Monday, May 2, 2016

The Unbearable Lightness of Drawing Snark

Dear readers, if Lewis Carroll was alive today, he would never get into print. He would have no comps to be measured against, a shocking excess of originality and an unmarketable habit of assuming children want to be genuinely challenged. Even if he self-published (which is what he did for the first Alice book in essence), no distributor would handle him. 

The point is that diverse books are not just about different races or cultures, that's just part of it … to me, diversity is more about alternative viewpoints, ideas that are not pre-commodified or safely clichéd but which really expand the reader's head. I published my novel, American Candide, with Rosarium Publishing, a minority-owned house that publishes books by authors and artists that tell diverse stories, with multicultural perspectives and unorthodox subjects that the bigger houses refuse to touch. Rosarium is having an indiegogo campaign to refinance, so if the issue of diversity in publishing and storytelling matters to you, check them out … or tell a friend. It's your Literary Multiverse, dear reader … do you want to stagnate in a provincial monoculture or flourish in a diverse, vigorous world culture? Now back to the snarky laughs …

Friendship is, of course, a double-edged sort of business, the very sort of tricksy fritter-my-wig-thingum-a-jig that Messers Lewis Carroll and C.L. Dodgson must have pondered over quite a bit in the course of their own long and fruitful association.

The attentive reader (is there any other?) will remember my own reasons for emasculating the Beaver, and I think that this very stanzel is proof positive of the aesthetic rightness (or is it righteousness?) of that long-ago, fateful decision on my part.

And so, we see here the Beaver and Butcher heaving into view with their freshly-minted friendship in tow. Needless to say, the friendship of the Butcher will prove a heavy burden for the luckless Beaver. The former’s penchant for looking the part of an incredible dunce, as evidenced in his just-concluded, semi-interminable monologue upon all things Jubjub, will weigh heavily upon the Beaver’s sensitive soul.

May we conjecture that Carroll might have had the same private misgivings concerning his rather leechlike pal, Dodgson? The basic principles of Prosodic Forensics may apply here, my dear Watson, when one bears in mind that once one has removed the impossible from whatever verse one is studying, whatever one is left with, however improbably, is the logical solution.

The Butcher’s poetic modus operandi is painfully obvious: dunderheaded obliviousness to all things outside his realm of expertise, a compulsion to lecture strangers ad infinitum, etc. Such a description is, as some of us are painfully aware, the very epitome of the college lecturer, of which C.L. Dodgson was a prime example.

The Beaver’s versical activities in the last Five Fits have been limited solely to making lace and saving the entire crew from wreck. The former activity is utterly frivolous, as is versifying in general, and the latter activity is nothing less than an oblique reference to her skill in composing galdors, those Celtic verse charms used in pagan times to protect the common folk from evil through the application of some mysterious, verbal magic unknown to the layman!

The attentive reader should promptly compare the above description to Lewis Carroll, and finding that it’s a perfect match, brandish their regulation Scotland Yard handcuffs, then secure the guilty party and march him off to the station to take his statement, the villain!

And while you’re at it, Sergeant, cuff that Dodgson wallah, he was probably in on it with Carroll, the two of ‘em are inseparable friends, don’t you know. We’ll soon have at least one of ‘em singing like a canary, probably till the next day, I’m afraid.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bavarian Snark!

 Our Hunting of the Snark resumes its Jubjubian subplot for yet another stanzel; Lewis Carroll regales us here with a spirited description of a Jubjub being tortured by a variety of methods whose diabolical ingenuity and inventive discomfort seem uncomfortably redolent of an impromptu herd of schoolboys possessing the usual cretinous surplus of high spirits and moral pygmyism.

Carroll’s closest associate, C.L. Dodgson, would have been quite familiar with such goings-on, both as grim memories of his own public-schooling at Rugby and more to the point, as part of his quotidian duties as a maths tutor at Christ Church, where we can have little doubt that the vast majority of his students possessed a similar burning enthusiasm to make things hot for all creatures great and small.

This implicit connection twixt torture and mathematics must have troubled Dodgson’s gentle soul; no doubt he shared his unease with the more worldly Carroll, who then incorporated all of the above into this snappy bit of verse which we are chewing over right now.

In his Annotated Snark, Martin Gardner briefly discussed Prof. John Leech’s observations upon the mathematical implications of this stanza. Leech noted that by substituting locuses (or loci) for locusts, and tape measure for tape, one is then provided with the rudimentary instructions for the sawing and gluing together of the various wooden rods necessary for the skeletal framework of a regular polyhedron.

