Monday, July 24, 2017

The Snarking of the Hunt!

After a long hiatus, this exegesis of my Snark GN (available from Melville House) has resumed at last. Your favorite time-waste is back and in full form!

The Admirable Mister Carroll would have his little surprises for The Hunting of the Snark certainly seems nothing but surprises. Of course, aside from certain unfortunate mishaps, such as sudden insanity or total annihilation, most of Mister Carroll’s Snarkian surprises tend towards the cheerily nonsensical and comfortably numb variety.

This is because he was a master craftsman and knew full well that a bit of well-oiled authorial surprise keeps the groundlings happy enough to stick through the heavy going of the more intellectual bits, such as plot or thematic development. (Hollywood, are you taking notes?)

Like revenge or cheap plonk, surprise is best served cold, and so we’ll stick to Carroll’s master plan and introduce the final member of our Fellowship of the Snark as Carroll did … vaguely, mysteriously, even confusingly … the Baker!

Do not be alarmed by the curious fact that the above drawing depicts Our Mystery Snark-Hunter’s 42 boxes on the beach as being labeled with the Chinese ideogram for "candlestub" known as “xié”. Remain calm while I remind you that our Mystery Snarkistadore's alias of “candlestub” will be revealed at a later date. And do not panic if you happen to know that the boxes and the girl with the fan are directly taken from one of Carroll’s own photographs, a portrait of Alexandra “Xie” Kitchins posing as an off-duty Chinese tea merchant.

Keep your cool, dear reader, even if the gentleman at the easel should prove to be the late and sorely missed British author Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proved conclusively that the Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything In It is 42. Above all, take no notice of the curious coincidence of the painting of a box that he is working at. It is labeled with a variation upon Magritte’s famous anti-dictum, “this is not my box” and is itself a play upon the Belgian’s seminal work, The Human Condition I.

It cannot harm you, simply move around it cautiously whilst noting the utter absence of the seven coats and six boots mentioned in the verses. They are unworthy of inclusion in this drawing, owing to the fact that since the clothes make the man, the commutative principle of haute couture allows the man to make the clothes. Therefore, the sartorial and ontological nudity of this man (still un-named, un-manned and un-drawn) is his own lookout. No doubt, if left alone, nature will have its way and his coats and boots would multiply and eventually replenish his wardrobe (the commutative spirit of Victorian men's fashion was biblically fecund) and he will find himself the proud possessor of 42 coots and boats. QED, eh?

Surprise and anticipation, the twin bogeymen of Nonsense poets and Hollywood scriptwriters alike! Stay tuned, dear readers, for next week's exciting episode!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Make Snark Great Again

We are not famed for the number of things we forget, we are infamous for remembering  far too much useless Snark trivia. So, in lieu of introducing the penultimate crew member of the HMS Snark, we offer you instead these brain-droppings: 

Snark Trivia: 
The Snark's last line was composed in the birthplace of P.G. Wodehouse and the final terrestrial abode of Ford Prefect — Guildford, Surrey!

Snark Trivia: A possible etymology for Snark is the German verb schnarren, to jar or buzz, itself cognate with the Low German snarren, to snarl. A friend of Lewis Carroll's, Beatrice Hatch, wrote in 1898 that the author had told her that Snark was a portmanteau of snail and shark. Pshaw! The Great One never made things that easy.
Snark Trivia: Dante Gabriel Rossetti was convinced in his later, even less rational years, that Carroll intended the Snark to symbolize himself. Rossetti also identified himself with wombats to an unhealthy degree and eventually disinterred his wife to retrieve some poems which he had entrusted to her coffin, which is far more devious than the usual authorial tactic of shoving a manuscript into a drawer and hoping it reads better a year later.
Totally Unrelated to Anything Snark Which Makes It Perfectly Snark: Marie Osmond's letter-perfect phonetic performance of Hugo Ball's Karawane is American pop culture's greatest Snark moment ever. Today, we live in an age of pop culture pygmies, thank god.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Snark From Another Planet

All aboard! At one and the same time, the Bellman delivers himself from an impending watery grave, snatches a coveted berth aboard the H.M.S. Snark, tingles his bell to signal our departure and introduces the Beaver, who is busily engaged upon her salubrious lace-making.

