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!
Monday, April 7, 2014
The Shakespearean quotation will be familiar to all poetical and political earmongers. The Bellman has been depicted in the definitive Roman pose of imperial authority known as the adlocutio, which has been visually modified here to prove, amongst many other things, that everything old is new again.
Clothed in the rhetorical and semiotic crypto-imperial habiliments of Marxist-Leninism, the Bellman not only demands his auditors’ ears but even their arms so that he may throw them (their arms, not his audience) across the shoulders of the tottering capitalist-running-boojums and assist them into an early grave. This odd affinity (an unelective affinity?) towards Comrade Lenin is no accident, it allows us to make a second auricular reference to the rumored waxen ear which has replaced the genuine, damaged article on Lenin’s embalmed corpse.
The ear motif receives its third and final reiteration (thus fulfilling the Clochetic Rule of Three) in the somewhat maimed person of Vincent van Gogh, who stands behind Comrade Bellman (somewhat in the manner of a Laputian flapper) to encourage the enthusiasm of all concerned with his sinister aura … of menacing risibility.
Their audience, the proletarian hunters of the Snark, react to all this intellectual palaver as expected. Drinks all around and afterwards, dancing on the upper decks for the lower ranks! Huzzah for His Nibs the Bellman, huzzah for the Snark, huzzah for the revolution!
Will Schofield has very kindly posted a short bio of my late aunt, Monica Tornow, at his Writers No One Reads. On 50 Watts, he's also posted two pieces written by her in the late '70s for Manuskripte, the Austrian literary magazine, one of them translated by myself and another by Malcolm Green in his must-have Black Letters Unleashed (Atlas Press, 1989). There's also some pictures I drew for the two pieces, for the children to play with if they get bored while you're reading. My aunt loved children, especially if they smoked and drank and talked left-wing politics.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Jokes kept for a season of woe, an almost biblical undertaking on the part of the Bellman, whose storehouse of mirth has been sorely depleted by divers chasms and crags. But to this geologically disheartened hunter of the Snark, we say, in the finest demotic vulgate we can muster : lighten up, dude! Like, get a hobby!
Hmmm … how about music? Music is nice, musical tones are even nicer. How about the fiddle? It’s an instrument that’s still welcome at hoe-down and rave alike. And all the girls love musicians, especially those hirsute ones (musicians, not girls) who emote over their Boojums in smoky Parisian cabarets, the kind of place where Kiki de Montparnasse might toss her turban at sugar-dada Man Ray or Jean Ingres pops in to play some violon airs upon a g-string behind her naked bach.
But the Bellman knows it will never work out. From the vantage point of his solitary table in a dark corner, he sighs aloud and weeps a solitary English tear into his hemlock and branch water. He knows he’s the wisest man in the place, simply because he’s the only one aware of his own ignorance. That and the numbness creeping up his legs … and up his back …
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
We're frolicking through yet another exegesis of my Snark GN … deep in the anapestic bowels of Fit the Second …
All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely Snark hunters: they have their exits and their entrances; and one Bellman in his time plays many parts, his acts being eight Fits. We have arranged things so that our players shall now disembark into a romantic comedy of the sort calculated to warm the cockles of even a Boojum’s heart.
While our snarkistes peek backstage, the action downstage is upstaging them. A painted backdrop of the Desierto Pintado has set the mood. Love is in the air and will soon compel the Mouse pictured at stage-left to propel a fortuitous Brick upon the noggin of the unsuspecting Kat.
But is it true love, ask the critics? Is Mouse + Kat + Brick = Love a suitable proposition for the hardnosed, Gradgrindish theater of today? A Boojum in Surrey … a Brick in Coconino … an allegory of the search for happiness or a quick krease to a Kat’s noggin … the course of true love never did run smooth.
