Monday, May 25, 2015

Brother Sun, Sister Snark

After all that hellish ruckus in the infernal Malbowge of Fit the Fourth (sorcerers, falsifiers, circus folk and publishers), we shall now ascend ad astra, as it were, to the quieter purlieus of Fit the Fifth. This canto, the longest Fit of Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark, is known amongst illustrators as the Purgatorial Fit, for its immense length requires the consumption of vast quantities of cheap whiskey and hot curries to keep up one’s strength.

Of course, in former times, illustrators such as myself needed no such artificial stimulants to come up with the goods. Employed as we usually were in the embellishment of manuscripts by various monastic establishments, we busied ourselves with the production of all manner of fantastical and grotesque creatures in our spare time. These bizarre critters, sometimes called grylli, were invented by Antiphilos the Egyptian, according to Pliny the Elder, and they proved very handy indeed in the spicing up of what was otherwise a pretty dull sort of life in your typical 12th-century scriborium. However, the grylli soon escaped from their cages and ran amuck, as such artificial creations always do, hooting loudly while drunk on the front lawns of right-thinking folk such as St. Bernard, who had this to say to the cops later on …

"What are these ridiculous monstrosities doing in the cloisters where monks pray and study? To what purpose are these unclean apes, fierce lions, these half men … quadrupeds with a dragon’s tail … a dragon with a quadruped’s tail … a horse ending as a goat … a horned animal ending as a horse."

What purpose indeed! Let’s ask this typologically portmanteau-ish gentleman that we see pictured above, sitting on his rock and minding his own business, let’s ask him what he thinks of these oddly unreal grotesqueries that are popping in and out of Nowhere (or Unwhere, to be precise) to trouble his devotional contemplations.

Is he St. Anthony, possessing the legendary self-control of the Father of Monasticism, and thus ultimately indifferent to these sensory diversions, dismissing them as Satan’s spurious blandishments and threats? Or is he the Butcher, possessing no discernable cerebral aptitude at all and thus ultimately indifferent to these sensory diversions, dismissing them as the Beaver’s feminine blandishments and threats?

Yes, for some time now, we have suspected the Beaver of having little enthusiasm for hunting the Snark. It seems more and more evident that her function is that of a clumsy sort of romantic distraction, a distraction designed by a certain someone who wishes us to relax our vigilance and our powers of concentration — but to no avail, dear reader, for our watchword remains Snark!

Yes, it’s Snark that we are really hunting here, it’s Snarks and Boojums and all the other imaginary paraphenalia of idle illustrators, sensorily-deprived Early Christian anchorites and versifying Oxford dons! This is the Beaver’s Lesson to the Butcher!

It was a Snark that St. Anthony was hunting in the Antiphilian Egyptian Desert, it was a Snark that St. Bernard banished from the overheated monastic bullpens of the Middle Ages, and yes, it was a Snark that slapped a funnel atop its head and blustered his way into Hieronymus Bosch’s studio by claiming to be a Gov’ment Man hunting down an escaped gryllus.

The cheek! The nerve! I cannot countenance her any longer, yes, away with this Beaver’s Lesson, yes, get thee back to a punnery!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Greatest Snark on Earth!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Greatest Show on Earth is not to be found under some ratty canvas tent reeking of elephant dung and stale peanuts, peopled by layabouts trying to pinch a few shekels from the pockets of slack-jawed rubes even less aware of their undeserved position atop the Evolutionary Ladder than they are.

For shame, sir or madam, for even thinking so! This is the Amazing Circus of Mr. Lewis Carroll and what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, boys and girls, is not only the final stanza of Fit the Fourth, not only the precise median point of this Hunting of the Snark, but also proof positive that the truly greatest show on earth is that glittering spectacle which is performed within the cerebella of all those who eschew the vulgar entertainments of the hoi polloi in favor of the baroque pleasures of parsing out the minutiae of this, our Snark Hunt!

Yes, minutiae, minutiae everywhere, nor any drivel to think! This final stanzel is packed with all the gaudy tinsel of circus minutiae, the Broker tottering on his stilts, the Billiard Marker plunging through an abyss, the Boots juggling with the decapitated heads of the audience.