I am aware that readers assume the Beaver to be a He. Carroll's text is ambiguous on the point, only using the masculine (possessive) pronoun in the plural to refer to the Beaver and another (usually the Butcher). In his Annotated Snark, Martin Gardner concurs on this important grammatical point, which is reinforced in my mind by its aesthetic rightness.

Inasmuch as the Snark is an imaginary animal and thus its clochetic pursuer triply so, and inasmuch as beavers are usually riparian, sedentary and unimaginably disinterested in travel and the needletrade, be it resolved: 

No Bellman can step into the same river twice, for there is no Bellman, nor any river (or else he could step into it twice) and hence, all other passengers of any vessels upon these waters are also unreal, or at least up for some ontological gender-bending.

QED, the Beaver's a She and not a He and any arguments to the contrary are futile, for nothing will come of nothing. Speak again of this matter and I will invoke my Aristotelian rights: nature abhors a void, especially a kingly third portion (AKA the artists' Law of Thirds). Now stop learing at this nice drawing and get busy googling Heraclitus and Shakespeare, the bookends of occidental thinkery.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wag the Snark

The Dramatis Personae of this Snark GN continues … immediately to the right of the Bellman is the Broker, AKA Karl Marx. To the latter's right is the Billiard-Marker, AKA Raymond Roussel. If — and the thing is wildly possible — the charge of drawing nonsense were ever brought against the illustrator of this brief but instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on this panel. Messers Marx and Roussel were both notable figments of each other's imagination, each believing the other an opiate of the masses or a mass of opiates. 

The treason of reality, so scandalous, so flattering! Or even better, to paraphrase Magritte (who knew a thing or two about snark hunting), CECI — IL N'EST PAS UN ARTIST.

Monday, March 27, 2017

One Snark to Find Them and in the Darkness Bind Them

Page two of The Hunting of the Snark GN is a veritable rogue's gallery of Nonsense Wallahs … from right to left (semitic justification has been applied for at the appropriate government agencies): 


The Boots, AKA Charles Darwin
The Bonnet, AKA Friedrich Nietzsche
The Barrister, AKA Martin Heidegger
The Broker, AKA Eric Satie
The Bellman, AKA The White Knight AKA Sir John Tenniel

The observant reader will detect a pattern here: all of the B-Boyz must have been alive during Carroll's lifetime. 

If memory serves, Satie enjoyed creating miniscule models of houses shaped out of lead, which he kept in a cabinet in his home. He would periodically advertise these houses in the local newspaper — making no mention of their actual size — and would take great delight in ushering the prospective home-purchaser into his parlor, and there solemnly presenting him with the unexpected lilliputian house. One can imagine Nietzsche's reaction to this — the Gallic humor! the German silence!

Satie's aptly-named piano piece, Vexations, is an ideal soundtrack for la vie snarque, and so here is a full, unabridged performance of it. If only Satie had made this into an opera, it would have saved humanity from the dullard doldrums of everything else.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Color of Three



The second panel of my Snark GN … 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 being referred to by the Sun King in his infamous pronouncement: apres moi, le deluge. 
The Bellman is given to royal diktats of this sort which he 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 was once so ballyhooed by our American cousins. What ho! saddle up, the last man afield is a prole! Ditto for the women, eh?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Alt-Snark!



A theatrical start to this GN version of The Hunting of the Snark, and one that I hope Lewis Carroll would have appreciated. The unreality of the stage (compounded by, in this instance, the unreality of all things internet) is the best starting point for a Snark hunt. 
Charles Darwin 
The mentally astute reader will note that the Boots is Charles Darwin (definitively responsible for the unreality of god) and that the Bellman is the White Knight from Through the Looking Glass. 

