Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Adam Roberts vs. Adventure Time: When Astounding Worlds Collide!

Readers expecting graphic Snark on this holiday posting will be disappointed; I have to confess that I'm too pooped to come up with the requisite Snarkian goods.

Instead, I'll regale you with some behind-the-illustrative-scenes gossip which you can mull over while enjoying your Christmas Gluhwein and curry … because here at chez Snark we're busy turning out not one but two books at once, as befits our bipolarsexual book mania:

The highly esteemed & talented SF writer, Adam Roberts, have very kindly allowed me to illustrate his latest novel, 20 Trillion Leagues Under the Sea. I adore the works of Jules Verne and frankly, most contemporary variations & updates of his oeuvre leave me unimpressed if not revulsed. But Adam has delivered the goods with this one, it's a corker on every level and I think that even Jules would approve.

Adam's novels are as tightly written, mind-blowing and well-plotted as anything from the earlier British New Wave — perhaps more so, to be honest — and for this illustrator, those far-off days remain a fond memory of SF's (second) salad days. North American SF is now healthier than the 1970s but to be honest, the vast bulk of it is still as thoughtless and timid as ever. But 20 Trillion Leagues demonstrates that SF can be both a Ripping Yarn and a conceptual tour-de-force complex enough to satisfy even the pickiest thesis-hunting post-grad.

In any case, it's a highly humid book and I'm fast becoming an expert on drawing terrified sailors in a doomed submarine. Plus, the villain is super cool and there's some sly Snark references! In fact, there's something vaguely Lovecraftian about this work, better than Lovecraft actually … god, there's a boring author who deserves to return to pulp Limbo. I'll take Robertsian horror any day, it's more … crafty …

I'm also contributing to the new Adventure Time Encyclopaedia by Martin Olson. Readers may remember Martin as the sick, twisted genius behind The Encyclopaedia of Hell and he's recruited most of the same talented team of fellow twisted, easily gulled sickos to do this new book for Abrams. It's been almost 30 years since I did some kid's stuff (Don Diego and his Time-Travelling Llama, remember that?) and Adventure Time seems to be a bit more popular with the kids. My agent assures me that fame and fortune are soon to follow, or at least a clever simulacrum of them.

I can't divulge any details of the book but I can assure younger readers that neither Finn nor Jake are sucked into a watery abyss bent upon the annihilation and subjugation (or is it the other way 'round?) of the human race, just for cheap humid thrills. That's Adam Robert's speciality.

Instead, they are crosshatched within an inch of their lives by a ink and tea-swilling Indo-Germanic proto-surrealist hack, plus Tony Millionaire, Celeste Moreno, Sean Tejaratchi and Aisleen Romano do something unspeakably Californian to them. Awesome, huh?

But don't worry, that's nothing compared to what Hunson Abadeer has planned for them, the honey-tongued scamp!

Alors … quelle heure est il? Il est le temps d'aventure!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snark vs. Adventure Time: The Final Battle

“’Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
You will find I have told it you twice.
‘Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
If only I’ve stated it thrice.”

Another crypto-scholastic cri de coeur from the Subtle Don, Lewis Carroll, cunningly palmed off by him as the Butcher’s usual Snark Hunting blather. For the benefit of readers who may have just emerged from the washroom and are discreetly eying the exit whilst wondering what all the ruckus is about, scholasticism was an insidious bit of Continental thinkery brought over to England in unlicensed bathing machines and then peddled discreetly in certain no-questions-asked academic circles frequented by the finest medieval chatteratti of the day.

Scholasticism was advertised as strong medicine for all manner of mental boojums, in particular, the disconcerting lapse between how we think things should be and how we actually find them to be. Such lapses seemed to plague the rook racked and river-rounded purlieus of Oxford in particular, so much so that Gerard Manley Hopkins found it necessary to work his inimitable brand of poetical juju upon the place …

… these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;
Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller …

The unvaricose Oxonian unraveller that Hopkins is rhapsodizing is none other than Duns Scotus, the professional theologian and fiendish disputant of all things trinitarian. If his name is not one which is lightly bandied about your dinner table, fret not; his Warholian fifteen minutes will be over before you have even finished your dessert!

This will be a simple transmogrification. We liberally apply several gallons of india ink recycled from an obscure Surrealist travel poster atop the hapless Duns; then we accessorize him with an appropriate chapeau and finish by triumvirating him.

Gosh, dada was right, the hat does make the man! Our rather pasty-faced theologian is now become a strapping, young specimen of a Snark Hunter flexing his rhetorical muscles with a showstopping visual demonstration of the Clochetic Rule of Three!

Yes indeed, gentle readers, this successful demonstration of a tautological trinity of Jubjubs is proof positive that wishful thinking trumps logic as far as Snark Hunting goes. Henceforth, please keep your minds empty and your beliefs in an upright and locked position for the road to hell is paved with good intentions.*

* Yes, yes, I know. And while we’re on the subject of the Great Cham, have you seen this?