But all this pales in comparison to the leonine circus beast swallowing the hapless Banker. Although you can only catch a glimpse of it here, it is actually a chimera and it is the kind of beast found in only the better sort of circuses (or circi, if you must) such as our Snarkian Circus of Fit the Fourth or more to the point, the amazing Circus of Dr. Lao!

Yes, it is Dr. Lao’s Circus to which I'm paying homage to here*, to that shamefully unacknowledged American wellspring of what came to be called Magical Realism. Needless to say, the good Doctor Lao saw fit to provide his Circus with a chimera, and the chronicler of his Circus, the newspaperman Charles G. Finney, also saw fit to explicate this mysterious beast in his compendious back-of-the-book catalogue, to wit :

CHIMERA : described by Rabelais, Flaubert and Finney.

Huzzah for the telegraphic simplicity of the 1920’s American newspaper style! But have no fear, dear reader, there’s no need for you to poke around in your breakfast Pantagruel just yet. My team of hashisheen-cum-wingéd-flying-monkey research assistants have already verified that Rabelais did indeed wonder aloud whether a chimera, swinging in a void, can swallow second intentions. From thence, it was child’s play for them to rummage through my tattered copy of the Temptation of St. Anthony, until Flaubert’s chimera warned them that if he perceived in any place a man whose mind reposes in wisdom, he would fall upon him and strangle him.

Strong juju, even for French circus folk, but so be it. The chimera, over-excited by the Billiard Marker swinging in a void, is swallowing our Banker — a devourment of second intentions† as specified by Rabelais! His first intention might very well have been to strangle his prey until he discovered that the Banker’s mind was most definitely not reposing in wisdom, being entirely taken up by various Snarkological absurdities and other marxist nonsenseries.

Very well, the show must go on! We turn to the Butcher, for despite his tearful unmanning by the Bellman, His Gills the Butcher dare not scarper off now! You can politely ignore his voluptuous agony at being sawn in half or even his terror of the Jubjub bird and other chimeras that populate this hellish (though oddly compelling) circus, all of ‘em lying in wait for him and him alone!

All of this may well be unpleasant, yes, perhaps even vulgar, but you can't turn your eyes away, can you? Schadenfreude is still the greatest show on earth!


*Homage being used here in its Hollywood connotation of brazen looting.

Swallowing a Snark Hunter could never be any imaginary beast’s first intention, for knowing Snark Hunters to be as mythical as chimeras, the deliberate engulfing of the former within the latter might create a self-annihilating double-negative Nonsensical Tautology. This still leaves us with the question of the Banker's ultimate destination, his reductio ad absurdam, as it were. The eponymous proprietor of the Circus explicated his chimera (of sturdy Chinese make) to the good folks of Abalone, Arizona thusly: “The chimera … has no elimination system in the sense that ordinary animals have. Instead of expelling waste matter through the bowels, he burns it up within him, and he snorts out the smoke and ashes. Yes, the chimera is its own incinerator plant." Hence the futility of following the beast around all day, hoping to collect enough physical remnants of his prey, the Banker, for proper Christian burial. A simple ashtray would suffice.

‡ Refer discreetly to your Dictionary of Received Opinions which you always keep about your person, wherein Flaubert has the last word on the matter … CIRCUS FOLK : Use obscene practices.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Fellowship of the Snark

We continue with Fit the Fourth of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark (or as I like to call it, my Precious) …

The story so far … a darkness has fallen upon the land and there are B-Boyz abroad … they search for the one snark, the Baker’s-Bane of eldritch lore … the one snark to rule them all, the one snark to find them, the one snark to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

Both Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien were Oxford men and both had full-blown language manias. We’ve already seen how the Forks and Hope refrain of the Snark (if not the entire poem) was begat by the Old Norse galdors, those pagan charms from the same realm of verse which Tolkien plundered so fruitfully. We can also classify Carroll’s Snark/Boojum (Snarquus boojum) in the same genus as Tolkien’s Ring (Annulus horribilis), the genus of all imaginary, highly sought-after and utterly annihilating thingamabobs or such-like fritter-my-wigs (or what fast-food-obsessed Americans call a MacGuffin).

