernst, the Police Gazeteer of Surrealism!
Monday, May 5, 2014
This on-going analysis of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark is still wending its way through the alimentary canal of Fit the Second … I'm feeling a bit peckish, aren't you?
The question of the Snark’s flavour has exercised the minds and palates of the cognoscenti since April 29th, 1876. However, I am possessed of an indolent nature and prone to fits of take-out, such questions matter not a whit to me. The uncooked flesh of the Snark was sufficient for our ancestors but today’s gastronomes must have their Snark curried, tandoori grilled or even minced into seekh kebabs — but never boiled à la anglaise (the hollowness vanishes, leaving behind a residue redolent of a fleet of bathing machines saturated in warm, flat beer). In this carnivorous spirit, a recipe for cooking Snark follows. Please try it, you won’t be disappointed!
Genuine Assamese Snark Curry
Mix the following together in a large bowl:
• 1 kilo of Snark meat, cubed (if no Snark is to be had, use beef, goat or lamb, preferably with bones)
• 6 medium onions, minced
• small head of garlic, minced
• an inch of fresh ginger, grated
• tablespoon of turmeric
• one cinnamon stick
• one cup of oil
• tablespoon of salt
• a sufficient amount of genuinely hot green chilis, slit
• you can also add a tablespoon of ground cumin, a tablespoon of ground coriander and a tablespoon of garam masala. This might be preferable for those who are accustomed to Northern Indian cuisine. The authentic Assamese version has a delicious simplicity which is worth trying … although the North Indian style will probably be more popular with North American diners.
Mix, cover and let sit overnight. Transfer to a sufficiently large pot and cook on low heat, with the lid on and stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Add one cup of water, bring to boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. The curry should finish up with a thick gravy, not at all runny. Cook for about 90 minutes or until meat is tender. Taste for salt, etc. The curry can be garnished with ghee and/or tamarind water. If beef, lamb or goat meat was used, serve with rice, vegetables and dal.
However, if you used Snark, serve with greens, using forks and hope. Wash it all down with copious amounts of Golden Eagle beer and the stimulating gyrations of two dissipated nautch girls named Anna and Paisa. What ho, memsahibs!
Monday, April 28, 2014
Meanwhile, Ron Miller did a profile on me at io9 … it's got all the juicy goodies on my phosphorescent appeal to lovers of Jules Verne, steampunk, Adam Roberts, JC Valtat and many other authors … even Lewis Carroll. He's the original Nonsense glow-worm!
Monday, April 21, 2014
We have arrived now at the very omnium of Fit the Second, that critical portion of The Hunting of the Snark in which Lewis Carroll describes in detail the characteristics of the Snark. To explicate these crypto-stigmata, the Bellman has resorted to the very respectable Victorian expedient of the illustrated public lecture with the aid of a magic lantern to illuminate the more difficult concepts of his lecture.
The Bellman’s preamble (which actually commenced in last week’s stanzel) mentions three numbers. The numbers 7 and 5 appear on lines 54 (Seven days to the week I allow) and 58 (The five unmistakable marks), which, in addition to his mention of the number 4 on line 50 (Four weeks to the month you may mark) in last week's stanzel, allows us (nay, compels us!) to perform the following simple Clochetic equation :
We now employ the number 42 (whose Snarkian significance needs no further explication to the illuminati who frequent these parts) thusly …
As predicted by the Clochetic Rule of Three, the entirety of the Bellman’s introductory remarks concerning the qualities of the Snark has also served as a verification of the truth value of 42 by multiplying that auspicious number precisely three times — in an infinite and irrational repetition, to boot!
QED and bob’s your uncle.
Monday, April 14, 2014
There are those who might quibble and look askance at my rather ideologically vacant interpretation of this stanzel. Yes, it is a trifle irrelevant … perhaps even mendacious to illustrate a purported lack of Snarks with a veritable snathe of Snarks.* The concerned reader might well ask : by whose leave do you have artistic license to mangle the words of Lewis Carroll so? Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
The eminent Oxford don, Charles Dodgson, was probably the only person who could genuinely claim to be intimate with Lewis Carroll. Mr. Dodgson had this to say about the so-called sanctity of Carrollian texts, their meaning and interpretation:
... I maintain that any writer of a book is fully authorised in attaching any meaning he likes to any word or phrase he intends to use. If I find an author saying, at the beginning of his book, "Let it be understood that by the word black I shall always mean white, and that by the word white I shall always mean black," I meekly accept his ruling, however injudicious I may think it.
Well, that’s pretty much QED, I should think. Simply substitute the word "illustrator" for "writer"; it’s a mere sneesh of semantic and orthographic difference and expressly allowed for by the above-mentioned axiom. In fact, upon further reflection, we can see that the majority of modern art, philosophy, politics and commerce is based upon Dodgson’s diabolically simple postulate.
So stop fussing over these drawings and rest a spell under the ole Boojum tree with me. Goshdarned wordpeople, always making trouble for poor picturefolk …
*Please remember that throughout this GN, the Snark is illustrated with an Eye … rather like the Cinema-Sauron but less user-friendly. As for the word snathe, it is used here in a probationary sense. Lewis Carroll never revealed the correct nomenclature for a group of Snarks (ie., a kettle of fish, bunch of whales, etc.) and I have used this word solely as a place-holder of sorts until they (you know who I mean) come up with a better one. I had also considered — and rejected — snatch, sneck, sneap and of course, S.N.A.R.K. (Simultaneous Non-entities Apparitioning Rather Keenly). For those who persnick at such things, all of the above are legitimate entries in Chambers Dictionary.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
This delightful video from the Musée d'Orsay is an animated tribute to the master of Victorian-era illustration, Gustave Doré. My own illustrations for Adam Roberts' latest SF homage to Verne, 20 Trillion Leagues Under the Sea, began for me as an extended riff upon Doré's stunning illustrations for The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. My drawings evolved into additional borrowings and references to Harry Clarke and Virgil Finlay but at the core, it was always Doré.
The connection between Doré and Verne is very strong and worth studying, both of them were masters of the theatre. Doré's handling of arbitrary light sources and deep volumes, combined with the hypnotic surface attraction of perfectly handled crosshatching is a precise visual translation of Verne's own use of detailed set design and theatrical plotting.
At the heart of the Mysterious Island, that's where Gustave and Jules and Danny Defoe are relaxing in their hammocks, drinking Friday's latest batch of home-made plonk and cheering on Adam Roberts in his latter-day Vernian crusade!