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!