Thursday, February 4, 2010

Where there is happiness, there is found snarkish pleasure in nonsense

We continue with our introduction and explication of the Snark's Dramatis Personae with this week's specimen … the Maker of Bonnets and Hoods, or as he's known to the authorities, the Bonnet. Curiously, this character is given almost nothing to do in the epic, except for a brief episode in Fit the Fourth where he allows someone to chalk the tip of his nose. Other than that, not a peep, which poses obvious problems for an illustrator trying to flesh out this nonentity.

One might even say that the Bonnet poses us an existentialist problem, perhaps even a protoexistentialist problem of sorts. Luckily, the persona of Friedrich Nietzsche, the notorious Continental steamer, was available on short notice and we gladly inducted him into our Fellowship of the Snark, moustache and all.

We see him above, as he appears in Fit the Second of our version of The Hunting of the Snark, leering at the HMS Snark in a nautical manner. I think he looks rather fetching in his big bonnet, don't you?

No doubt the more well-heeled aficionados of Lewis Carroll, and Western Civ in general, are having a quick apopleptic fit upon seeing all of this. Why, they wonder aloud over their breakfast scotch-and-cornflakes, did this artist feel it necessary to clothe the persona of the Bonnet-Maker in the fleshly lineaments of the Prussian demiexistentialist Nietzsche?

Was it the leather, the machismo, the whips and such-like that Nietzsche was wont to bandy about when talking of women, a bandying which he not only spoke of in print but would even indulge in personally right in front of a camera operated by — yow! — a man named Bonnet?

And so … have we hoisted Nietzche upon his very own petard here, a petard which the philosopher had himself loaded with the scattershot observation that there are no facts, only interpretations? Have we stooped so low that we must rely upon the flimsiest of nominal accidents to populate our Hunting of the Snark?

Or is it just a petty bit of passive-aggressive revenge by an inkster who still suffers from debilitating bouts of Post-University-Philosophy-Course-Syndrome, an illness which can only be controlled by long-term exposure to Carrollian Nonsense and in severe cases, repeated applications of Three Stooges shorts?

In short, there’s nothing going on here at all, folks, just a guy with a moustache wearing women’s clothes, a guy who knows that to become what one is, one must not have the faintest idea what one is.


A propos of nothing else, I’m very pleased that MobyLives is peeking into the Carrollian goings-ons around here and I’d like to return the compliment by commenting upon an issue which they’re covering far better than most far-better-funded media outlets: the various machinations of certain American businessmen to corner the North American book trade.

Amazon’s deactivation of Macmillan’s buy-buttons is just the latest round in an old, old story: how to monopolize and thus fully monetize information. The byzantine nuances of this struggle over e-book pricing are better summarized by MobyLives; I will add my own two cents by adding that the e-book is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.

Yes, it has certain advantages which are not to be sniffed at but he printed book has itself almost perfectly evolved after several millennia to far better suit our optical and financial constraints; the e-book exists mostly to create a proprietary and pre-monetized system of reading.

The e-book reminds me of the essential fact of the American newspaper industry: the newspaper and its contents were secondary, what was critical was that the subscriber let the newspaper install a tube on their property which only they could legally use. The tubes were serviced by minimum-wage peons who fought like junkyard dogs to keep out penny-mailers and competing papers. The e-book will do the same thing, it will make the consumer give away his right of access. Heck, the e-book is even brassier, the consumer will pay the provider to take away his freedom of choice. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

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