Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fit the Fifth, general musings … snark’d in the dead letter office

Drawing pretty pictures and coming up with snappy verses is — like life itself — often wasted upon both the living and so we shall classify Fit the Fifth as a sterling example of post-mortem and post-modern plot profluence in The Hunting of the Snark.

The godotian author we are forever searching for, Lewis Carroll, was a pioneering practitioner of the so-called Kübler-Ross school of verse and prosemongering: denial of authorial omniscience, anger towards literary hucksterism, bargaining with obdurate illustrators, depression of certain readers’ expectations and finally, acceptance of critical misunderstanding.

Of course, Carroll’s current authorial stance of being dead (or as Foucault et alia would have it, his being an Author Nonfunction) allows us to promote him from a mere garden-variety Eminent Victorian to a certified Artful Dodger. And since dead authors tell no tales, as certain literary pirates claim, we must rely on other, more vivacious ink-stained wretches if we wish to carry on the Snarkistic canon.

Luckily for us, the antipodean Peter Wesley-Smith saw fit to hoist that very petard with his own poetic sequel several years ago, the aptly-named The Hunting of the Snark: Second Expedition, An Ecstasy in Eight Fits and Starts. Ably assisted by the illustrator Paul Stanish, Wesley-Smith saw fit to promote his Snarquistadores from the B-list to the C-list, to wit : Candlestick Maker, Cartographer, Cuckoo, Cardinal Crocodile, Conductor, Composer, Comprador and Contralto.

All of the above were inserted neatly into the empty boots of the Carrollian Snarquistadores, empty since Wesley-Smith took fiendish delight in quickly disposing of the latter in various cunning ways, including but not limited to drowning, necro-narcolepsies, death-by-Jubjub, etc. Once the poet had installed his own cabal in place of Carroll's B-Boyz, a Biblically-proportioned plague of puns and word-plays was then visited upon this new crew with highly enjoyable results. As luck would have it, their own Snark was not a Boojum but rather a snuffling, sniffling roly-poly sort of mentally well-adjusted thing. I won't spoil the ending except to note that Wesley-Smith varies the traditional Carrollian ending by only two letters, a mere orthographical trifle rendering his finale safe for all the kiddies and even Hollywood! In fact, there is throughout the entire splendid production a faint, yet very agreeable whiff of W.S. Gilbert or even Edward Lear perhaps, an undercurrent of an uncomplicated happiness which is ever so slightly amiss in Carroll’s epic. Of course, Carroll being dead does preclude him from being too happy about the whole thing, or as Wesley-Smith puts it in his description of his Cardinal’s demise at the hands of the gregofulous Grumps:

The beast showed restrain but the priest made a feint
As he followed some Heavenly plan
And collapsed to his knees; he had lived like a saint
But he lay down and died like a man.

Yes indeed, these enjambed anapests are strong juju for the postmortem smart set! No matter, our dear Mister Carroll remains unscathed (as always!) but I fear for this Cardinal’s sainthood, now revealed as just another dead sinner revised and edited!

NB. Anyone wishing a copy of Peter Wesley-Smith's Snark should write directly to him at peterws at shoalhaven dot net dot au. There's still a limited number of copies available and they might even be free or with a minimal shipping charge. You won't be disappointed!

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