In addition, both men’s œuvres sternly eschewed romance except in the most cursory way. Hence, it is with a bit of a naughty giggle that I’ll let you have a quick peek at this picture of the Beaver showing off a bit of ankle! Hubba hubba, these Carrollians know how to live it up! The Beaver is obviously inebriated with her vampish power over the stupid and stout Baker, who has also succumbed to the heady bacchanals of this metamorphic circus! His wink (poorly rendered here, I admit, the result of using second-grade fresh india ink instead of the real, silken-smooth article) suggests to us his Houyhnhnmic approval of the Carrollian portmanteau which tops off this sinnful stanza : gallumph!

All of which begs the question — what on earth has this to do with J.R.R. Tolkien? What on earth possessed me to follow this discombobulated line of addled thinking comparable to the meanderings of a slightly concussed bee?

To which I must reply, in the words of yet another celebrated Oxford man: ignorance, madam, pure ignorance!

Monday, April 20, 2015

It was a bright cold day in April, and the snarks were striking thirteen

Dear readers and fellow Snark Hunters: I've been remiss in updating this on-going exegesis of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark, owing to various family crises and an endless succession of illustration rush jobs … I apologize for the inconvenience. In any case, we are returning to Fit the Fourth, The Hunting, where the B-Boyz are girding their loins for their final confrontation with the Snark. The scene has been set in a circus … 

The above stanza may be a bit unclear to some readers (particularly those possessing an iota of common sense). The Butcher, seen above as a lugubrious sort of rude mechanical’s nightmare of an Easter-Island-Pierrot, is requesting the Bellman to formally introduce him to the Snark whenever they might encounter it. The Bellman is noncommittal, stating that either the introduction* or the meeting itself (or both) is entirely contingent upon the weather.

What gives, Lewis Carroll? Are we still hunting snark or are we just marking time now? Are we waiting for Godot or even his Edwardian precursor, Mistuh Kurtz? Very well then, so be it! We shall once again call upon Oscar Wilde for some quick and snappy enlightenment. Being both Irish and dry-witted, he was particularly qualified to make the following pronouncement upon the English and their mildewed sense of meteorology :

"Pray don't talk to me about the weather … Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.”

Following this trail of bread crumbs deeper into the naughty forest of edible children, we stumble over the twitching presence of the Great Cham himself, Dr. Johnson, who tossed off this trite observation with his customary gravitas:

“It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather.”

A thing that always means something else, a thing that is always the prime topic of discussion … hmmm … we will proceed by mentally triangulating all of this with our above, freshly-minted illustration of a Bellman under the weather.

End result? A compact semioglyph of an Englishman feeling out of sorts because he is compelled by national habit to say something that always means something else, in short, to say the thing that was not! Yoicks, the game’s afoot at last! Behind the jolly good sport of our Snark Hunt, behind the labyrinthine hedgerows of English Nonsense, we have once again detected the spoor of that irascible Yahoo, Dean Swift! Oh, to say the thing that is not is all the rage these days, you add a dollop of Nonsense to it and it will cover a veritable multitude of sins, not the least of which is my penchant for the most byzantine mixing of metaphors yet known to man!

To horse, to Houyhnhnm, the Yahoos are let loose for there’s a scent of Snark in the wind and the weather’s fine!


*One can imagine the grim consequences of any letter of introduction to a beast such as a Snark or even, heavens forfend, a Boojum! Pity the poor Butcher as he hands over his letter to some supercilious flunky in a cavernous waiting room, the contents of which letter are invisible to him but which we already have guessed to be a simple directive of utter Boojumistic malevolence — keep this Butcher running!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The only possible snark hunter is oneself

It was probable that Lewis Carroll never intended for us to have any notion of what actually went on behind the scenes of his Snark Hunt. Snark hunting, like the legislative process, is a notoriously messy business similar to stuffing sausage meat into casings or cash into briefcases. It is an affair ill-suited to dandies or clowns, which is precisely the fugal state into which we now see the Butcher fleeing into, a delusionary state which is based, as such things so often are, on what lesser minds call "reality" or even "facts."

The ruff that our Butcher wears is derived from the word ruffle, which is itself derived from the Old Norse hrufla, to scratch. This quality of scratching has already been defined as one of the distinctive qualities of the Boojum subspecies of Snarks (Snarquus boojum infernum).