Apropos of nothing in particular … what time is it? It's Adventure Time! Thanks to the honeyed tongue of Martin Olson, this artist and a host of other talented artists and designers are eschewing the usual holiday festivities to cobble together what promises to be the publishing event of the post-Armageddon year … more to come, but for now, feast your hipster eyes upon this oddly compelling cover, designed by Sean Tejaratchi and illustrated by yours truly. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hardboiled Snark

“’Tis the voice of the Jubjub!” he suddenly cried.
(This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)
“As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,
“I have uttered that sentiment once.

The story so far: An Oxford don, known to the authorities as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, has been apprehended whilst soliciting various persons whose names begin with the letter B, urging them to participate in what he calls his "hunting of the snark". When pressed for more substantial details, the self-styled Mr. Lewis Carroll claimed that he had absolutely no idea what it all meant and that furthermore, he was himself being harassed by a certain Jubjub, a person of unspecified origin with possible links to a notorious organized-poetry syndicate.

And now …

A screaming comes across the sky. Somewhere a Jubjub bird was wreaking havoc on some other, less fortunate part of Oxford but the Butcher wasn’t buying it. Not anymore, not today. The Bellman had warned him long ago. Be a man, he’d said, three times, like he really meant it … but that was long ago … the Bellman was gone now.

They were all gone, it was just him and the Beaver. And she’d lost it way back in Fit the Fourth, in that freakshow scene with all that black lace and the Barrister just watching her, just watching her blow her mind.

It was all up to him now, Carroll had said, take it easy.

Sure, take it easy, try taking it easy when the anapaests are hammering your skull like jackhammers and the crosshatching makes your skin crawl. Yeah, take it easy while every two-bit, punk academic with a jones for a quickie dissertation topic takes a cheap shot at you. Like the Butcher needed a college degree to know that it was all absurd, that it was all just nonsense and that there was a Boojum waiting at the end of the road.

The Beaver said something incomprehensible in Japanese and an origami crane fluttered by. It’s time, the Butcher thought to himself.

Without thinking at all, with his mind totally empty of any thought save one, the Butcher raised his hand, slowly at first and then faster, ever faster; he raised it as high as he could, even higher than that disembodied hand with which they had all grappled every night after dark, as high as the Hand which was now turning and pointing towards him and the Butcher thought to himself, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on, and then it was over; he’d already forgotten the question and it was too late, the Hand had passed him over — again!

“Like a dunce!” the Butcher said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The snarkish prime of Miss Jean Brodie


He thought of his childhood, left far far behind —
That blissful and innocent state —
The sound so exactly recalled to his mind
A pencil that squeaks on a slate!

Go ahead, think of your own childhood. Was it a labyrinthine Hunt for an indefinable Snark? Was it an interminable stretch of anapaestized nonsense? Did you secretly wish that you could just softly and suddenly vanish away? Of course, Victorian childhood was an entirely different matter. The uprearing and education of children in those days was a Gradgrindish matter of Facts and just the Facts, harrumph, harrumph!

Look here! The Beaver and Butcher are busy at their lessons right now, this is a perfect opportunity to observe how one can transmute Nonsense into Facts in an approved pedagogical manner with minimal expense to the taxpayer.

The Butcher is an idiot man-child, we can safely ignore him for the nonce but the Beaver is a tougher nut to crack, as we educators like to say! She seems to be constructing an origami crane according to the diagram being sketched out upon the squeaky slate by a disembodied hand. Referring to the previous stanzel of last week, we see the same hand employed with its fellow hand in the casting of a shadow, the shadow of an immense and threatening bird, the dreaded Jubjub!

The overly excitable amongst us might think that all of this is some species of symbolic play which you rather fancy, but Mister Gradgrind, the proprietor of this particular school, will have none of that. He will point out to you, after the necessary light flogging conducive to Victorian pedagogy, that you are not to fancy, no, you are to Fact! Fact, Fact, Fact!

If the artist responsible for this drawing had wished to depict a Jubjub Bird, he would have done so. In fact, Mr. Gradgrind adds (idly re-adjusting your thumbscrew), this business of human and castorian hands manipulating Jubjubian references which are typologically generating additional motifs of birds, childrens’ play and postlapsarian anxiety is not a Fact at all! If it was, the Jubjub, a patently imaginary creature, would have to exist, QED.

After a bit more pedagogically necessary fiddling about with alligator clips and car batteries, Mr. Gradgrind will point out, with a world-weary smile, that this is how it always begins, that someone starts supposing that one thing actually means another, and so on and so on and before you know it, we’re living in a Snarkian Multiverse where the very fabric of language and logic itself is ripped asunder by the unleashed superpowers of Symbolic Metaphor.

And if you dare to point out to him that language itself is symbolic metaphor, why, he’ll give you a flogging that you’ll never forget. Cheeky thing, the bliss and innocence of childhood is too good for the likes of you! And that’s a Fact!