Things running unsmoothly … sounds like a good definition of Snark Hunting to me.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Another wordless sighting of the HMS Snark, observed tacking ‘round the Bonnet-Maker, whose resemblance to Friedrich Nietzsche borders upon the implausible. But plause we must, nonetheless. After a promising start in hunting Snark on the Continent, Nietzsche was surprised by a Boojum on the streets of Turin* in 1889. The shock was fatal … in his own words …
"Since I am condemned to amuse the coming eternity with bad jokes, I have set up a writing business which actually leaves nothing to be desired … Last autumn I attended, dressed as lightly as possible, my own burial twice … negligé of one’s attire is a pre-requisite of good form … I go everywhere in my student jacket, here and there I tap someone on the shoulder and say : ' Siamo contente? Son dio, ho fatto questa caricatura (Are we happy? I am god, we did this caricature today) . " **
Apart from this, our communal Snark enterprise, to this day no one has ever taken Nietzsche at his final word, preferring instead his earlier, less humorous work. What a brilliant career this Prussian Snark-hunter could have had in the realm of Wilhelminian nonsense literature …
Let this be a lesson to all those who hunt the Snark — some Boojums one will never discover, unless one invents them first!
NB. By habitually linking the words "Friedrich Nietzsche" with the word "Bonnet", I plan to create the seed of a semiotic oxymoron (triggered by some unusually google-gullible undergraduate searching for a quick copypasteprint) which should bring western civilization as we know it to its arthritic knees. Cue evil laughter here!
* Empty piazzi, depopulated train stations, the eternally recurring backdrop for our Snark hunt, de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Savinio, Calvino … all the lost and emptied portmanteaux of European protosurrealism.
**Black Letters Unleashed: 300 Years of Enthused Writing in German, Ed. by Malcolm Green, Atlas Press, London, 1989. Not only does this excellent anthology contain brilliant comic gems such as Nietzche's above quote, it also has my late, dearly missed maternal aunt, Monica Tornow, rubbing literary shoulders with the the likes of von Lichtenberg and von Sacher-Masoch. We move in exalted circles chez Snark … so watch it.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
In a world without words, only the small-minded will be tongue-tied. Although our gallant crew aboard the HMS Snark is none of the above, they are maintaining strict radio silence as they slip by the pictorially-fortified beaches of the deadly Festung Schnark. The tension is palpable, our brave lads (and lass) are straining every nerve as they man (and miss) their weapons.
And what weapons are these? Steam-powered concussion-primed pencils? Petrol-driven semi-automatic violins? Pshaw to such antiquated music-hall-cross-talk-claptrap! Our snarqistadores are armed with only an indifferent somnolence, punctuated by an insouciant nasal susurration … they are snoring, they are snorting, they are sniffing and sneezing, they are speaking that most ancient, somatic and asemic dialect of the body physical, proof positive against all visual illusions and cognitive man-traps of the so-called higher intellect.
Hold on, what’s all this, you say? Lost in the disorienting farrago of my mixed metaphors and strained allusions? Missing the connection, the old brain-box gone off-track, signals crossed somewhere? Don’t panic! I shall refer you to the classic solace of the dislocated and confused Victorian bourgeois Snark hunter — a Bradshaw’s Guide!
Look here, sirrah, here it is writ out, plain as can be! All the lost luggage and missed connections of long-dead phonemes, waiting on long-gone railway platforms for a linguistic rendez-vous with a common usage that never arrived … schnarren, schnarchen, snarren, snerka … and yes, dare we say it — SNARK!
I think I’d better go and have a nice lie-down now. To sleep, perchance to snore — aye, there’s the snark.
Monday, March 3, 2014
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a snark
At this point in my Snark, I thought it best to go wordless for a few panels, to let the reader wallow in a blissful surfeit of lines, blobs and squiggles which simply mean themselves and nothing more. In short, I want you to have your wordless cake and eat it too!
So, enjoy these yummy bits of Sir John Tenniel, a juicy morsel of Dora Maar (with a succulent Alfred Jarry center) and all of it garnished with the abraded glyphs of Oysters à la Alberto Savinio!