The yellow kid gloves, a term smacking of an overly dainty or delicate temperament, are redolent with intimations of the overly-refined British buffoonery of the late-Victorian Aesthetic genre of art and literature. One of the luminaries of this movement, Oscar Wilde, made a small though crucial contribution to Snarkology when he concocted that character Bunbury, who had an entirely unsettling or even annihilating effect upon anyone who encountered him — despite his nonexistence! This is a protosurrealist homage of sorts from one great genius to another, the Bunbury effect being entirely similar to the Boojum effect. But wait, dear reader, there’s more …

It is an interesting though useless fact that Bunbury is also a verb. To bunbury means to assume a different persona in the countryside as opposed to the city. Nowadays, this verb is mostly employed by ornithologists, to describe the variant personae and behavior of birds in their rural as opposed to their urban environments. And of course, birds also have feathers and bite, which is the defining characteristic of that other cherubic subspecies of Boojums, Snarquus boojum angelicum.

Well, that’s pretty much QED, I should think, for my Unified Snarkian Multiverse Theory. Stuff indeed, Mister Bellman, harrumph, harrumph!

Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm no artist, but I know what I snark

What a Nonsensical treat we have for you, dear reader! A hearty quatrain of Lewis Carroll’s finest Snark vintage embellished with a festive pattern of squiggles, lines and dots which correspond to a semi-hallucinatory circus vision of Friedrich Nietzsche masquerading as a Bonnet-Maker while the Second-Greatest-French-Novelist-Ever, Raymond Roussel (employed here as a Billiard-Marker) dares to chalk the Prussian’s nose.

Quite a mouthful, especially when one is chewing over one’s gin-soaked cud prior to tucking into a restorative nap upon the family charpoy whilst the household domestics busy themselves with preparing the immense urns of thickly-sweet, syrupy hot tea with which they must lustrate you upon awakening.

But so be it! The lower classes will have their little jokes at one’s expense, it is the Way of Things and all of it jolly good fun. We have already had a laugh at Nietzsche’s expense, exposing the risible connection between himself and all things Bonnet, and quite frankly, the very words "Prussian philosopher" can provide sufficient innocent merriment for anyone's purposes.

As for the Billiard-Marker Raymond Roussel, it is his destiny here to powder the Nietzsche’s nose for all eternity, both of them suspended high above the circus audience, plummeting towards the earth at a frightening velocity. Roussel maintains his Gallic sang-froid with his customary grace. In fact, it may truly be said that after an initial, youthful setback, no earthly mishap or reversal ever again disturbed his composure or determination to write the Great French Novel!

To every young person who genuinely burns with a desire to make Art I say — look to Roussel! Look to him who, when asked what he thought of the Great War, remarked only that he had never seen so many men! Study this adept of Cartesian logic, who, when asked by a Parisian friend for some memento of his travels in India, mailed her an electric heater! Reflect upon the sagacity of the author who, when searching for an illustrator for his verse masterpiece, hit upon the brilliant device of employing a detective agency to find a suitable artist!

"I shall reach the heights; I was born for dazzling glory. It may be long in coming, but I shall have a glory greater than that of Victor Hugo or Napoleon … No author has been or can be superior to me … As the poet said, you feel a burning sensation at your brow. I felt at once that there was a star at my brow and I shall never forget it."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Zen and the Art of Snark Maintenance

Judging from both the Barrister’s exasperated demeanour (played here by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Martin Heidegger) and from the general tenor of Lewis Carroll’s verses, the Beaver has no pride worth appealing to. And who can blame her, trapped as she is in a world not of her own making?*

Of course, all of us are trapped in a world not of our own making (probably) and it is at times like this that we might resort to the philosophical musings of the Barrister-Heidegger for further enlightenment concerning any time that we might spend being in this world almost certainly not of our own making :

"We name time when we say: every thing has its time. This means: everything which actually is, every being comes and goes at the right time and remains for a time during the time allotted to it. Every thing has its time."

After reading that, would it surprise you to learn that several philosophers were injured in the production of this Snark Hunt? Moments after this drawing was made, the Beaver savagely mauled the upper ontology of the Barrister-Heidegger!


* A common complaint of certain bright young things, those thrill-seeking, rootless cosmopolitans such as the Beaver … a Canadian wearing an Iberian mantilla, enjoying the echt German music of Heinrich Ignatius Franz von Biber and reading the memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Babur.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The snarking of the hunt

The circus-like atmosphere of this Snark hunt has turned dangerous, dangerous to a degree that Lewis Carroll would certainly never countenance! As a pedagogue, Carroll was very aware of the dangers posed by throwing sharp objects at others; he frequently had to remind his young charges to cease throwing sticks and paper clips and buttered scones at each other lest they put out someone’s eye!

