Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fit Two, Page 16, Panel 2 … truly, my Snark, thou art still the son of morn in weary night’s decline, the lost traveller’s dream under the hill

"The fifth is ambition. It next will be right

To describe each particular batch:

Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,

And those that have whiskers, and scratch.

The Bellman continues his Indictment with the accusation of Ambition, tempered with the observation that all Snarks, like intestines or the Carolinas, are further divided into two parts*.

First, you have your biting Snarks, those goody-two-shoes who brush their teeth every night and limit their ambitions to lime jello with their salisbury steak dinner. Their purported bite is as gentle as the nibblements of curious goldfish upon a giggling baby’s bum, a mere trifle. They are the auspicious Snarks, the best of Snarks, the heppiest of Snarks, no ill wind will ever ruffle these li’l ainjils’ feathers.

Then there are those other scratching Snarks, addicted to back-room jobbery in used woolen underwear and race-track skullduggeries. They are Snarks fallen from grace, they loathe hairnets, electrolysis and the consumption of soup and cotton candy. We see an example of this latter Snark in the above illustration. He is lost in his own private pandemonium, shuffling to a distant armegeddon in his mismatched, postlapsarian slippers, forkéd tail and second-hand wings. He has been consumed entirely by the itch of Ambition, an old itch for an Old Scratch!


*An odd inconsistency which seems to have escaped most Snarkologists. The Bellman commences his Indictment by specifically stating that there are 5 Snarkian qualities The feathered-whiskered speciation that follows the 5th Indictment is obviously another distinct, yet unannounced 6th Indictment. In light of the Bellman’s demonstrated inability to enunciate the number 6, might we conjecture that the number of this particular beast is 6? One's pursuers certainly cannot hunt what they cannot count, or so goes the Snark's reasoning. Using the Clochetic Rule-of-Three, we might even bandy about the number 666, a number of apocalyptic import which might well presage the lethal approach of the dreaded Boojum!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fit Two, Page 16, Panel 1 … most of life’s evils arise from man's inability to sit still in a bathing-machine

"The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
Which it constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes —
A sentiment open to doubt.

Given : Only with one’s bathing-machine can one bathe properly and thoroughly.
Given : The divinely-ordained, absolute and ineffable perfection of any place cannot be achieved without a bathing-machine.
Ergo : Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Not a surprising sentiment coming from the pen of an English clergyman’s son but it is an accurate depiction of the Snark’s true character and motives? Read on, MacDuff …

Given : The Snark’s sentimental attachment to bathing-machines does nothing to improve the beauty of scenes.
Given : The Snark’s sentiments are open to doubt.
Ergo : When in doubt, do nothing.

A Fabian approach to the hunting of Snarks but will the poilu tolerate it? History warns us otherwise! Je me souviens Cannae …

Given : The utility of a bathing-machine lies solely in its property of not allowing an observer to know what is inside it.
Given : The Snark’s chief happiness is the transportation of its bathing-machine from one place to another.
Ergo : Ignorance is bliss.

And there you have it, another Clochetic validation of the platitudinous proverbs with which we usually stave off our lexical and cognitive horror vacui. I have illustrated all of the above palaver with another infamous platitude, one of the Comte de Lautrémont’s most infamous bromides: the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. I think the bathing machine lends a certain banality to the whole thing, don’t you? Even surrealism (and especially protosurrealism) has its sentimental, even hackneyed picture-postcard moments!

NB. The Poetry Foundation was kind enough to ask me to illustrate an essay on the "World’s Longest Poem". Thanks to the auspicious medium of the Internet, you will find that my illustration, the informative and witty essay and the genuinely long poem all form a seamless and truthful whole, a sphere of infinite circumference whose center is everywhere. You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fit Two, Pages 14 and 15 as a Spread … Que voyez-vous? Une snarque. De quelle couleur est cette snarque? Snarque.

Frodo had his Mordor, Batman had his Gotham City, J. Alfred Prufrock had his Floors of Silent Seas and I have … pages 14 and 15. But we are too far removed into our Hunt to retreat now and it is this I fear, that the elusive prey we seek may yet prove the end of me!

For it seems that the appearance of the Snark is always deferred somehow, always lurking on the very next page after whichever one you are reading right now. And when you have finished reading the very last page of this Snark, then I, the artist, and the author Lewis Carroll and the entire Fellowship of the Snark itself, we will softly and simply vanish away, leaving behind only you, the reader. Safely alone at last on the final page, you will turn away from the text and images and see yourself as you truly are, having fulfilled your destructive destiny — as the annihilating Boojum!