One can have little doubt that these instructions for the construction of a geometric solid would have provided Dodgson’s students with some considerable discomfort! From their 19th-century British discomfort they would have slipped, inevitably, into the very graphic slough of a fullblown 16th-century German melancholia, with all its attendant polyhedronal tortures!

Huzzah for the symmetrical mathematical-moral shape of things in our cozy world of boiled and salted Jubjubs-cum-schoolboys, ‘tis all very well thought out, Messers Carroll and Dodgson! The morally high-minded reader can chuckle appreciatively at all this, the rest of you just rattle your jewelry in a passing gust of old-fashioned schadenfreude.

NB. I must draw your attention, my dear Watson, to the curious incident of the dog barking at the moon. It is a Catalonian, 20th-century dog prone to bouts of selenic melancolia originating from its anachronistic exile to Nuremberg.


If you're read this far, then you deserve to know that my publisher, Rosarium Publishing,  is running an indiegogo campaign to raise funds to continue their expansion … Rosarium specializes in books by and about minorities, books which offer stories and viewpoints which few other publishers take on. If diversity in publishing means something to you, check 'em out, or at least spread the word … http://bit.ly/rosariumpub

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eat, Drink, Prey!


In lieu of slandering Lewis Carroll here's a delicious, kitchen-tested recipe for curried Snark … if your butcher doesn't stock Snark, you can substitute beef, lamb or goat. Indian cooking is notoriously time-consuming but I promise you that this recipe is both foolproof and tastes authentic.

Genuine Assamese Snark Curry 

 Mix the following together:
1 kilo of Snark meat, cubed (if no Snark is to be had, use beef, goat or lamb, preferably with bones)
6 medium onions, minced
small head of garlic, minced
an inch of fresh ginger, grated
tablespoon of turmeric
one cinnamon stick
one cup of oil
tablespoon of salt
• a sufficient amount of genuinely hot green chilis, slit
tablespoon of ground cumin, a tablespoon of ground coriander and a tablespoon of garam masala

Mix and let sit overnight. Cook on low heat, with the lid on and stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Add one cup of water, bring to boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes or until meat is tender. The curry should finish up with a thick gravy, not at all runny. If beef, lamb or goat meat was used, serve with rice or naan, vegetables and dal.
 


However, if you did use Snark, then might I suggest that you top off this culinary fiesta by sending a few thank-you rupees to my publisher, Rosarium, who is having an Indiegogo campaign to finance the extrication of their books from the clutches of a sleazy distributor (long, depressing story).

Rosarium publishes fiction and comix by minority authors with minority viewpoints (the combination is rarer than you might think), heck, they're even publishing my novel, American Candide, (also delayed by distributor but should be out May 1, latest) which is proof positive that Rosarium does what most publishers only talk about: publish books to expand people's thinking instead of shutting it down.

There is a reason why the political landscape is so dismal of late and it's not an accident … suppressing voices and stories under the guise of commercial considerations has paid off handsomely for The Man. So if you have a few spare bucks and care about art and politics and literature, send 'em to Rosarium. They won't waste it.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

American Candide …


American Candide
by Mahendra Singh (Rosarium, 2016, ISBN 978-0996769211)

200 pgs., 31 illustrations by the author
NB. Should be available on Amazon-USA by May 1, latest … the distributor is being very naughty.
 

Voltaire's most famous creation, Candide, rebooted for the better-than-best of all possible worlds, 21st-century America! From the slums of Africa to the McMansions of suburbia, the human condition wreaks havoc upon Candide and his posse as they search for an American Dream being held against its will in an undisclosed location. College-boy sissies will call it a Juvenalian satire upon America's penchant for mindless optimism and casual racism but American Candide calls it "rage against the rage, Voltaire-dude!"
Amazon USA  
Amazon UK  
Rosarium
Indiebound.org (consortium of independent bookstores) 
Alibris
Amazon Italia  
Amazon Deutschland

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bohemian Snark Rhapsody


“But it knows any friend it has met once before:
It never will look at a bribe:
And in charity-meetings it stands at the door,
And collects — though it does not subscribe.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, this is not double vision but rather a mea culpa of sorts! Lewis Carroll always warned us not to bring home any Snarks we might find on the street and this applies double-plusly to any Snarks we might find on the internet, present company excluded, of course.