The fact that the above-pictured Snarquistadores are all nominally adults does not lessen the magnitude of their criminal negligence. The Broker, played here by Erik Satie, is recklessly endangering the very person of the charming Beaver with his lethal spades, whilst the Boots, embodied by the respectably hirsute Charles Darwin, says nothing.

Perhaps the Boots is afraid of Satie? Perhaps he is afraid of remonstrating with this mysterious person who founded his own religion (The Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus, Leader), who promulgated the use of boredom as a musical motif and who took up smoking to give his physician extra income?

We shall never know for certain, this drawing furnishes as few clues as Carroll’s stanza does. The Mona-Lisa smile of the Beaver, the inscrutable visage of the Satie-Broker, they all hint at some deeper mystery … perhaps the Boot’s odd position is a clue … yes … that may be it … how does he manage to remain so firmly affixed to his trapeze board whilst upside-down?

Is he transfixed there by boredom? Can it be that he is listening to the Broker’s 14-hour long solo masterpiece (which Gavin Bryars described as a sort of "Ring des Nibelungen des pauvres"), a work of music so maddeningly dull and repetitive that the ordinary laws of gravity have simply given up in disgust and gone somewhere else — somewhere less plagued by such boojum-like Vexations?

NB. The performance of "Vexations" linked to above is played far too fast … apparently there were ten  listeners left awake at the end of this rendition. Ten too many, I'd say. There's another performance on Ubuweb, played at the correct, glacial tempo … too lazy to look it up. Vexations indeed …

Monday, December 29, 2014

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the snark!

The alert reader will notice that I’ve taken the liberty of transporting Lewis Carroll’s Snark Hunt into a tautological circus ring, replete with circus wagons, circus folk and their circus paraphanelia and even an audience of the requisite Chiricoid and Savinionesque mannequins and homunculi (for these lumpen-proles of Surrealism, this show — nay, any show at all — is indeed the Greatest Show on Earth!).

The more alert reader will observe that the Baker, played here by Lewis Carroll himself, is engaged in a classic bit of Victorian slapstick, involving a beard and a fork and the dust accumulated in his coat after decades of teaching Christ Church undergraduates. Although Carroll appears clean-shaven for most of this Snark Hunt, it is a little known but useful fact that this is how he looked when he was lecturing: hirsute and rather discombobulated. Any scoffers or killjoys need only refer to the Great One’s own self-portrait.

The most alert reader will immediately spot the utter absurdity of the Banker (played here by Karl Marx) endorsing a blank check and then crossing it, a bit of complex British financial skulduggery involving a stale and phlegmish sight gag redolent of the vaudevillian buffoonery of those other, less hirsute Marxists : Messers Harpo, Chico, Groucho and Zeppo.

NB. Purchase a copy of my Hunting of the Snark graphic novel before the end of this year and you might win something! Or not.

Monday, December 15, 2014

They that go down to the sea in snarks

Huzzah! England expects the Bellman to insert his bell into his right eye. The Bellman promptly complies! Some readers might insinuate that he does so to ignore a signal ordering his withdrawal during the Battle of Copenhagen but the Bellman doesn’t give a fig for such talk. In fact, having lost the use of his right eye in Corsica, the addition of a large bell into the useless socket gives him a certain rakish, clochetic look which has proved quite popular with the ladies, in particular, the lovely Lady Emma Hamilton! Imagine her surprise when she discovered afterwards that the Bellman would have bequeathed her to the British nation in a codicil of his will if he had bothered to fill out the paperwork correctly.

But her dismay was nothing compared to that of Lewis Carroll, the author of this very Snark Hunt! Imagine his surprise when he discovered that his amanuensis (and rather louche business manager) Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a maternal great-great-nephew of Admiral Skeffington Ludwidge, upon whose ship HMS Carcass a young midshipman named Horatio Nelson began his storied career … a career which included Nelson’s loss of an eye in Corsica … the disregarding of signals during the Battle of Copenhagen … and even the transferral of a Lady Hamilton to a grateful though perplexed nation.

