Monday, December 7, 2015

The Twelve Snarks of Christmas

Rescue an intelligent child (or adult) from the usual pop-culture-Christmas rubbish by buying them a copy of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark. They will clutch it to their bosoms with gratitude and you will have also done your bit towards ensuring this artist's ability to fob off his creditors in the New Year.

Meanwhile, our stanzel by stanzel postmortem of the book continues …

When Lewis Carroll sat down at his writing desk to compose his masterpiece of passive-aggressive nonsense, The Hunting of the Snark, he often chewed reflexively upon his quill pen as he pondered what effect his words might have upon future readers.

Words, words, words! They have naughty bits which we cover up in polite company, they have sad bits to make the grownups cry, and sometimes, if you push ‘em together just so, their silly bits will make the kiddies giggle!

Of course, every word needs a voice and the above stanzel’s assemblage of words, birds, quills, desks and notes is stuffed with ‘em. Alas, poor Beaver, chronically outgrabed and all those voices in your head to boot! One of them, sounding suspiciously like the Mad Hatter, is wondering why a raven is like a writing-desk? 

Another (rather familiar) voice is telling her that this is so "because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front". Yet another voice (craftily mimicking Sam Lyod) is telling her that the correct answer is simply that Poe wrote on both. There’s even a voice chiming in about them both having quills dipped in ink.

These words are all meant to answer those other arrangements of words which more evolved thinkers call riddles, that is to say, an augural flock of words meant to signify something despite itself. Replete with all the requisite overtones of linguistic juju, riddles were once all the rage in the Good Old Days. They served as social icebreakers for all manner of homicidal and imaginary beasts such as sphinxes, trolls, dragons and even — yes! — Jubjub Birds!

Cue evil laughter here for our jolly little metafictional cabal stands revealed at last! Outgrabe all you like, Miss Beaver, but the bird you are really riddling here is no mere raven, it is the Urschreckvogel, the dreaded Jubjub itself!

And so, dear reader, can you enlighten the Beaver as to why a Jubjub is like a writing desk? Simple, you reply — because none has an o in it (pace Huxley). Then run as fast as you can before all these birds wreak their Hitchcockian vengeance upon your person!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Snark Twain

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.

It 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.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Snark From Another Planet

The story so far: An Oxford don, known to the authorities as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, has been apprehended soliciting persons whose names begin with the letter B, urging them to participate in what he calls a "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, and he said it three times, like he really meant it. 

But 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 the black lace.

It was all up to him now. Just play it straight, just take it easy, Carroll had told him. 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 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 for him 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, faster, as high as he could, even higher than the Other’s hand, that disembodied hand with which they all grappled, as high as that hand which was turning and pointing towards him. 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 Other’s hand had passed him over — again!

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

That Obscure Object of Snarkish Desire

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 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 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 efficient 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 to generate birds or children's playthings 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, body parts 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

Monday, October 19, 2015

I'll Be Your Snark If You'll Be My Boojum

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 and we must keep up appearances!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Adventure Time Mendicant!

Sorry, no Snark commentary this week … too overtaxed by things non-Snark … in particular, my appearance at NY ComicCon next weekend, Oct. 10th, at a panel/signing with Martin and Olivia Olson, the authors of the Adventure Time Enchridion/Marcy's Scrapbook. More info about this and other NYC/LA events here

And if you have the spare pelf lying around and want some of the original pen-and-ink art I drew for the book (plus pencils), The Beguiling has a lot of my art for sale. Every rupee you spend now will ensure that I spend your rupee the day I get it, trust me. Come on kids, find Dad's credit card and buy a piece of pen-and-ink art that really says you care about pen-and-ink artists. Other artists only want your money but I want to be on your wall. Hanging from a nail by a thin wire.

And if you can spot Finn and Princess Bubblegum in the above drawing, that means that this drawing was meant for you and ONLY YOU.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eat, Pray, Snark

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 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.

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, September 14, 2015

The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the snark

Sorry about the hiatus, it's been quite busy for me of late … here's yet another episode of my GN Hunting of the Snark, currently stuck in Fit the Fifth … 

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

Of course, all my readers are fully aware that monomania is the obscure yet potent Ursprung (gesundheit) of that grand literary boojum, the cliché, ie, any lexical monomania shared by any number of literate chatterboxes. My 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!

* Borgesian … a clichéd epithet which renders any labyrinth instantly inert, lifeless and suitable only for cannabis-scented undergraduate 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 is a cunning dodge designed 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-commodify 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, August 3, 2015

Charlie Hebdo®

In lieu of my usual Snark ramblings, here's a picture I recently did for Rotland Inquiry #1, a publication devoted to artists' reactions to the Charlie Hebdo Affair. Rotland is a great publisher who lets artists draw exactly what they think as opposed to the vast majority of news/politics outlets which let you draw exactly what their corporate masters think. Or what the politician to whom they direct kickbacks thinks.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cricklewood Snark

What ho for all things quizzical, oh to be young again and studying all things 'pataphysical, in particular the semiotrinitarian proclivities of the Admirable 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 which takes as its goal the discovery and capture of that counteracting force of vigorous chaos, scientifically known as Maxwell’s Demon but which answers here to the name of Snark, possibly subspecies Boojum.

That being the case, all such reiterations as described above 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! Hubba hubba!*

* Grad students in search of a thesis topic, take note, this is the first use of the phrase 'hubba hubba' in Carrollian studies.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Snarks to the left of them, snarks to the right of them

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!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Snarks of Kilimanjaro

You could turn away, you could pretend you didn't see anything, you could tell yourself that this is just another episode in Fit the Fifth of the Hunting of the Snark, you could even shrug your shoulders and admit that the author, Lewis Carroll, deserves it.

You were in a hurry, you had googled the word snark, hoping to get some quickie cocktail-party-talking-points, 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. And that man at the far left, the Polynesian one with the glandular problem, and the other one holding the railway share, 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 tragic loss of potential income!

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 …