Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Win Friends and Influence Boojum

Declaimed by a drowsy Beaver at the stern of the HMS Snark as it drifts through the somnambulant equatorial swamps … simian caterwaulings and jackanape antics of the crew providing the needful soothing jungle lullabies … a siesta beckons … perhaps a postprandial charpoy, memsahib?

These snores, that I wish to outgribe.
So clear,
Their mimsy incarnations, which fly through the brillig air
I drowse a tulgey sleep.
Did I love a Boojum?

Monday, November 6, 2017

At Swim-Two-Snarks

Words, words, words! There's not going to be any of 'em in this drawing and besides, the Beaver seldom knows what to say anyway. They make such a buzzing in her head … so she's popped off, outside on deck, away from that galoot of a Butcher and his loquacious cronies in the main salon. She's having a breath of fresh sea air, watching the Boots and the Bellman gammon the ship's bowsprit, thinking of absolutely nothing in particular.

She is, as they say, a tabula rasa. Just the thing for an artist who's short on paper. A few quick strokes of the pen et voilà! In place of a quotidian Castor Canadensis, we now have a charming ingenue recently out of finishing school. She has imbibed all the social graces necessary for the sporting companion of any High Church Anglicans bent on Snarkicide. No more riparian galactophagogery for this lady, she's wearing the galligaskins now and she's loaded for Boojum!

In short — nurture triumphs over nature — again! Huzzah for the tabulae rasae of this world! Besides, no one likes a palimpset anyway, those snooty, nefandous know-it-alls.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Trained rocks keep fallin' on my head

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 most 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, preschool 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, 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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Through a Glass, Snarkly

The illustration of this stanzel (stanza-cum-panel) 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 draftsman 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.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Snark, Actually

The provenance of this image is, I confess, is a hopelessly adulterated concoction of all the flotsam & jetsam which churns up my head: 
• 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 a-burning on the water.
 
• Thomas Mann's Deutsche Bahn-ification 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 poet Dante Alighieri (why? Because I say so). Here's what Witold Gombrowicz, said 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 there it is, 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 18, 2017

Turinese Snark


Alberto Savinio had this to say about animals such as the Beaver who are always trying to draw attention to themselves: 

"Totemism is a sign of the dignity that animals once enjoyed, a testimony that the earth was once a paradise … our memory of the time when animals lived with us as companions and equals contains the most encouraging idea of the future of the world, an idea that lets us glimpse, beyond the contraction of peoples into themselves, their expansion into a common brotherhood, and finally their new merging with the animals in a paradise regained."
 

In this panel we see the final and ultimate member of the crew, the Butcher, apparently menacing the Beaver in an umbrous manner while she is at play. Is the Butcher truly malevolent towards the Beaver as the text insinuates or is he pursuing that childish dream of Eden which she rolls before her? Universal brotherhood of sentient beings or ignominous immolation at the hands of a petrified maniac?
 

Clues abound: the (conveniently) protean decor of the HMS Snark, indeed, the entire mise en scène is redolent of the fashionably unsettled piazzi of Turin, a place notorious for the alpine fogs which beset and befuddle its inhabitants. A similar metaphysical ennui settles heavily over both the Beaver and the hinted-at Butcher, perhaps they are in that liminal state which Savinio alludes to, struggling to emerge from a state of totemic memories into a future Paradise Regained?
 Is Lewis Carroll hinting at an eschatalogical program of redemption here? Is the Hunting of the Snark really a music-hall species of the Divine Comedy, the Snark is Beatrice, the Baker is Dante and the crew of the HMS Snark, a multicephalic crypto-gnostic Virgil?

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street,
Giorgio de Chirico
Or is it all just a load of rubbish, the useless odds and ends found inside an Oxford don's pilfered portmanteau, disparate rubbish strewn about the paving stones of a Turinese piazza by a disappointed thief who had been posing as a railway porter on the Bragia trunk line, the better to prey upon Englishmen doing the Grand Tour? Savinio had this to say about the dodgy sort of things that can spring out of a fellow's portmanteau on a chilly Piedmontese morning:

"
Romanticism: the terror of nature, its forests, its tempests, its dawns, its splendors … surrealism: the internal terror of a man, his forests, his tempests, his dawns, his splendor."