Simple coincidence? I think not! I think what we have here is a Snark Hunt of staggeringly devious complexity, an insidious cabal hatched forth in the shadowed lair of an occluded Illuminati who will stop at nothing (cue evil laughter) … And so I say to you, gentle reader: steady on there, stiff upper lip and all that! Remember that whenever he (or she) is confronted by hopeless odds, the True Snark Hunter expects every man to do his duty! 

Hip hip hooray! Rum and coke for all ratings on deck!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Snarkness at noon

Our favorite poet and Eminent Victorian Lewis Carroll has given us the late 19th-century equivalent of certain ubiquitious American psychobabbitries : do all that you know and try all that you don’t.

A peculiar prescription for a peculiar creature, a call of sorts to a High Anglican debauchery of the thinking classes. And what titillates the thinking (and unthinking) classes the most? What is it they dream of, with their eyes wide shut … is it the Female of the Species?

Most likely. And shame on ‘em too, boo hiss boo! Objectifying women with their shameless gaze! These Surrealists, they are a menace to polite society in every city and a blight upon the land in every which way.

They are utterly unlike the respectable, petit-bourgeois Protosurrealist Snark-Hunters whom we see above, scrupulously averting their reifying gaze from La Snarque Nue concealed from them in my forest of lines. Would it surprise you to learn that I have entirely drawn the above with my eyes also firmly shut, trusting only in the animal-instincts of my feral pen to guide me safely through the labyrinth of lines in which the Snark has so cunningly concealed herself?

Monday, November 24, 2014

He rode a blazing saddle, he wore a shining snark …

A reiteration of the Snarkic Galdor … a type of verse-charm first overheard by the poet Lewis Carroll whilst sipping his tea and mentally searching for rhymes in the commons room of Christ Church College in the lower intestines of the 19th century. No doubt Carroll was puzzled by this sudden outbreak of cryptoskáldic fervour in what was then a bastion of High Church Anglicanism but he was a discreet man and kept his thoughts to himself.

However, I am congenitally incapable of keeping any thoughts to myself! At this very moment I am mentally whirling along certain transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention, as the infamous Hedly Lamar once pensed aloud to the uncomprehending Slim Pickens.

Unlike Slim Pickens, gentle readers, you will easily grasp the essence of my thoughts, which I’ve thoroughly illustrated above. The Snarkic Galdor is baited, literally, with the tempting person of the Baker himself! Lured by his smile and a bar of soap, the unsuspecting Snark will venture underneath the requisite giant thimble and then be trapped there by the quick and concerted action of the Baker’s Fellows!

The Baker’s transient nodes of thought on the matter can only be guessed at. However, thanks to the learned Adam Roberts’ ingeniously cosmic vapors of invention, we now know that the Baker’s earlier polylingual attempts at communication with his fellow B-Boyz (see Page 25, Panel 2) were simply an enunciation of the observation thatHumanorum hetaeria es auto (you are yourself the brotherhood of all men). His comrades have taken this generous, fraternal gesture of self-sacrifice on the Baker’s part as carte blanche to proffer him up as living Snark-Bait.

This business of offering oneself up as a bait for Evil must inevitably occupy the whirling, transient thought-nodes of anyone enjoying his tiffin at the aptly-named Christ Church College. Perhaps, as Carroll munched his bread and butter sandwiches and plotted his rhymes, he was entertaining first, second or even third thoughts about his own personal Boojums … or perhaps he was merely biding his time till the invention of the talking-type-wireless with which the ubiquitious Slim Pickens would finally set all of his religious doubts to rest!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Great White Snark

We have already nibbled upon — and spurned! — Beatrice Hatch’s assertion that Lewis Carroll had told her that the word Snark was a portmanteau of Snail and Shark. The etymology of the Snark is an entire Hunt unto itself (excellently summarized by the inestimable Bradshaw of the Future) but it seems that we are running perilously low on bullets, tinned beef and scotch-soaked mosquito netting, or so my faithful shikaris tell me … we had better return to civilization, such as it is, and seek our Snark indoors … such as these Snark Hunters pictured above are doing.