Monday, February 24, 2014
We're frolicking through yet another exegesis of my Snark GN … deep in the anapestic bowels of Fit the Second …
A wordless panel to allow the slower thinking reader time to catch up … a quick-thinking Silesian photographer, Hans Bellmer, captures the rare spectacle of a school of puppetfish (Puppespielen bellmerensis) disporting themselves in the mangrove-shoals of the River Spree while the HMS Snark heads out to sea on its final voyage … a wordless panel, as befits this wordless world we live in … Bellmer's ode to the Bellmen, a heartfelt, kinky paean from the Seafaring Bell to the Hominid Bell …
O Bellman! my Bellman! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, your bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring …
Monday, February 17, 2014
And so, even the least of the Bellman's hopes shall be occidentally disoriented. What wind blew you hither, noble Bellman? Not the ill wind which blows no man to good. Nor that wind which is winding the watch of your wit; so that by and by it will strike.
I think this wind is what the learned scholastic Flann O'Brien would call the ultimate and inexorable and supreme pancake at the back of the whole shooting match, ie., omnium. And what is this omnium of this wind that we hear so much of on the tellyvision? It is the essential, inherent, interior essence which is hidden inside the root of the kernel of everything and it is always the same. The bane of Booja* and Bellmen alike, the curse of the drinking classes, this here omnium-wind is the wind of an indefinite divisibility.
* The nominative plural of boojum is booja, this particular species of the genus Snark being neuter in nature — Snarkus boojum. The verb itself is regular, of course: booja, boojas, boojat, boojamus, boojatis, boojant; although the correct orthography should really be BOOIVM, BOOIA, etc.
Monday, February 10, 2014
As the nurturing, endlessly comforting snows of Québec begin to numb our cerebella at chez snarque, we have ample time to reflect upon the old adage: good artists borrow; great artists steal (and never from the merely good artists). I've mercilessly looted the Belgians, French and Italians, so the inspiration for this stanzel will have to be purloined from the Germans.
Easier said than done, I soon discovered. Friedrich Nietzsche (The Bonnets) and Martin Heidegger (The Barrister) refused to countenance my scheme but Karl Marx (The Banker), that preternaturally prescient Protosurrealist, quickly came up with some snappy double-talk to justify my larcenous designs. He pointed out that crime is actually good for the likes of Lewis Carroll and his ilk (double-plus-good, in fact):
"The criminal produces not only crime but also the criminal law; he produces the professor who lectures on this law and even the inevitable textbook … the whole apparatus of the police and criminal justice … also art, literature, novels, even tragic dramas … he (the criminal) gives a new impulse to the productive forces."
That's pretty juicy stuff, say no more, Karl! Within minutes, my crack team of ninja-idiot-savant-cat-burglar-draftsmen had illicitly purloined and haphazardly reproduced this picture of a giant thumb lusting after his maternal walnut from none other than Max Ernst, the noted German surrealist and an echt bon vivant with the consummate Carrollian taste to die the day before he was born.
Of course, you, the dear reader, may ask: what's this picture got to do with a vessel being snarked in tropical climes? I can only reply: It's a fair cop, guv'nor!
NB. Max Ernst's illustrations for the Snark are dadamax-loplop-good! One may wonder what Lewis Carroll would have made of them, but by using our Protosurrealist critical apparatus we can safely say: yes.
Monday, February 3, 2014
We're frolicking through yet another exegesis of my Snark GN … deep in the anapestic bowels of Fit the Second …
Eugène Delacroix pooh-poohed maritime disasters and English literature, both of them subjects dear to the hearts of this artist and Lewis Carroll …
"… I have been reading the story of a shipwreck by Edgar Allan Poe, where the survivors remain in the most horrible and desperate situation for fifty pages on end — nothing could be more boring. Here we have an example of foreign bad taste. The English, German and other non-Latin peoples have no literature because they have no taste or proportion … they drown one beneath a flood of detail that takes away all the interest."
Later that same evening, over a beaker of pure rainwater, he tossed off this observation:
"Lord Byron praised gin as his Hippocrene, because it made him bold … happy are they who, like Voltaire and other great men, can reach a state of inspiration on fresh water and plain living."So, you want fresh water and plain living with no details? Very well! Get on this sinking raft, Eugène! You did it for Théodore Géricault, you can do it for me! Down there in front, behind the Bellman with your arms outstretched and quit your whining, this ain't no alexandrine hémistichery — this here's Lewis Carroll! Tingle that bell!