The White Knight
The more astute reader will know that the White Knight was a self-portrait of the cyclopic Sir John Tenniel, illustrator of Through the Looking Glass. 
The most astute reader will remember that the Boot's pose is that of St. Anthony in Grunewald's Temptation of St. Anthony, a compelling depiction of the unreal visions inflicted by the unreal nemesis of an unreal deity upon a real believer. What I tell you three times, eh?
Sir John Tenniel
The Temptation of St. Anthony, Grunewald

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hark, 'Tis A Snark!

After spending ten weeks focusing upon each of the Snark Hunters in their turn, it is time to turn our attention to She Who Must Be Obeyed … yes, the Snark itself!

The Encylopedia Snarkiana defines Snarkus Snarkensis as a colorless, odorless, tasteless, soundless and bodyless entity designed to fluster illustrators with its annoying penchant for self-contradiction and nonexistence.

The Hunting of the Snark defines a Snark in its usual evasive manner, employing an impressive array of half-truths, demi-truths, pseudo-truths and mini-truths. We shall examine these laughable attempts at Factualism at greater length over the coming weeks, but for now we present you with the above inky approximation of a Snark as a sort of semiotic apertif designed to whet your appetite for something or the other.

This drawing of a sketch of a xerox of a fax of a Snark is the very drawing with which my graphic novel version of the Snark commences, the notorious frontispiece to Fit the First, notorious since this is not at all the sort of landing Lewis Carroll probably had in mind.

Very well, we will have our little jokes at the expense of the Admirable Carroll but when one is commencing a hunt, it is customary to inform one’s fellow hunters of what it is exactly that they should feel free to aim at. Teleology is the secret of good marksmanship.

Indeed, there was much chewing of pencils and tugging at fetlocks on this artist’s part as he contemplated this particular dilemma, he endured sleepless nights of carefully feigned slumber as he concealed from his wife the mental turmoil which so agitated his overheated mind.

In the end, bereft of inspiration, the above drawing was hastily tossed off in the hopes that no one would notice its lack of meaning. The management apologizes in advance for any dashed hopes on the reader’s part, no doubt so many of you had eagerly seized upon this image, excited at the hopes of discovering the Snark’s true identity at last, after 138 years the Holy Grail of Snarkology would be in your sweaty grasp at last — and then you gasped aloud, oh, the horror! the horror! — you cried out in your despair! — the Snark … it is Eye!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Profiles in Nonsense: The Baker



The Admirable Mister Carroll would have his little surprises for The Hunting of the Snark certainly seems nothing but surprises. Of course, aside from certain unfortunate mishaps, such as sudden insanity or total annihilation, most of Mister Carroll’s Snarkian surprises tend towards the cheerily nonsensical and comfortably numb variety.

This is because he was a master craftsman and knew full well that a bit of well-oiled authorial surprise keeps the groundlings happy enough to stick through the heavy going of the more intellectual bits, such as plot or thematic development. (Mister Burton, are you taking notes?)

Like revenge or cheap plonk, surprise is best served cold, and so we’ll stick to Carroll’s master plan and introduce the final member of our Fellowship of the Snark as Carroll did … vaguely, mysteriously, even confusingly … the Baker!

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.
The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pairs of boots — but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.



Do not be alarmed by the curious fact that the above drawing depicts Our Mystery Snark-Hunter’s 42 boxes on the beach as being labeled with the Chinese ideogram for "candlestub" known as “xié”. Simply remain calm while I remind you that our Mystery Snarkistadore's alias of “candlestub” will be revealed at a later date. And do not panic if you happen to know that the boxes and the girl with the fan are directly taken from one of Carroll’s own photographs, a portrait of Alexandra “Xie” Kitchins posing as an off-duty Chinese tea merchant.

Keep your cool, dear reader, even if the gentleman at the easel should prove to be the late and sorely missed British author Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proved conclusively that the Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything In It is 42. Above all, take no notice of the curious coincidence of the painting of a box that he is working at. It is labeled with a variation upon Magritte’s famous anti-dictum, “this is not my box” and is itself a play upon the Belgian’s seminal work, The Human Condition I.
It cannot harm you, simply move around it cautiously whilst noting the utter absence of the seven coats and six boots mentioned in the verses. They are unworthy of inclusion in this drawing, owing to the fact that since the clothes make the man, the commutative principle of haute couture allows the man to make the clothes. Therefore, the sartorial and ontological nudity of this man (still un-named, un-manned and un-drawn) is his own lookout. No doubt, if left alone, nature will have its way and his coats and boots would multiply and eventually replenish his wardrobe (the commutative spirit of Victorian men's fashion was biblically fecund) and he will find himself the proud possessor of 42 coots and boats. QED, eh?