Please observe that these Hunters are relying solely upon their finely-tuned instincts to track down their perilous prey and as usual, everything’s become a hopeless jumble! The afore-mentioned Beatrice Hatch’s semiolinguistic brain-crumbs have joined in an unholy alliance with the semiographic cupcakes of the Belgian pâtissier (and chronophobe) René Magritte to create a novel yet frothy confection! Of course, such half-baked baked-goods would be incomplete without some of that double-plus-good explanatory frosting which the Critics love so; I append an explanatory (and thoroughly plagiarized) morsel here:

"I decided to paint the image of a shark . . . In order for its mystery to be evoked, another immediately familiar image without mystery — the image of a snail — was joined."
Well, there you have it : an Indo-Germanic-Belgo-Anglo-Saxon layer cake of ink and words … I call it Beatrice’s Revenge, for it’s a rather heterogenous and unsettling dish best served cold, perhaps as an after-dinner dessert? Of course, Lewis Carroll’s original photographic bonbon of Miss Hatch was also a bit cloying but certain artists will always indulge their sweet-tooths!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Careful with that snark, Eugene

There comes a time when even poets such as the Talented Mister Lewis Carroll draw a blank, as the saying goes. Yet such deficiencies seem to have not bothered him a jot or tottle in the long run; he simply brewed up a fresh pot of tea, chewed reflectively upon his quid of paan and sooner or later, he would come up with the poetical goods and fend off the Boojums at the door.

However, when an ink-slinging wretch such as I draws a blank, adverse professional consequences can result. Drawing a blank may be suitable behaviour for those blessed artistes who frolic in the Elysian Fields of the MOMA or the Tate but for us illustrative hacks bent over our drawing boards in the sweaty back-forty of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 8, Subsection 5, Barrators and Flatulants) such antics are the stuff of which bankruptcies are made of.

When deadlines press and the ol’ brainbox is running on fumes, remember the scuola metafisica’s dictum to draw only that which cannot be seen. The main thing is to keep one's pen busy, just bash on regardless, no thinking required … always bear in mind the words of a certain politician who once declared that he did not care what the facts were.

Who can argue with that, eh?

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Fellowship of the Snark

These headless anapaests of Lewis Carroll rollick onwards in their frolicksome procession and who are we to deny their cantering allure? Of course, the essence of an anapaest is the idea of a reversal (a reversal of a reversal, actually, two steps backward and one step forward) and what better expresses the idea of reversal than the dawning realization that one is speaking in a language that no one understands? The unfortunate Baker is quite literally going backwards as the sense of what he says is instantly transformed into nonsense by his puzzled auditors.

Snarkologists call this sort of thing the Snarkosocratic Method, a kind of dialectic in which a question is responded to as though it were absolute nonsense. This in turn forces the questioner to endlessly repeat himself until his uncomprehending auditors gradually lose interest and finally go away.

Left alone in his splendidly impenetrable semiolinguistic Fortress of Solitude, the Baker is now free to concentrate his intellectual powers upon himself. Toying with the building-blocks of language and meaning, he will arrive at some sort of Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything in It … eventually …

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wu Tang Snark

False pretences are the bane of modern life or so I’m told. Although Lewis Carroll seems to have composed here an entire poem devolving entirely from the concept of false pretences and all the semiotic and logical heartache they can inflict upon the tender-hearted and tender-brained, in our more louche age the concept of false pretences has inspired instead a steady diet of policiers, bodice-ripping Mills & Boons and true-life confessional serial-killer-self-help-vademeca.

Very well, let the masses have their sensationalist Lewis Carroll, their police gazette Hunting of the Snark! If it’s murder and false pretences they want, let ‘em have it!

The heart of the problem, as I saw it, was to produce a drawing with a maximum of false pretensions and a minimum of actual labor. My eyes fell upon samples of certain competitors of mine, artists blessed with an abundance of spare time and a minimum of talent which they had parlayed into a critically-acclaimed career of coprophiliac jokes, professional amateurism and an uncanny penchant for receiving 99% of a book's fee while doing 1% of the work.

Gosh! Throwing caution to the winds, I brushed aside my idly gyrating Assamese nautch girl, recklessly purchased an entire sheet of second-grade-fresh Denril and pushed another quarter into the meter of my steam-driven pencil! Working without respite, I laboured to flesh out the Baker’s criminal pretence, multiplying his crypto-Carrollian visage seven-fold!

Huzzah for the critics! In a world of false pretences, who is the menaced assassin and who is the menacing victim now? Look out, New York art-wallahs, here comes a real maverick!