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Confederacy of Snarks!

It's a fair cop, guv'nor! The Bellman, assisted by the Fellowship of the Snark, brandishes his clochetic truncheon at this wallah'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 thought of this non-nonbelievable dunce is Snark.
From which …
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, August 14, 2017

Nonsense is sanity, sanity is nonsense

Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any personal articles of clothing?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any luggage or packages?
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: You can't be serious, 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 — oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cogito Ergo Snark

A nautical though nice bit of ink-stained gallimaufry in which we see the Baker's character (still anonymous though!) in a better light, perhaps even the light which shines down from above, the light to which the Baker refers with his finger, in fact, the light for which one does not lack when heaven guides the way. 

If one were to see the Baker in a philosophical light, one might say that he carries about him a certain Platonic air, a mystical faith in a universal flashlight which he carries about with himself wherever he goes and which enlightens his path in even the darkest caves of the human mind. It is this mental flashlight which provides him with the aplomb necessary to navigate through the thickets of hyenas and bears in which he finds himself today. Note also that he smiles at his tormentors, a Mona Lisa sort of smile which says to his would-be tormentors: I know that you are not real, that you are merely shadows of a Higher Hyena and Bigger Bear.
The ursine fellow to the Baker's left is a Gradgrindish sort of fellow, well-schooled in the Facts of Life, ma'am, a scholastic air about him, Aristotelian even, judging by his know-it-all headware. He has no need for invisible flashlights (or torches, as LC would say), he relies upon Facts, just the Facts & their Causes, perhaps even some Numbers, and that's That! He carries a book, not for idle speculation but for assaulting lesser-minded weaklings such as the Baker with.
At their feet we see a personage in the guise of a drawing of a hyena taken from a xerox of a photograph of Heraclitus copied from a painting of a second-hand redaction of the life of Michelangelo as told to Vasari. This reflective beast is lounging pool-side, debating whether 'tis best to plunge entirely into the waters or better still to merely dabble the tips of one's toes in the waters. He is consumed with doubt lest he be unable to bathe in the same waters twice. Incidentally, it appears as if he is also consumed with a petty jealousy over the excellent design of the panel in which he finds himself depicted. 

Not only is it a cunning gloss upon the above Stanza, but it also illustrates the wisdom of obtaining one's artistic training at a qualified and accredited institute of higher learning, a precaution which this hyenaic gentleman's rival, the infamous Raphael (not shown here) attended to by graduating cum laude from the Roman campus of the School of Athens.
The School of Athens, by some other Carrollian artist

Monday, July 31, 2017

Democracy Dies in Snarkness

The penultimate crew member, the Baker, AKA Lewis Carroll, the man with the foolish grin keeping perfectly still with the eyes shut tight in his head to see the world spinning around. 

Perhaps the Baker is a boojum of sorts! The authorial obsession of the Snark is obvious now, and what makes it especially tasty (as tasty as toasted-cheese-wig-fritters) is the gentle (but very thorough) dissolution of the author into his internal, safely nonsensical world. This panel illustrates the central premise of the Snark. We see the Baker in the stylized pose of the-fool-at-thought, his eyes shut for he has no need to see the Snarkian landscape — he is the Snarkian landscape, and later tonight, when the topic of supper is broached, why, he's on the menu, on the table, he's the knife and he's the waiter!


Where will it all end? What does it all mean? Is Lewis Carroll an proto-existentialist grappling with a multiply-fractured Other generated from and concealed within himself, exhausted by a crypto-Gnostic quest played out amidst a desolate wasteland littered with the semiotic debris of a long-toppled Victorian imperium? Or is he just this guy?

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?