What brings all this to mind is the scandalous Case of the Missing Bribe, an affaire snarque which was first brought to my attention by the eminent Czech poet and Snark translator, Václav Z. J. Pinkava. It was he, who in discussing with me the above stanza regarding the Jubjub’s sordid personal habits, first detected the spurious substitution of the word bride with the word bribe in most internet texts. I'll watson Václav’s holmes thus …

"In the text I first based my translation upon, some years ago - the second b of bribe had become its mirror image, bride. It serves me right for working in IT, I should not have relied on electronic sources. I had also used Gutenberg, in 2005, so the Origin of Speciousness is now lucidly clear. The consequences of such a tiny but undetected 'program bug' are impressive. Snarkologists might find it curious that this shows up in the phrase "it never will look at a bribe" — nobody did look!"

Both Václav and I had run afoul of Gutenberg.org's tainted source copy! Shocking isn't it, dear reader, to discover that a certain someone is type-setting his raw copy from an internet site! Alas, I had already misdrawn the soiled stanza with its sordid Bride, the results of which you see above on the left. Fortunately, Václav is not only a poet, but a brainworker too, and his fertile mind was teeming with a scintillating maelstrom of myriad illustrative remedies à la Hedly Lamarr!

"Anyway, I may have a solution for you — or at least a talkaround … the Bride-as-Bribe is of course a theme reminiscent of classical Knight and Dragon stories, where the King offers his only daughter as a draconian bride-bribe to save the royal city from ruin. Rather a Grimm prospect. Tom Tower (the Christ Church background of the above drawings) looks rather like a hidden dragon to me, in your picture, with the gate as the mouth and the windows above as the eyes.

The b-d transform is, as hereto indicated, reminiscent of the two "eye" Tom Tower windows, with a bit of buttressing masonry as the uprights. Not unnaturally, then, given St George as the English patron saint, that this should be an undercurrent in any truly English literary endeavour. And, after all, on the blank part of old maps the inscription was either Hic Sunt Leones, or Hic Sunt Dracones, and so the brave Bellman has taken his crew not only into Snark country, but into Lion and Dragon country, too, just by using a blank map.

The Jubjub bird is, like most birds, not a creature of the KNight and so is much too unchivalrous to pay attention to any brides-as-bribes, lest the respective dragon-groom challenge the interloper to a fight. If Miguel de Cervantes made Don Quixote mistake windmills for Giants, then Lewis Carroll's opiated view of Tom Tower as a dragon is quite acceptable to me."


After ruminating upon Václav's advice, I remedied the situation with a corrected drawing. With this hasty addition of a large and angry honeybee, the Bride had Bee-come a Bribe and all was well again — for now, at least!





For me, the entire episode was a painful reminder of the subtle dangers lurking in even the most innocuous Carrollian verse (and the necessity of actually reading what I’m drawing, eh?). However, in further correspondence with Václav, I discovered that his own Czech translation had also run afoul of various linguistic sandbanks, which he had navigated with some considerable panache …

"Czech’s visual compactness is a side effect of diacritical marks, invented by Jan Hus, the Protestant martyr who was burnt as a heretic in Constance — albeit not for his orthography. This diacritical scheme is a great idea, it makes Czech far shorter to look at than Polish, a related language. However, the alphabet has a Carrollian 42 letters, including one dipthong 'ch', pronounced like the word Loch.

I have indeed maintained and in fact in some places enhanced the eccentricity of the text, in Carrolian style. This has led to no end of controversy. Czechs, like the French, have an institution to guard purity of language, and they are averse to anyone taking liberties, such as putting in one or two portmanteau words when the rhythmic straightjacket got too tight.

Anyway, let those Czech translators who come after me make do with the plainer versification they long for. It is often annoyingly inescapable to me, when I read Carroll's seemingly plain-English Snark, how he plays with multiple meanings in simple words (or at least I think he does). For example, in the Second Fit — "Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!" — makes me think of a personified Map wearing a cape! Another example of a bit of fun; in the Barrister's dream, I took a slight liberty with the translation of:

"The fact of Desertion I will not dispute;

But its guilt, as I trust, is removed
(So far as relates to the costs of this suit)
By the Alibi which has been proved."

