Monday, May 30, 2011

Fit 6, Page 63, Panel 2 … I Love My Snark But Oh, You Kid!

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel …

And on the sixth Fit, the Barrister slept.

Played here by the notorious Continental philodopher, Martin Heidegger, (right Zeit up and left Sein down) the Barrister has been overwhelmed by the fumes of cheap plonk and the Beaver’s well-turned ankles and has sunk into a torpid sort of slumber upon the thickly inked lawn.

Our dear reader, who eschews cheap drink and chorus girls in favor of the headier vintages of Carrollian verse, will note that the Barrister has been furnished here with dreams in the plural. He or she will nod knowingly, perhaps even smugly, for every Carrollian worth their mustard and cress is cognizant of the Master’s mysterious penchant for dreams.

In fact, Lewis Carroll never met a novel or poem in which he didn’t feel obliged to stuff in the odd bit of dreamwork to move the plot along, and by providing the luckless Barrister with an multiplicity of dreams our poet may be betraying his own crypto-Hindu sympathies! Classical Hindu epistemology, bursting at the seams as it does with a nightmarish superfluity of dreams and illusions, all of ‘em nested one within the other, would have been pure catnip for the likes of Carroll.

This artist is aware that there are those amongst us who will object to the above theory, they might mutter darkly about a certain virulent strain of Neo-Platonism infecting Victorian England with which Carroll may have been infected, rather than some curry-inflected metaphysics hailing from god knows where.

Well, they can toss their Neo-Platonic influences into the dust bin as far as we’re concerned, for it’s Hinduism which has the real pukka goods on Runaway Idealism and this Floating Metadream We Call Life. Like the Red King in Through the Looking Glass, we are all of us, readers, artist, poet and Barrister, dreaming of one another and if we ever do wake up to find out what’s Real, well, what is Reality anyway, huh?

After mentally digesting all of this, the less tolerant DR will start things off by giving this over-heated illustrator a gentle boxing about the ears and a light touching up with a lead featherduster. They will then will reach for their Bradshaw of the Future (our preferred etymological opium den) and look pensive whilst they peruse the pedigree of the word "dream", a word which in Old English meant "joy" or even curiouser and curiouser, "music".

Tossing aside their Bradshaw with an insouciant pshaw, the less tolerant DR will then gird their loins and push their way past the more tolerant DR (still asleep and reeking of cheap plonk and ankles), towards the well-inked anthropomorphic forks afflicted with the Amorous Gigantism of Inanimate Objects, the Beaver’s size 9 chukka boots, the winged goblets and obligatory bar of soap, the Man-Ray-smiles and the cloth-headed judge-and-jury — all of ‘em merely a smokescreen for the 9-piece band ensconced in their band-shell in the background of this etymological-cum-epistemological mis-en-scene!

And what is this joyful music that our dream orchestra* is producing for the benefit of our dream Barrister? Is it the melodious warblings of some Hindustani songstress afflicted with a keening adenoidal distress? Is it the rock ‘n roll oompah-oompah of some hipster, Platonic cave-dwellers? To find out, dear readers, stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Hunting of the Snark!

*Our readers might even be more bewildered than usual to learn that this illustrator is personally afflicted with the rather enjoyable syndrome of musical dreaming; that for many years his dreams have been provided with a sort of involuntary cinematic soundtrack, not of his choosing although usually of a classical nature. Sometimes it's rubbish like the soundtrack to Mamma Mia, but this artist is the sort of high-minded fellow who thinks nothing of walking out of a bad film or dream.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fit 6, Page 63, Panel 1 … Cricklewood Snark Greens (Sugar the Snark)

The Hooded Utilitarian very kindly posted a eulogy I did for the late Jeffrey Catherine Jones, here. I remember poring over her work in the National Lampoon in the seventies, stunned and delighted that such things could happen on paper. Her run in Heavy Metal was equally daunting for a young wanna-be. Sic transit gloria …

Meanwhile … THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel …

Well, isn’t this jolly, all of us having our tiffin in this lovely English garden waiting for the sun, and if the sun don't come, we’ll get a tan from standing in the English rain. What a clever way with words these Brits have, always joking around and making light of the darkest (and wettest) situations. Here we are, in the very thing-um-a-jig of a Snark Hunt, crosshatching to the left of us, crosshatching to the right of us, and our merry lads have seen fit to burst forth into song, a semimelodious bit of Old English galdor reminiscent of the salad days of Aethelred the Unready and suchlike skaldic mumbo-jumbery.