Next week: Winston Smith substitutes for Mr. Gradgrind 


Attention Snarkistas!

Michael McNeff's short film adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign here.  The film was narrated by Sir Christopher Lee and features over 150 visual effects shots.  The movie is almost complete and funds raised will be used to finish up the visual effects.  By pledging just $5 you can get a digital download of the film and a making of documentary.  Let's face it, if you shelled out $20 to watch any of the visual atrocities that Hollywood has inflicted upon us of late, then Michael's Snark at $5 is a steal. And your brain cells will thank you afterwards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

La Chasse au snark, traduit par Louis Aragon … enfin en BD!

Chers lecteurs, je suis ravi de vous annoncer 
la parution de mon BD, La Chasse au Snark — en français!  

Grâce aux Editions Seghers, la traduction par Louis Aragon s'image avec des rêves les plus ravissantes que l'argent peut acheter … et enfin, le nonsense anglais sera le non-sens français avec mes dessins surréalistes, anachroniques et sémiotiques. 

Le non-sense classique, la poésie la plus parfaite de Lewis Carroll, peut-etre la seule épopée victorienne … ma chasse au snark en BD, la graine obscure que nous fournit la moisson surréaliste!

Quelle bonheur pour les chasseurs galliques au snark (britannique!) … disponible á Seghers ou Amazon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Eat, prey, snark.

Then a scream, shrill and high, rent the shuddering sky,
And they knew that some danger was near:
The Beaver turned pale to the tip of its tail,
And even the Butcher felt queer.

It’s all very fine and well reading Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark in the comfort of your favorite overstuffed charpoy before a roaring fire, an overstuffed tumbler of roaring brandy at your ready disposal, perhaps even your faithful Assamese nautch girl parked at your slippered feet. Oh yes, you feel quite cozy and secure, idly turning the pages, chuckling wryly at some particularly droll anapaest, perhaps even lingering upon a picture … perhaps even the very picture we see above …

Hmm, you say to yourself, as your Assamese nautch girl adroitly pushes aside your fashionably retrograde moustache to slip another morsel of Snark curry between your lips and then resumes her languid, opium-scented contortions of enigmatic Oriental purpose; yes, hmm, you say, what’s all this then, eh?

Well, it’s a fair cop! Speaking for myself, the proprietor of the above-mentioned assemblage of dots, squiggles and lines, I can assure you that it means quite a good deal — to the Beaver and the Butcher, the poor things!

Oh yes, you can cultivate all the insouciance you like, go ahead — it probably suits you! Be a mocky mocker and make light of their cheap second-hand Victorian hand-me-down clothes and their penchant for overwrought music-hall histrionics!

Tell ‘em that it’s all in their head, tell ‘em that it’s just a cheap bit of sleight of hand from some hopelessly fusty and uncool Victorian parlor game, that’s a good start! You could also poke a stick in the eye of Mr. Carroll’s scream-cum-shuddering-sky trope. Are not the honest, simple fear-mongering kennings of Ye Olde English Nonsense Verse good enough for Mister Carroll anymore? Good lord, man, leave the trisyllabic, sibilant-ridden adjectives of doom to Paul Bowles and his ilk, eschew all this shuddering and sheltering sky crosstalk before someone gets hurt!

Yes, you could say all that and even more but at that very moment, in an unexpected and stormy manner reminiscent of last season’s cliffhanger installment of the Book of Genesis, the rightful owner of the charpoy that you have parked yourself upon has appeared to reclaim his rightful place! An instant later, your Assamese nautch girl and you are precipitiously ejected from the premises, shame-faced perhaps, feeling a bit pale and queer even, as you should be!

Perhaps now you could favor us with a little scream, something redolent of a frightened Snark Hunter caught cucumberless in the salad season? Please try to make it as high and shrill as possible, this is your long overdue Expulsion From Paradise … we must keep up appearances!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Conqueror Snark

But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
And the evening got darker and colder,
Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill)
They marched along shoulder to shoulder.

There are times when I find myself truly nonplussed at the thought of explicating yet another stanzel of this Hunting of the Snark. Some of you might think that the author and Eminent Victorian, Lewis Carroll, had a rough job of it, coming up with anapaest after anapaest, all of ‘em having to do with Snarkery and all of ‘em in the finest High Anglican-cum-Nonsense bon style. However, this pate-addling task of devising pictures for verse upon which one then devises prose easily beggars any of the rather picayune literary horrors that Mr. Carroll might have endured.

Perhaps you think that I have taken the elementary precaution of creating some sort of "plan", a detailed system of references and motifs aligned with the development of the entire poem, a conceptual blueprint with which I could then research, prepare and execute each and every one of these drawings. Armed with such a plan, it would be child’s play to whip up a bit of commentary for each stanzel after the fact.