It occurred to me that an Alibi literally means that the accused was somewhere else at the time, which, if one is being accused of desertion, can be interesting, if negated. So I translated this partly to say that the Alibi is proven by there being none, i.e. the pig was not somewhere else. As to the cost of the "suit", I hope there was no "gilt" implied; well at least it has been removed, and especially so in translation.

On the repeating mantra "They sought it with, etc.,", I had a great opportunity to use a double meaning in Czech, because "mydlit" (to soap) someone is an idiom for beating them up, for reigning blows upon them mercilessly; so I left out the smiles part and emphasized the soap, literally: "(they) confounded it with the way soap soaps/beats up." It has a nice euphony and alliteration about it in the Czech line. There is also an idiom to soap someone's stairs, i.e., to assist their downfall.

I initially surmised that I had to be very free with the translation when it came to the Snark's fondness for bathing machines, and their adding to the beauty of scenes, as no Czech reader would have a clue what a Victorian bathing machine is. No coastline here! So I took another angle on that, mentioning showers and (car-style) wash-machines, and the adding to the beauty of scenes being open to doubt because the view is cleaner but also drop-speckled. In the end I found a way of translating it as "wheeled bathing cabins" and left it up to the reader to research what they were. It seems to me that the assertion at the very beginning of the poem, "Just the place for a Snark", is best explained by envisaging numerous bathing machines liberally perched upon chasms and crags!

In Czech it is impossible to maintain all the tradesmen starting on B, or any one letter, without changing them. Incidentally, why is everyone convinced they had names beginning with B, when they are descriptions, and one in particular very oblique — the Bonnet Maker?

One of my greatest annoyances was how many Czechs have been led astray by their clichéd schooling, which mentions the Snark in the 3rd grade despite there not being a Czech translation until now. Accordingly, they consider the Snark to be predominantly shark-like, and so they wanted it translated into some Czech soundalike (czech for shark being Žralok pronounced zhrullock). I want the Snark to remain a Snark — I just added an accent on the á. I do rather wish Carroll had named him Xnark, though."

I do hope that you've have enjoyed this lengthy but detailed exposé into the hitherto concealed inner workings of the international Snark trade, both visual and linguistic. Sure, there’s plenty of glamour and gorgeous women and fast cars and forks and hope and all that but that’s 19th century British Nonsense poetry for you, isn’t it? It will all end in tears anyway …
___________

NB. Václav is a fine poet as well as translator and his verse is worth reading, as is his father's. Václav crafts his words with hope and care, as befits a truly talented and steadfast member of the Fellowship of the Snark! Bibliophiliac Snarkniks (and you know who you are) can find his Czech Snark readily available here

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Caliban Goes Art-School Confidential!

This is NOT what most publishers expect from minority/POC illustrator-authors

The most popular posts I've done on this blog were the technical critiques of Moebius' Airtight Garage … I suspect that there are young illustrators reading this blog in the hopes of actually learning something of practical use. So I'll skip the usual Snark and talk shop instead … if the public approves, there's plenty more on tap.

There's a lot of talk in North America about the problems of minorities in the publishing/comix business. I'd like to point out something that seems to get lost in the brouhaha: when you think through the business implications, your problem-of-being-a-minority is a distinct advantage.

Minority/POC illustrators and authors: since you are statistically less likely to have gone to the right school or drank at the right watering hole or even slept with the right people, you have only your work and your work habits to sell you to editors, art directors and publishers. You MUST consistently produce conceptually and technically superior work, on deadline and genuinely camera-ready or copy-editor-friendly, you have no other viable career strategy. Yes, publishers will pay you less but that will improve as you progress, assuming that you never relax your standards.

In fact, when you think it through, discrimination creates a distinct advantage for minorities in the Darwinian cesspool we call the publications business. Plus, it's a genuine hoot knowing that the Last Bastion of the Protestant Work Ethic in North America is the Invisible Man!

And here the lesson endeth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The snark from another planet


We are very pleased to bring you this startling mental picture of a Jubjub, fleshed out, as it were, from the grease-stained and tattered blueprints provided to us by the engineering firm of Dodgson, Carroll & Associates. This once reputable British firm of snarkwrights, headquartered in Guildford, Surrey, had utterly cornered both the domestic and export trade in British Nonsense by the end of the 19th century.

Their patented Jubjub Bird, shown above, started out as a commoner’s garden-variety hoopoe-cum-popinjay but Carroll, a mad and impulsive boy at heart, kept adding on a bit here and bit there until he had invented what came to be known as "the bird of perpetual passion". Too spicy for staid British tastes, it enjoyed a certain vogue in France until the advent of lurid mass-produced, paperback novels rendered it obsolete.