Surprise and anticipation, the twin bogeymen of Nonsense poets and Hollywood scriptwriters alike! Stay tuned, dear readers, for next week's exciting episode!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Profiles in Nonsense: The Butcher Goes Tiki Bar!



We continue our explanation of the Dramatis Personae of The Hunting of the Snark with some really snappy blather …

Cry havoc and let slip the hunters of Snark! Eschewing your petty considerations of "written texts" and "logic" we slide comfortably into the heavy, lead-weighted boots of the Butcher … or as he’s better known to Snarkologists — the Frankensnark!

The Butcher started off in life as a lower-case butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia and through steady application rose through the ranks of Victorian society to become the notorious Tichborne Claimant. We see the Butcher, in the above drawing, as he appeared to the Fellowship of the Snark, his well-inked, crystalline noggin filled with but one idea, that of Snark.



And there in lies our story, the saddest story I’ve ever told, in fact … you see, several years of debauchery behind the cold-cuts display in Wagga Wagga left the Butcher looking a trifle plush, so much so that he was forced to conceal his considerable girth behind the name of Arthur Orton,and when pressed too hard, he would even emit a squeaky, rubbery-duck sort of noise that sounded suspiciously like a certain Tom Castro.

He continued on as a butcher until he worked his way further up the British food chain to Sir Roger Charles Tichborne, a sort of proto-Bertie Wooster lost at sea as the result of navigating with a perfect and absolute blank of a mind. Tichborne’s elderly mother, suitably impressed by the startling resemblance between her epicene, educated and polylingual long-lost son and the obese, crass and monolingual Butcher, promptly welcomed him back into the well-upholstered bosom of the family.




Things would have been quite jolly for Butcher and Mum if some nosey-parkers hadn’t upset things and started a court case, claiming that this Butcher-Orton-Castro-Tichborne wallah was not whom he claimed to be! Things came to a pretty sad end for B-O-C-T, for to be honest, he both looked and acted the part of an incredible dunce to perfection and was eventually defrocked, denamed and deprived of his liberty.

This illustrator has chosen to flesh out the Butcher as an Easter Island moia, another antipodean enigma with beady little eyes that always look the opposite way and appear unaccountably shy, especially when any beavers heave into view. Could it be that Mister Castro is somewhat put out by the mere presence of his anagrammatized nemesis, Castor? Or is it because this illustrator simply can’t be bothered to draw expressions and prefers instead to guzzle lager on the beach whilst his Assamese nautch-girl-cum-receptionist throws another snark on the barbie?

Monday, January 9, 2017

This is your Year of Snark!

I apologize for the lack of posts, I am swamped with freelance. And yet, even in the midst of chasing pelf, one's thoughts still turn to Snark Hunting …

Despite those pesky so-called appearances everyone's so hung up about, The Hunting of the Snark is a classic of the psychedelic canon, and despite its author's so-called intentions too. Lewis Carroll is usually regarded as the very model of a Victorian button-down just-give-us-the-facts-ma'am but his Snark is a dead give-away that in the field of semiolinguistic trippery, the Admirable Carroll was certainly waving his freak flag high!

Let's see … in the Snark we're trying to chase down certain imaginary creatures which may or may not totally freak you out and even blow your pretty little mind … and meanwhile, we have the most respectable members of society publicly flipping out with giant forks and bars of soap and even bits of salad while humming Gilbert & Sullivan airs, trying to count with their fingers in a purple haze of numerical discombobulation and even tripping, yes, tripping backwards in the bounciest of anapestic rhythms.

I could say more but why bother when Melville House says it so much better?