Don’t look so surprised, please, and no sudden movements, I’ve suspected you for some time now. It’s quite simple if you think it through, dear reader, the only logical solution to the Snark’s ever-retreating, ever-concealed identity is … you!

From whence come these paranoid thoughts? From a surfeit of the very blackest possible india ink? An overdose of Police Gazettes and Dr. Mabuse films? I know not … this snarkery is such a rum business, methinks I’ll need a whiskey-priest soon enough!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fit Two, Page 15, Panel 4 … belgium, man, belgium!

"The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun.

The story so far … the Snark stands accused of Bad Taste, Poor Timing and now — Humorlessness! The Bellman’s Indictment of the Snark seems to have shifted to the tactics of an inebriated heckler pestering a talentless Las Vegas stand-up comedian, not a pleasant scene at all for our Snark!

Yes, the Bellman’s caught our poor Snark doing his surrealist schtick in one of those postmodern, off-Strip venues and frankly, it hurts to watch him trying his luck with outdated material cribbed from old René Magritte routines … trying to to make the audience laugh by pulling their legs with his grave sort of puns … untranslatable from English to boot and his Belgian style of humor is so phlegmatic, one might even say flemish owing to his persistent coffin … but our Snark cracks wise one last time, that old protosurrealist chestnut about Madame Récamier owing Manet some Monet and when he comes to collect, she’s such a dead-beat that she stiffs him.

Looking grave, eh? Feeling distressed? The Snark … it is you …

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fit Two, Page 15, Panel 3 … tiffin at breakfasties

"Its habit of getting up late you'll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o'clock tea,
And dines on the following day.

The Bellman continues his Exposition of the Snark with a second accusation — Sloth!* We illustrate his text with this shameless, paranoiac-critical crib of Salvador "Avida Dollars" Dali. Dali’s paranoiac-critical method of picture-making (essentially a groovy sort of free-association delirium) is itself a shameless crib upon 20 centuries of artists lying on the sofa with their feet up and eyes shut in search of inspiration.

But beware the light of the Bellman’s magic lantern! Beware the paranoiac-critical method — it’s bad juju! Once you start using it, you can’t stop — gateway surrealism I call it! Image generating out of image, a maelstrom of vivid mental pictures at the very speed of thought itself, free-association finally run amuck while perceptual reality as we know it disintegrates in a chain reaction of infinite visual meanings — until you’re trapped, trapped in a causally frozen world in which one breakfasts at five-o’clock tea and literally thinks nothing of it!

We find our hapless Snark lost in this paranoiac-critical Ice Age (perhaps the evolutionary niche of the dreaded Boojum itself!), trapped in a world not of his own making! Within this glacial Lost World of the paranoiac-critical zone, it is only the persistence of memory which allows the Snark to find nourishment. Its primitive intellect swamped with the visual overload of everything-being-at-once, it will starve to death if it cannot remember to eat its supper, even if a day too late. It even carries on its person a railway watch (shown above) with which it plans its desperate, solitary meals.

And so … our Bellman confounds for Sloth what we now know to be Hunger! Come on, guv'nor, spare a kind thought for a ‘ungry Snark, eh? He’s not such a bad fellow after all … (cue orchestra) for when a Snark’s not engaged in his employment or maturing his felonious little plans, his capacity for innocent enjoyment is just as great as any honest man’s. Take one consideration with another, the Snark’s lot is not a happy one!

*It should be noted that the Bellman’s sermon upon this sin of Sloth is amplified with instances of Gluttony which are thematically derived from the Snark’s prior sin of Bad Taste. Whether the Bellman’s general exposition is a catalog of Sins (Snarkian lapses from its ideal state of nonexistential perfection) or of Elements (qualifications of the Snark’s non-qualifiable nonexistence) is for the more subtle reader to decide. The distinction is scholastic, and thus, genuinely protosurrealist. The final word on the sinful ontology of the Seven Deadly Elements might be Max Ernst’s masterpiece, A Week of Kindness. Like The Hunting of the Snark, Max Ernst’s personal composition upon this earth was finished before his decomposition, his birthday being this Wednesday, April 2nd and his deathday being April 1st. We tug on our ink-soaked forelocks in salute to Max Ernst, the Police Gazeteer of Surrealism!