This particular example is a fine example of the classic Victorian penchant for thick-ankled avians swaddled in the finest watered gutta-percha silk. It was discovered by this artist, roosting in the most meager, luxury suite of the Ritz-Carleton, subsisting on a paltry diet of sugar daddies and hot buttered toffs until it was lovingly restored to its original bird-brained splendor by a poultice of blank checks and a strict regimen of breakfast at Tiffanys.


I think it would look rather fetching hanging on your arm, whenever you appear at the Drones Club or wherever it is that you roost at night.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Snark is Icumen In


Lewis Carroll is too polite to say so but I’m going to give the kiddies a scare by telling ‘em that Natural History is an unnatural construct. It’s a False Boojum hatched by the machinations of a power-hungry 19th-century bourgeois patriarchy determined to crush the legitimate political and social aspirations of a downtrodden proletariat animal, vegetable and mineral kingdom.

Just look at ‘em, this riffraff of the finest art museums of Europe and the Americas, the lumpenproletariat of Bosch’s crypto-Christo-Malthusian nightmares forced to rub shoulders with the decadent, antisocial pictosemiotic propaganda of René Magritte! Scandalous! And has anyone noticed that both of these so-called artistes hailed from the Low Countries? Coincidence? I think not!

It is indeed low, ‘tis very low indeed when the legitimate hopes and aspirations of an entire roomful of creepy-crawly delirium tremens-type habitues must get a snootful of this kind of pseudoscience at the sweaty hands of a boisterously glandular, Polynesian moai afflicted with a pseudoclerical penchant for faith-based crossdressing.

Boo, hiss, boo! Have you ever heard such a thing? This is not the sort of Hunting of the Snark for which our gallant forefathers shed their precious blood on distant, foreign shores! It’s something else entirely and if I had but the time and you had but the brain, we’d sort it out, you betcha!

Monday, March 7, 2016

All quiet on the Western snark


This baffling stanzel of The Hunting of the Snark (known to Continental snarkologists as the Pons Asinorum) presents the Carrollian illustrator with a genuine head-scratcher.

Unlike illustrators who resort to a stylistic and conceptual flight behind the faux-ironic concealment of an adorably semi-infantile aesthetic when confronted by any text more complex than, let us say, the plot précis of a sharp blow to the head, this illustrator (pauses to take a deep breath and a swift gulp of the restorative gin gimlet splashed upon him by the nubile Assamese hootch-kootchie girl languishing pool-side at his beck and call), this illustrator likes to give his public value for their hard-earned money.

And since this entire mighty enterprise which I call The Hunting of the Snark is offered to you, the general public, for only $11.99 USD (cheap), a certain discrepancy in all of the above malarkey may be detected by some of you.

To all of that I must raise high my gin gimlet in a cheerful acknowledgment of the utterly baldfaced cheekiness of the above illustration. It’s all hokum, every last bit of it. Lewis Carroll has clearly described some sort of mathematical thingum-a-jig and all I’ve come up with is a hazy, second-hand memory of an obscure Magritte semiopictulum of Edward James going through a looking glass and finding that the more you turn around to face oneself, the more you must turn one’s back on all that. Or something like that. Mirrors and mathematics alike give me a headache with their slavish devotion to reality and all that sort of thing, each claiming to demonstrate only that which is perfectly and exactly true.

The creepily eagle-eyed reader will notice that a copy of E.A. Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is lurking in Magritte’s painting, a novel which this author boldly and a bit drunkenly asserts to be the Great American Novel. Take that, you big fat white whale! And if this opinion does not please you, sirrah, my Assamese spitfire is perfectly willing to fight you upon any terms you please!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ceci n'est pas un dessin


This is not a medically approved mathematical operation …

This is not an insight into the Essence of the Number Three …

This is not the Royal Road to 19840 …

This is not a comment upon the intractable unreality of all Numbers …

This is not a jaded Christ Church don’s comment upon the futility of impressing the intractable unreality of all Numbers upon his all-too-real thickheaded students …

This is not a jaded illustrator’s comment upon the futility of impressing his creditors with yet another divagation illustrée

This is not an image of an image which is not what it seems to be …

This is not the sort of thing which the general public has come to expect, thank god …

This is not the unexpected work of a far better artist …

This is not a clue to the fabled and elusive meaning of The Hunting of the Snark, for this is not clairvoyance.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Paradise Snark'd


It’s not often that one finds Lewis Carroll, St. Anthony the Great, Hieronymus Bosch and the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson mentioned in the very same breath but such are the rarified quiddities of this inkster’s inspiration.

