Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to get ahead in Snark Hunting without really trying



After much delay, probably intended to elicit sensations of apprehension and excitement on someone’s trembling, custardy part, we are confronted at last with the true identity of the final member of The Hunting of the Snark — it is the Baker!

You can refer to the several proceeding weeks’ postings to see how this artist has chosen the cunning strategy of depicting the Baker as Lewis Carroll himself. In this week’s stanzel, you can ponder further the zen-like what-you-may-call-um ramifications of this conflation of both hero and poet into one giant, power-packed specimen of Jolly Old English Eccentricity.

On board the HMS Snark, seen above steaming at half-mad-speed-ahead, there is a total absence of that which the Baker needs to be a Baker. This ontological dilemma would seem to put our hero on the unemployment line tout de suite in today’s modern globalized business environment but it appears that the Bellman, being half-mad (or half-sane, but not simultaneously) will overlook this little detail in his Snark-Hunting applicant’s work history.

In doing so, the Bellman is merely obeying the Peter Principle, that axiom of business management which so many freshly-minted MBAs laugh at when they first enter the working world, and then dine off for the rest of their surprisingly successful careers.

Needless to say, the fact that we’ve chosen Lewis Carroll as the Human Face of the Baker (an oddly Prague-Springish turn of phrase best kept in check for now) is a crushing indictment of the Venerable Carroll’s fictional hiring practices. In fact, to those of us who believe that each of the Snark Hunters combined represents the totality of Carroll himself, the Baker’s dundering ways are the final straw. As the hero of the epic, and a tragic hero too, mind you, one expects a certain stiff upper lip and a bit of manly competence from the Baker, and frankly, what we have here is a sort of anapaestic Bertie Wooster let loose in a floating patisserie. All that is lacking is Aunt Agatha wrinkling her nose at the Baker as if he were a drain that had got out of order.

This parodic reversal of one of the most elemental tropes of epic poetry is a perfect example of the Peter Principle rearing its well-fed head once again. Even in prosody, the most patently unfit character will inevitably stumble upwards into the role of Number One Hero. Certain Carrollian Illuminati will nod knowingly at all this, for have they not seen the Petric Mojo of the entire corpus of Carrolian Nonsense itself inexorably shove aside and supplant Demotic Commonsense in all fields of modern life? The very fact that parsing the above bit of blovation is beyond the cognitive skills of your current employer is double-plus-proof positive!

But of course, dear reader, you understand all of the above perfectly! Yes, you get it and as you slave away in your Dickensian cubicle whilst your boss reads aloud the newspaper funny pages in the men’s room, you can munch on a bit of mostly non-existent Bridecake and have a chuckle at the expense of the Bellmen and Bakers who run our lives, god bless ‘em.

You might even consider the on-going project of Life, the Universe and Everything In It as a sterling example of the Peter Principle on a cosmological scale, if you were so inclined. But that would be half-mad, wouldn't it?