Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fit Two, Page 11, Panel 2 … Heute sind wir im Ernst!

He was thoughtful and grave — but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
What on earth was the helmsman to do?
Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked."

As the nurturing, endlessly comforting snows of Québec begin to numb our cerebelli at chez snarque, we have ample time to reflect upon the old adage: good artists borrow; great artists steal (and never from the merely good artists). I've mercilessly looted the Belgians, French and Italians, so the inspiration for this stanza will have to be purloined from the Germans.

Easier said than done, I soon discovered. Friedrich Nietzsche (The Bonnets) and Martin Heidegger (The Barrister) refused to countenance my scheme but Karl Marx (The Banker), that preternaturally prescient Protosurrealist, quickly came up with some snappy double-talk to justify my larcenous designs. He pointed out that crime is actually good for the likes of Lewis Carroll and his ilk (double-plus-good, in fact):

"The criminal produces not only crime but also the criminal law; he produces the professor who lectures on this law and even the inevitable textbook … the whole apparatus of the police and criminal justice … also art, literature, novels, even tragic dramas … he (the criminal) gives a new impulse to the productive forces."

That's pretty juicy stuff, say no more, Karl! Within minutes, my crack team of ninja-idiot-savant-cat-burglar-draftsmen had illicitly purloined and haphazardly reproduced this picture of a giant thumb lusting after his maternal walnut from none other than Max Ernst, the noted German surrealist and an echt bon vivant with the consummate Carrollian taste to die the day before he was born.

Of course, you, the dear reader, may ask: what's this picture got to do with a vessel being snarked in tropical climes? I can only reply: It's a fair cop, guv'nor!


NB. Max Ernst's illustrations for the Snark are dadamax-loplop-good! One may wonder what Lewis Carroll would have made of them, but by using our Protosurrealist critical apparatus we can safely say: yes.


  1. I really like the way you "loot" other artists. And you're right, many major artists were first copiers: who could figure now for example that Modigliani was "looting" Cézanne in his first paintings? This was just part of a normal process of learning. Then after a while, personal style emerges naturally and creates something new and unique.

  2. Yes, "looting" is a natural artistic function, I think, and you're also right in saying it is a part of a larger process … too often, artists today wish to work as if there was no past and as if they are starting from nothing.

  3. Harold Bloom talks about it at length in "The Anxiety of Influence" -- how different types of authors in different ages negotiated the inspiration-infested waters of the Western canon. I'm sure a similar gauntlet exists for visual artists.

    I love the balloon, by the way. I hope it pops up again, maybe in homage to Odilon Redon?

  4. Quite so, for visual artists, the looting process has become more frowned upon, esp. by the younger generation who frequently do not always know that there is a past to be looted.

    Ah, for the zen-like simplicity of thought enjoyed by the cultural-amnesiacs!

    Yes, Redon! His aeronautical protosurrealism was a flight simulator for the future!