The Butcher is shown here writing a footnote, two of ‘em since he’s ambipedextrous, an affectation rampant amongst Liberians and Americans, both of whom share an affinity for feet over meters, the imperious rascals! One of the most prodigal of these American metrophobes was the journalist, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who gained a considerable notoriety for "explaining it all in a popular style" to an otherwise unsuspecting American public.

Thompson’s most notorious national apologia was the jeremiad, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which detailed his quest for spiritual enlightenment in the nearest available desert. Having no recourse to any secluded grottos, Thompson pursued his ascetic devotions in the general direction of Las Vegas with astonishing success, and like St. Anthony, he quickly attracted an entourage of devilish phantoms in a variety of tormenting styles and sizes.

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert … suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming, 'Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?'"

The well-gargled Flemish painter, Hieronymus Bosch, whilst under the influence of an anachronistic plagiarism, had already worked up a police identification sketch of some of Thompson’s assailants, of which I have made the above drawing of a fax of a snapshot of a xerox. This startling image of a group of out-of-town snarkhunters taking in Wayne Newton at Circus Circus bears an eerie and uncanny resemblance to both the turgid cerebral froth of Messers Anthony, Bosch and Thompson, Esq., and a certain little stanza of The Hunting of the Snark which we’ve been seeing far too much of around here lately!

As your attorney, dear readers, I advise you to avoid eye contact with all these suspect, hallucinatory inhabitants of weirdo drawings brandishing their trippy, second-hand anapaests and uncomfortably reminding us that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. We are but amateurs of the Snark, you and I, and as such, cuddly little fluffy things ill-suited to the rigors of modern life and all that other mental stuff.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Beat it, snark, here come the Copts!


Strange, creepy creatures are the bane of modern life and both Lewis Carroll and myself have seen fit to embellish this crucial stanzel of The Hunting of the Snark with a surfeit of ‘em. Suitably alarmed, the Butcher has darted into a convenient telephone booth and re-emerged in the guise of St. Anthony, the father of Christian monasticism and more to our purposes, a veritable bit of human fly-paper for all manner of hallucinatory things that go bump in the night.

The attentive reader will remember that the very first stanzel of this Snark involved a direct quotation from Mathias Grünewald’s version of St. Anthony, a quotation which involved a fair bit of mirror-work and the cramming of a very hirsute and oddly fey Saint into the sturdy 19th-century country-squire’s boots of the Boots, AKA Charles Darwin. This saint-bashing mania of mine is shared with many other artists; throughout the ages, we Bildervolk have mass-produced St. Anthonys by the bucketful. Even Henry Holiday joined in the fun, establishing an Antonine precedent for Fit the Fifth which even the religiously fastidious Lewis Carroll approved!

From whence comes this Antiantonimania? Are Salvador Dali (the Norman Rockwell of Surrealism), Hieronymus Bosch, Feliciens Rops and and even Gustave Flaubert all victims of a sudden outbreak of religious fervor? Or is it all just an excuse to draw legions of naked women and creepy circus sideshow freaks mobbing a defenseless old man in a desert?

To be sure, there is a certain visual, even Luis Buñuel kind of appeal to such a proposition but nonetheless, dear reader, it’s just not very sporting, is it? The genuinely Christian thing to do is to insist that all these unreal phenomena besetting a very real person are promptly replaced with a new and improved denful of very real phenomena besetting a patently unreal person! The latter personage would be, of course, our Snark, and I’m certain that you, the readers and thus the ultimate — and only! — reality of this poem, will do a splendid job of standing in as the former.

So, that’s all settled, is it? I’ll go and have a nice lie-down while you slip into your new Snark-baiting role. Just study the above drawing very carefully and do whatever Mister Bosch says. He does have an active imagination and if anyone asks you why this is so, hint vaguely that it’s just that Hieronymo's mad againe.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Snark and Transfiguration


One can say what one likes about Lewis Carroll, or his secretive doppelgänger, C.L. Dodgson, but one cannot say that either of them ever ignored the intellectual and literary ramifications of what we now call common, garden-variety Stupidity.