Such however, is not the case. In fact, it is the exact opposite of the truth. I am utterly unprepared and thoroughly disorganized, quite honestly, I am making it all up as I go along and I can’t help myself for I have no plan nor strategy nor even a sense of direction about any of this Snark stuff.

What brings all of this inner turmoil to mind is the illustration shown above of the Beaver and Butcher lost in an immense maze. They are cold, they are hungry, they are nervous and upset with one another. And why is that?

The Beaver will tell you, very indignantly, that it is because the Butcher won’t stop and ask for directions. But how can he when I have never bothered to make any!

Yes, dear ladies, gentlemen and any other sort of readers, the masculine sense of direction is marvelously blank. There's no need to ask for directions when we know that all roads lead to Boojum!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Only mad dogs and Englishmen hunt Snark in the midday sun

Each thought he was thinking of nothing but “Snark”
And the glorious work of the day;
And each tried to pretend that he did not remark
That the other was going that way.

Yet another visual metaphor rears up on its hind legs to frighten the kiddies wandering in our labyrinthine Hunting of the Snark. The Beaver and Butcher’s above-mentioned  monocurricular monomania has put them entirely in my ink-stained hands and I have swiftly reduced them to metallic tokens in a children’s board-game.

Of course, my more logomaniacal readers are fully aware that monomania is the obscure yet potent Ursprung (gesundheit) of that dreaded literary boojum, the cliché, the lexical product of any monomania multiplied by any number of literate chatterboxes. These readers are also aware that the cliché is the final evolutionary goal of all literature, seeing as how all words are essentially clichés designating common experiences and thoughts.

Luckily for us (and Lewis Carroll), the Beaver and Butcher do not read much. Nor do they need to, when one remembers that their Snarkomaniacal minds are furnished with an infinite babelian library of literary clichés to pass the time away with. Which is why, whenever they look about themselves in perplexity, they invariably remark to one another that they are trapped in a Borgesian* labyrinth.

Armed with such potent clichés they can safely wander Mister Carroll’s Snark-Ridden Garden of Forking Paths at all hours of the night. The Boojums of English Nonsense Verse trouble them not, their lack of reality is palpable! Yes, the Beaver and the Butcher can rely upon the succinct verdict of Mr. J.L. Borges upon all such Anglo-Saxon fictioneering, when he cooly remarked of Carroll’s taciturn literary compatriot, the Tlönist Herbert Ashe, that "in (his) life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do many Englishmen".

Yes, indeed, Mister Borges, everything is going our way!

* A clichéd epithet which renders any labyrinth instantly inert, lifeless and suitable only for undergraduate textual lobotomies or cannabis-scented dormitory bull sessions. Postgraduate scholars say pshaw to all of the above, they smugly pat themselves on their back for knowing all along that this entire business of words, clichés and texts (ie., Cosa Nostra Literato) is a cunning dodge perpetrated by certain nefaristas to sell ‘em something, such as soap or forks or smiles! The inevitable commodification of literature and language is a subject which makes me yawn politely. Frankly, if you wordsmiths can’t de-mammonify the tools of your trade, that’s your own lookout. I draw pretty pictures for an increasingly penurious and untenable living, and frankly, nothing has changed in that department since Lascaux.

Spare a copper, if you can, guv’nor, for those proto-bohemian artists who labored away in their dank garret-caves, wretchedly coughing like prognathous consumptives while they daubed away at the world’s very first illustrated
Hunting of the Snark. They knew naught of hourly rates nor had they agents to negotiate with the homicidal cave-bears which regularly feasted upon them. Their sole tools were ochre and brush and with these ever so ‘umble means they sketched out the chthonic beginnings, the very aleph as it were, of the mighty labyrinth within which we are still wandering at this very moment …

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Snark

But the very same plan to the Beaver occurred:
It had chosen the very same place:
Yet neither betrayed, by a sign or a word,
The disgust that appeared in his face.

What ho for all things quizzical, oh to be young again and studying all things 'pataphysical, in particular the semiotrinitarian proclivities of the Indispensable Mister Lewis Carroll, such things as his Clochetic Rule of Three, or in this particular stanzel, another trifecta of similarities which our Hunters of the Snark, in the persons of the Beaver and the Butcher, have just bagged …

1. the same plan
2. the same place
3. the same look of disgust

Of course, it will have already occurred to you, the Testimonial Reader Sans Pareil, that the Hunting of the Snark is essentially a thermolinguodynamic crusade against the Forces of Entropy which are such a blight upon our otherwise happening cosmic scene, a quixotic crusade devoted to the discovery and capture of the force of Chaos, scientifically known as Maxwell’s Demon but which answers here to the name of Snark, possibly subspecies Boojum.

That being the case, all the reiterations described in the above verse are rather counterproductive, expressing as they do patterns of orderly repetition conducive to further entropy, if not outright boredom and a comfy postprandial nap (on company time, naturally).

Every verse, every strophe and trope and kenning and galdor of our Snark Hunt is taking us only further and further away from our prey — every word we read and write plunges us deeper into a world not even of our own making!