NB. I have increased the mineral content of Delacroix's head to compensate for his natural Gallic bouyancy and to highlight his affinity for impersonating an Easter Island moia.
If you're still reading this far, I salute you and offer you some relief at last, a gallery of recent work for Adam Roberts and J.C. Valtat … my (and the authors') homage to the Master, Jules Verne, and his original illustrators, artists such as de Neuville, Bennet and Riou, who laid the foundations of SF art. Plus, Adam and Jean Christophe's novels are both amazing, mind-twisting, print-and-paper equivalents of the Total Perspective Vortex. Can you handle them?
Monday, January 27, 2014
Yet another shameless Magritte pastiche, and not the last one to grace these pages, I'll wager. Shameless — the 10th Muse of Protosurrealism!
Even more shameless — this insistence that the crew of the HMS Snark use the French language for navigational purposes when it is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been lost at sea that English is the natural language of confusion. This is easily verified. Stand on a street corner in any francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while pronouncing every phoneme at the highest decibel level.
I shall be observing you from inside the comfortable vantage point of a nearby bottle of plonk. Do not make eye contact with me or else — sapristi! Garçon, call the police, this crazy-man-anglais-cowboy-streetperson is bothering me!
Words, words, words … if only they had the decency to cover themselves up, like the Bellman & Company. They have no loyalty, they can't be bothered to mean anything anymore, they're shameless!
NB. The champagne corks are popping and the mishti's flowing in Shillong and Mumbai … my wife's mawsi (aunt), Parveen Sultana, has just been awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government. If time permits in your busy day, take half an hour to enjoy her artistry, you will not be disappointed …
Monday, January 20, 2014
We're plodding through yet another exegesis of my Snark GN … deep in the anapestic bowels of Fit the Second …
The original illustration by Holiday of this Universal Map is, to be honest, a little trite. It's obvious that the poor man was trying to economize on india ink and pen nibs. However, as the 11th Commandment reminds us: thou shalt not speak ill of another artist, particularly when they are dead and defenseless (the precise state in which their work is best appreciated and appreciates best).
I felt that I could do better. I assumed the traditional artist's position of cogitation whilst supine on my charpoy. I puffed upon the hookah proferred me by the Assamese chorus-girl who also pressed my feet, the predominant organ of mentation in my species. I was, of course, familiar with the etymology of the word "map", which ultimately conjured up the hebraic motif of a cloth which conceals and a cloth which reveals, all of which I deftly distilled into "what's-behind-curtain-number-four" and "the-Freudian-Slip".
But still … it was obvious … too obvious, perhaps. All the better for my class of readers! Starting with a gratuitious insult to Henry Holiday I had mentally arrived at a hookah-puffing Jewish savant peddling obscurantism to a witless Bellman in a Cairene souk. In the distance I could hear the blood-curdling screams of native children conjugating French verbs. I paid them no heed! I bent over my drawing board, pen in hand, my thoughts feverishly coagulating in a vivid mental maelstrom of mixed metaphors and incongruous images! Two weeks ago I couldn't even spell "artist", now I are one!
Monday, January 13, 2014
There are some who might say this artist's conception of the Bellman is a base and underhanded attack upon the same, suggesting as it does that the Bellman was literally birdbrained and furthermore, that his colleagues (depicted here and here) possessed the collective wisdom and general prescience of a flock of chickens on the way to the abattoir.
But this is not the case.
I put it to you that the English penchant for all things avian is well-known. I put it to you that Lewis Carroll populated his verse and prose with many avian and semi-avian portmanteaux (or portmantanimaux?) such as the Jubjub Bird and the Borogrove.
I put it to you that the Bellman has suffered the ill-effects of a Violent Unknown Event and that he has metamorphasized into an avian state common amongst avant-garde English cineastes. The wisdom on his face is actually the smug look of a sporting wallah who finally knows for certain which came first, the chicken or the egg.