The above stanzel is proof positive of all of the above blather, 100-proof positive, I should think, with all its various pictolinguistic bits and pieces denoting a thorough inability on the part of its protagonists to perform even the simplest of arithmetical tasks.

We know that C.L. Dodgson, in his capacity as a maths tutor at Christ Church, had many opportunities to complain to his associate Carroll of the genuine dunderheadedness of most of his pupils. Many of these young scholars, being scions of the British upper classes, abjured all abstract thought whatsoever and devoted themselves instead to the less mentally taxing pastimes of drinking, gambling — and yes! — hunting!

Can we venture to guess that Carroll, sympathizing with and perhaps even assisted by the unlucky Dodgson, undertook an elaborate scheme of passive-aggressive revenge, composing a cunning lampoon which in its essence is nothing more than a verse epic dedicated to the Stupidity of the Hunting Classes, a Victorian Dunciad, so to speak?

We know that the entire Hunting of the Snark is predicated mostly upon the Clochetic Rule-of-Three, a shining example of logical inanity. We know that this poem’s very title admits of two, very opposite meanings: either a hunting for a snark, or rather, a hunting undertaken by a snark! In either case, a nitwittery is produced since the Snark is unreal and thus unavailable for hunting in any sense of the word.

Furthermore, Dodgson’s fellow Oxonian, the inestimable Dr. Johnson, himself noted that no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money*, a pertinent observation in light of the fact that Carroll wrote all his literary works solely for his and his child-friends’ pleasure.

And so, in the most approved clochetic manner, we will triangulate from all of the above and arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the very Genius of Stupidity thoroughly permeates every phoneme of the Snark! We’ll then fritter all of the above’s wig by quickly dredging it in Jules Renan’s oh-so-Gallic remark that he never understood the concept of infinity until he contemplated the stupidity of the human race, in particular, the blockheaded stubbornness of those sportsmen who persist in chasing an infinitely receding prey!

The result is a infinitely-toasted-cheese sort of thing of utterly mixed metaphors which lets you, dear reader, off a certain hook entirely, for the fact that you have followed this ungainly argument so far is double-plus-proof-positive that you’re a Genuine Smartie and no Thickie at all! Huzzah for good breeding and the finest education that Mummy and Daddy’s pelf can buy, eh?


____________________________

*A statement itself proved true by the Clochetic Rule of Three in light of its triple-negative syntax! Darn these pesky liberals and their sin tax!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Snark Called Wanda


I've been remiss in posting commentaries upon my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark and the reason is simple: with my illustrated novel and another lavishly illustrated, Cabellian-steampunkish book for Penguin/Random being prepared for publication, I'm stretched a bit thin … but you know, my heart belongs to Snark, so I promise to behave from now on …

Ladies and gentlemen, the name of the game is Hunting the Snark and today we’ll try to find a Jubjub Bird, a beast just like the Snark but even better.

Finding one is child’s play, especially for a smart operator such as you. Simply lay your money down and watch the origami cranes closely, the clue you seek is beneath one of them. Pay no attention to the young gentleman with the fieldstone head and vacant expression, he’s a Polynesian exchange student studying mid-19th-century British abattoir practices and he has nothing to do with me, I assure you. The epithet of shill worries him not, it's idle speculation and his empty head is entirely innocent of such nefarious thing-um-a-jigs.

Using the Clochetic Rule of Three (known to polite society as the Logician’s Variation Upon Three Card Monte) the Butcher has already won a Jubjub Bird, the lucky guy! Alas, his fellow gamester, the plucky Beaver, has lost count. She is a flummoxed castorian, or in popular parlance, a mark, and as such, quite appealing to homicidal beasts such as Jubjub Birds! 


In fact, her dizzy-headed state of pixilation is the only correct strategy to defeat this nefarious, thimblerigged scheme! Dispossessed of all common sense, proudly ignorant of all logical acumen, she blithely chooses the closest origami crane — et voilà — all the fluttering, flying, flittering semioglyphs concealed therein are freed at last!

Yes, dear readers, it’s all rather zenlike, most confidence games are. Truth and deception, sense and nonsense, all enfolded upon themselves into origamic puzzles which, when upended, release into the wild the crypto-Jubjubian fledgings of raw meaning.

And if all the above crosstalk wracks your poor brains, then beware the Jubjub, my son, and watch the telly instead, it do the Snark in different voices!

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.