And so, as the young Tolstoy once asked his demimondaine, what is to be done?

To which I reply: we must be silent. We must remain mute and dumb. We must not speak nor read … we must … look! And what do we see when we look at one another? We see ourselves as we really are, as inanimate tokens in the Snark’s childish game, as the helpless objects of his middle-aged gaze! Disgusting!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est le snark

Then the Butcher contrived an ingenious plan
For making a separate sally;
And fixed on a spot unfrequented by man,
A dismal and desolate valley.

The Butcher’s ingenious plan is accomplished, as we see above, by first opening one of the doors of perception that are so handily scattered about this Hunting of the Snark. Beyond this door lies a dismal and desolate valley where he can sally to his heart’s content, undisturbed by his too-frequent fellow man.

These sort of desolate Valleys of the Shadows of Various Deaths weighed heavily upon Victorian sensibilities, lurking as they did amidst the poetry of Lewis Carroll, Kings David-and-James and Lord Tennyson alike. Vast armies of betanomic chasseurs, semi-anointed sinners and gin-pickled light-cavalrymen were regularly herded into their several depths, there to endure the shot and shell of secular and sacred verse competing mano a mano, or to be more exact, pied à pied. Strong stuff but the Butcher seems up for it, he fears no evil nor anapests at all — what ho for the crystalline noggin of feckless youth!

If all this sounds a bit too allusive for you, why, there’s another picture done by another artist, a long time ago, of another inquisitive Carrollian protagonist bent upon making her own separate sally. It’s a very good drawing and I have half-a-mind to snatch it away from its rightful owner and carry it off to some desolate spot unfrequented by man where I can copy it to my heart’s content, by printing it in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen … an infinite plenum of poetical kings, lords, dons and even nudists charging forth from this very door, all of 'em dragooned into our Snark Hunt!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lady Chatterley's Snark

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Forcible posthumous collaboration … it's not a pretty phrase and it's not a pretty sight. Sure, you could turn away, you could pretend you didn't see anything, you could tell yourself that this is just another episode in the Hunting of the Snark, and you could even shrug your shoulders and admit that its author, Lewis Carroll, deserves it.

Or maybe you'll just brush it off. You could tell your significant other that you saw something on the internet today, something horrible happening to somebody and you couldn't quite figure it out because you were in a hurry, you had googled the word snark, hoping to get some quickie cocktail-party-talking-points on the latest craze that’s sweeping the NYC chatteratti, but you landed up here …

Somebody ought to do something, somebody else should help out because you can’t get involved — who knows what kind of crazy people are involved in this, look at 'em! They seem to be high on something, and that girl, she’s half-naked! Probably some kind of some druid cargo-cult of home-furnishings shoplifters and they're chanting something about forks and hope, smiles and soap, some kind of wiccan juju, I bet. And that man at the far left, the Polynesian one with the glandular problem, and the other one holding the railway share from Moggs & Spicer, how do these kind of people get past Immigration?

Yes, it’s a bad scene so you better move along, somebody might get hurt and it's none of your business anyway. Instead, breathe deeply and say it slowly … forcible posthumous collaboration … forcible posthumous collaboration … when it happens to Henry Holiday and Lewis Carroll it's just a shame but when it happens to you — it’s a tragedy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Parliament of the Snarks

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, October 8, 2012

Your father smelt of elderberries and your mother was a snark

The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,

That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark

Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be

Conveyed in a separate ship:

But the Bellman declared that would never agree

With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,

Though with only one ship and one bell:

And he feared he must really decline, for his part,

Undertaking another as well.

The provenance of this image is, I confess, is a hopelessly adulterated concoction of all the flotsam & jetsam which churns in my head by night:

• Corrupted retinal imprints of an Alma-Tadema confection of Egytian heirophants barging down the Nile.

• Scattered brain-crumb trail of Enobarbus channeling Shakespeare's fancification of Jacques Amyot's crib of Plutarch's précis of 
Cleopatra burning on the water during the Montreux Jazz festival.
• Thomas Mann's Deutsche Bahn-railway-schedule-precise vivisection of the disgraced Joseph's descent down the Nile in the Joseph Tetralogy.

• A muddled childhood memory of Thor Heyerdahl's voyages … over-saturated Technicolor imagery of Incan fellahin poling their islands of bundled reeds across Lake Titicaca, through Upper Egypt and down to Easter Island.

• Most importantly, the compulsion to depict accurately an object of stone floating in water, hence proving it
as light as a duck and therefore, a witch.

To those who insist upon a certain logical decorum in the threads binding an image to a text, I say: pshaw! I just rummage through the cultural debris and emotional wheel ruts, happy as a tove in a wabe. If poetry is metaphor, and metaphor is image-making, then there's more critical analysis in one panel of this Snark than in the many pages of intellectual jiggery-pokery with which Lewis Carroll has been belabored through the ages.

On the deck of the HMS Snark, we also can see The Barrister and The Billiard-Marker playing at dice over a fragment of an aortic blood vessel which appears to have been illicitly removed from the person of the poet Dante Alighieri. Here's what that other Euro-crank, Witold Gombrowicz, had to say about Dante and his Divine Comedy (another famous poem about Snarks) …

"Dante was reciting his epoch, but the epoch was also reciting, and the poem is, so to speak, a double platitude, the poet simply recited what was already being recited. Something like those Sunday discussions of soccer by people gathered in bars and coffee houses. Do they really care about soccer? Not in the least. … Humanity glides along the worn ruts of articulation. An empty poem, which exists in defiance of reality and almost as if to spite it!"*

Well, doesn't that just about wrap it up for The Meaning of the Snark? I mean, simply substitute Lewis Carroll for Dante (deep inside, you know you really want to) and — voila! A poem about nothing! A drawing about nothing! And whatever it is that you read into the drawing, that's what you truly wanted all along — and thus, deserve!

Yes, yes, yes! I know that Lewis Carroll spoke no Italian outside his bathing machine. And yes, he did claim total ignorance of the meaning of his work, in English or Italian — unlike Dante (Alighieri, not "Wombat" Rossetti), who wouldn't shut up about his boojums. Frankly, I don't know what I'm doing either, it's all the rage these days and I think it's going rather well, it always does when you draw with your eyes wide shut.


*W. Gombrowicz, Diary, Volume 3, October 16, 1966, translated by Lillian Vallee, Northwestern Univ. Press, 1993. The works of Gombrowicz are ideal for name-dropping at academic and intellectual soirées, preferably from an upstairs window and attached to an anvil.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lions and tigers and snarks, oh my!

Hunting Snark is a graphic exercise in agony … let's take a closer look at the Butcher, a crucial "rain-maker" in any Nonsense enterprise …

It's a fair cop, guv'nor! The Bellman, assisted by the Fellowship of the Snark, brandishes his clochetic truncheon at the Butcher's stoney noggin. Note further, my dear Watson, that a close reading of the text with a fine-toothed comb and well-knitted brow elicits the following facts:

Given …
The duncedness of this otherwise un-named crewmember is literally not-to-be-believed, a statement which itself is not-to-be-believed since it has not been repeated the requisite three times.
Given …
The sole internal property of this non-nonbelievable dunce is Snark.
From which …
The total epistemology of a dunce is a snark.
And therefore …
To possess a dunce is to possess a ready-made Platonic Ideal of a Snark — and in a very handy demi-godlike package too!
And therefore…
This dunce is no dunce, eh? QED!

So, our dunce is an imposter disguising himself as an Easter Island moia with an uncanny penchant for resembling the notorious French confidence-picturist and double-crosser, Eugène Delacroix! After some rough handling and quick bell-work, the so-called Eugène made the following (internal, hence epistemologically dunciad) statement:

"… one should not be too difficult. An artist should not treat himself like an enemy. Experience ought to teach us two things: first, that we should do a great deal of correcting, secondly, that we must not correct too much."

Proof positive and bob's your uncle! This man's an absolute diabolical numbskull, cunningly fitted out with all the French Polynesian deviltry necessary to hold two simultaneously opposing thoughts at once — the very conditions necessary for a Snark to flourish inside the old brain pan! Pseudo-neoplatonic skullduggery with alarming whiffs of a faux-phrenological sub-gnostic epistemological thing-um-a-jiggery — some sort of game's afoot! I could have had a job with NASA but I'm sticking it out with this snark business, I'm a brainworker!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Moby Snark

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well

Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,

And that was to tingle his bell.

Apropos of nothing in particular … in his Journals, Eugène Delacroix once pooh-poohed maritime disasters and English literature, both of them subjects dear to my heart …

"… 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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Die Moritat von Snarkie Messer

The illustration of these two stanzas has completely exhausted my remaining brain-worker abilities. Purchasing insurance for a lengthy sea voyage in the company of a declared homicidal maniac is standard naval procedure but fiendishly tricky for a landlubber draughtsman such as I. The dagger-proof coat which the Beaver is wearing was the crux of the drawing and easier by far, I decided to indicate its prophylactic function by delineating its essential nature: what goes on inside the dagger-proof coat, stays inside the dagger-proof coat.

Several of my readers have recently communicated to me that they don't "get it", that my written commentaries on the Snark contain "too many references to stuff we don't know about anyway", and finally, that's it all "too surreal". Success at last!

But seriously, big words make my head hurt too, that's why I became an artist. As a child I learned about these gigantic hurtful words and the small-minded hurtful people who use 'em. Whenever someone tries to make my brain hurt-hurt with jaw-jaw, I remember what Humpty Dumpty advised Alice on the subject of big, bad, scary words —
"They've a temper, some of them - particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

The egg speaks and having spoken, we obey! Yes, our new watchword shall be: impenetrably-clear.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jonathan Livingston Snark

"The fifth is ambition. It next will be right

To describe each particular batch:

Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,

And those that have whiskers, and scratch.

The Bellman continues his Indictment of the Snark 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, August 27, 2012

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a snark?

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

Self-explanatory, I should think. The Quebecois, tripartite motif is reinforced by the element of stealthy moisture. Both the fleur-de-lys and water (and what is the color of this water? It is the color of water) are attributes of monarchy, the former being an attribute of the ancien regime and the latter (l'eau) being referred to by the Sun King in his pronouncement: apres moi, le deluge.

The Bellman is given to royal diktats of this sort which he clearly legitimizes with a Christian, trinitarian strategy. The hunting of snarks is not peasant's sport, it is the sport of kings.

 Pshaw to the separation of church and state that is so ballyhooed by our American cousins. What ho! saddle up, the last man afield is a prole!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bartleby the Sniveler

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late —
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad —

He could only bake Bridecake — for which, I may state,

No materials were to be had.

Overheard by our foreign correspondent whilst loitering in the Immigration and Customs queue boarding the HMS Snark :

Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any personal articles of clothing which you are taking aboard?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any luggage or packages which you are taking aboard?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Can you state your own name?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Can you make bridecake?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Do you not know whether you can make bridecake or are you simply unable to procure the materials to do so?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: (in a heated manner while vigorously waving his arms at the HMS Snark) But confound it all, sir, what does all this mean?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.

Note that the Baker consistently eschews the binary either-or of conventional logic upon which his interlocutor is depending, resorting instead to the triunary-based logic of "I don't know". We have already seen how the principle of threes supersedes all other logical statements (what I tell you three times is true) aboard the HMS Snark. Thus, the Baker disposes of the boojum of binary Marxist dialectical materialism, its frumious one-two is slain by his manxome one-two-three! Huzzah! The vorpal blade of the trinitarian Snarkist trialectic immaterialism goes snicker-snack! Oh, there's a PhD dissertation somewhere in all of this, my beamish boys and girls — oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

In the meantime our correspondent had fled the scene and was unable to record any more of what transpired. She had observed that this exasperated public official was being approached now by the pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn figure of Bartleby the Scrivener — a signal for general bedlam to ensue, huzzah again!

NB. If you ever had to deal with a real Bartleby in either your professional or private life, you will agree with me when I say that there's nothing particularly profound, nor artistic, nor even bathetic in such people. Slack-jawed loafers, I call 'em.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Snarkness at noon

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the Butcher was by,
The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.

The aversion of the Beaver's eyes is motivated by the primitive belief that whatever cannot be seen by oneself, cannot itself see you.* This charming simplicity of thought is the innocent basis of all epistemologies, and it can be said, with some justice, that all of Western philosophy is but footnotes to the nursery-room game of peek-a-boo.

And so … we are indulging in a pre-Socratic, pre-school tautology of existential hide-and-go-seek … the Beaver dematerializes her stony-faced surrealist nemesis, the Butcher, by averting her eyes. Lewis Carroll disarms his Boojum by composing the Snark backwards and thus placing the former into a perpetually receding, invisible future of the latter. As for myself, when that moment arrives when I shall have to tackle the illustrative challenges of drawing the dreaded Boojum … well … I'm one of those literal-minded draughtsmen who cannot draw what he cannot see. 

I shall spurn Rule Number One of Illustration (if you cannot draw it, place a bush in front of it) for I am above such petty stratagems — a plague on all manner of foliage, those leaves, so many, so many, is there no end to them? The naked Boojum shall remain a naked, undrawn, unseeing Boojum.

To see a Boojum, ladies and gentlemen, is to be seen by a Boojum! Eschew the lethal gaze of all negating nonentities and all will be well! Focus instead your nondiscerning gaze upon the perfectly rendered nonchalance of this cool drawing. Nothing to see here folks, just move right along.

*Vide the protosurrealist Andrei Vyshinsky's observation: "The fact that it is dark at night proves merely that I am not paying attention." ("Clinical Morphology of the Parimutuel — Impressions of Mr. Pyridine", Berlin, 1897 – LINK FIXED)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Beware of Greeks Baring Snarks!

They roused him with muffins — they roused him with ice —
They roused him with mustard and cress —
They roused him with jam and judicious advice —
They set him conundrums to guess.

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!


NB. A thankful tug of the ink-soaked fetlock towards the perceptive Mr. Adam Roberts at the Valve.org, whose learned and latinate Snarkiana commentary upon the Way of the Boojum is pure catnip for all snarkistes! These English conundrumists need not worry what it is that cannot be roused by muffins, ice, mustard, cress, jam or judicious advice? They know! ‘Tis a sleeping dog whose master shouts — obey, cur!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The French Lieutenant's Snark

"For the Snark’s a peculiar creature, that won’t
Be caught in a commonplace way.
Do all that you know, and try all that you don’t:
Not a chance must be wasted to-day!

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 half-hearted High Anglican Debauchery aimed at the titillation of the thinking classes. And what titillates the thinking (and unthinking) classes the very 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, July 23, 2012

Who's afraid of Virginia Snark?

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."

Good artists borrow but great artists steal — and never from the merely good artists! I've mercilessly looted the Belgians, French and Italians for the visual furnishings of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark, so the inspiration for this stanza will have to be purloined from the Germans.

Easier said than done, I soon discovered. Friedrich Nietzsche (The Bonnet-Maker) 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, so 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, July 16, 2012

Happy Snark Day, Wanda June

"Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
Which is meager and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
With a flavour of Will-o-the-wisp.

The question of the Snark’s flavor has exercised the minds and palates of the cognoscenti for many years. 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 more distant ancestors but today’s effete gastronomes must have their Snark curried, tandoori grilled or even minced into seekh kebabs — but never boiled à la anglaise (the hollowness vanishes and leaves behind a residue redolent of a fleet of bathing machines saturated in warm, flat beer). 
To properly honor this Wednesday's Snark Day, the 138th anniversary of the genesis of the Hunting of the Snark, here's a traditional Assamese recipe for cooking Snark. Please try it, you won’t be disappointed!

Genuine Assamese Snark Curry
Mix the following together:
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
• if you wish to "Indianize" this curry, 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 the somewhat ubiquitious flavors of Northern Indian cuisine and enjoy a certain familiarity in their curry. However, the authentic Assamese version has a delicious simplicity which is worth trying!

Mix and let sit overnight. 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 dahl.

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, July 9, 2012

The Bellman Always Rings Thrice

"We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
(Four weeks to the month you may mark),

But never as yet ('tis your Captain who speaks)

Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!

There are those who might quibble and look askance at my rather ideologically vacant interpretation of this stanza. Yes, it is a trifle irrelevant … perhaps even mendacious to illustrate a purported lack of Snarks with a veritable indefectibility 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 and man-about-town, 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 indefectibility of semantic and orthographic difference and expressly allowed for by the above-mentioned axiom. In fact, upon further reflection, we can see that the vast bulk 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 …

Monday, July 2, 2012

East o' the Sun and West o' the Snark!

But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,

Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,

That the ship would not travel due West!

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 Boojum and Bellmen alike, the curse of the drinking classes, this here omnium-wind is the wind of an indefinite divisibility.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some snarks do 'ave 'em

" 'You may seek it with thimbles — and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
You may charm it with smiles and soap —' "

Do not mistake this infamous stanza as a magical refrain or prescription designed by Lewis Carroll to assist the B-Boyz in their Snark hunt, nothing could be further from the truth. Such misthinking is an anthrosemiotic bogeyman put forth by certain academics & philosophies of the Sir James Frazer ilk, Cheapside tailors peddling "ready-made suits" for their naked and the dead.

Consider instead the internal Mind of this poem (yes, there are such boojums), which lives a life independent of its creator, its inhabitants & even its readers. All works of art have these primeval Minds, each according to its national character. The Mind of this poem, being English, roams the midsummer nights daubed in woad, speaks in runes at high tea, shares small beer with the Mind of the Domesday Book and Prospero’s Books in the Mermaid Tavern, and dosses behind hedges with the Mind of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide, a direct descendent of Achilles’ Shield presently down on her luck.

Before you can voice your objections, I must interject — pshaw! Be unperplexed, dear reader! — the Snark and the Mind of The Hunting of the Snark are not the same beast. The latter is a deliberate fiction bandied about by Lewis Carroll. The former is the Art behind the fiction — a magic which the Muses have excused from the lie of being truthful.

Oh, ye of too much faith! Can’t you see that all your seeking and hunting and threatening and charming, that all of your sacrifices are meant for you, you alone, that they serve only to distract you from the truth? We heap up our sacrificial relics at the feet of the Mind of the Snark: the thimbles, the cares, the forks and hope, the railway shares, the smiles and soap, all that Victorian bourgeois clutter mouldering in our mental attic — for ourselves only!

Pack up your smiles and soap, abandon all forks and hope, ye überliterati! Repent and understand at last that the Hunting of the Snark is a robinsonade (the mysterious island from whence all Nonsense springs) and that the Mind of the Snark is its pagan god-chieftain at whose feet we pile gifts useful to no one but ourselves.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I sing of snark and the man …

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.


NB. A tip of the ink-stained tuque to goofy, the proprietor of the wonderful and highly recommended Bradshaw of the Future, whose etymological assistance in our Snark hunt has been invaluable and fascinating. BOTF’s provenance stems from that " desperate wrong-doer " in Lewis Carroll’s " A Tangled Tale ". Any resemblance to railroad Bradshaws real or fictional , either living or dead, is purely coincidental on my part … dismiss it all as a false cognate destined to plague as-yet-unborn googlistas surfing the digital Bradshaw of the future.