All of which affords this illustrator a bit of artistic license sufficient to render a thimble, some forks, an esperant anchor, a smile and some soap, ie., five-sevenths of the afore-mentioned Snarkic prophylaxes. He’s also taken the liberty of laying on some cakes and ale (on an illustrator’s meager pittance of a moon and sixpence, no less!) and has even hired a band-cum-bandshell, all of which should provide sufficient innocent merriment for the B-Boyz and their Protosurrealist demimondaines, at least enough to show ‘em that this illustrator cares.

Naturally, this illustrative care increases our stanzel’s Combined Snarkic Prophylactic Level (CSPL) to six-sevenths …which fraction, when its numerator and denominator are multiplied, provides us with the number 42, a number mooted by some to be The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything in It.

Lewis Carro
ll thought enough of the number 42 to provide it with a comfortable home and small pension, way back in the Good Old Days of Fit the First. There are certain small-minded persons who will always look askance at such instances of numerophilia, they will mutter darkly of alphanumeric miscegenation and kabbalistic cabals and all that sort of thing which they suspect is always going on at parties like the one pictured above. Which is why those sort of people never get invited to this sort of party, huzzah!

And so, ladies and gentlemen and sundry weirdos, proclaims this illustrator as he sways drunkenly onto his feet, I propose a toast!

Let’s hear it for Lewis Carroll (tipsy shouts of hear, hear!) … the best Anglican maths-tutor-cum-nonsense-wallah Oxford ever produced (gurgled cries of approval emanating from a giant thimble full of wine) … a true friend of man and anaepest alike (slurred bleats of rhubarb-rhubarb, custard-custard) … and the most important Victorian poet to ever use the words railway-share! (exeunt all, with general bedlam light to variable).

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure-snark decree

I have to change the frequency of my blog postings, from now on I'll post once a week on Mondays, at least until I devise a system for earning more money by doing less work for less money.

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and here explained page by page, panel by panel. Today's posting is the frontispiece of Fit the Sixth, the so-called Dialectical-Materialism Fit …

With a nightmarish fanfare of snores and snorts, Fit the Sixth of Lewis Carroll’s cri-de-cœur, AKA The Hunting of the Snark, now heaves into view. This Fit is devoted to the Barrister's adventures and since he's depicted throughout my version of the Snark in the guise of Martin Heidegger, expect some snappy legal and ontological hijinks to ensue!

This page, a little number which I call The Barrister’s Dream, is an illustrative poke-in-the-snoot aimed squarely at the grand English tradition of Oneiric Verse, ie., such yawn-inducing showstoppers as the Dream of the Rood, Bill Blake’s Dream and Christina "Sister Wombat" Rossetti’s Dream Land.

The well-read reader, and perhaps even the ill-read reader, will note that in this Fit of his Snark, Carroll successfully introduced the nightmarish element of potential litigation into the English Dream Poem, thus bringing to light the adversarial relationship twixt Dreamer and Dream.

We all of us dream and yet none of us truly know why, nor, more to the point, what our dreams might mean. If this is not an apt metaphor for the relationship twixt the Average Citizen and the Law, I’m a frittered-cheese-wig! Hence, our need for barristers and all their jolly legal ilk cluttering the land, and hence we find that even whilst asleep, Carroll has seen fit to provide you, the d.r., with qualified legal assistance at affordable rates.

If you are so inclined, it might occur to you that the Entire Meaning of the Snark is a similar enigma, impervious to explanation save by employing the services of a picture-wallah such as my ever-so-‘umble self. It might even occur to you that my tactic of employing Martin Heidegger as our Snarkic Barrister bodes ill for any useful solution to any of the above questions. Heidegger was a notorious Teutonic chatterbox and utterly useless for any explanation more complex than obtaining the directions to the nearest washroom, in short, prime material for any barrister’s office wishing to pad their billable hours beyond all human endurance.

Alas, you are not so inclined. You are, like the Barrister Heidegger, comfortably reclined and fast asleep on company time, amazed by this Snark-hunter’s dream which we call life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A hard day's snark

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and here explained page by page, panel by panel. Today's panel is the last panel of page 59 and the last panel of the entire Fit the Fifth …

The preternaturally alert reader will instantly recognize the decor of this panel as a quintessentially English bit of inkery lifted whole from the Yellow Submarine, that snarkalicious confection crafted by Messers Dunnings, Coates, Edelmann et alia. Their Anglo-Canadian-Teutonic vision of the archetypical English garden party, Pepperland, is shown here being hijacked by a band of desperate Snark Hunters in need of shelter from the heavy weather of Fit the Fifth.

In truth, there is little to recommend in this Fit to anyone in need of some jollies to lighten the burden of another long day working for the Man and all that. F5, as some Snarkistanis dub it, is a place where there is a gnashing of teeth and a smiting of thighs in the very best tradition of the sadomasochistic hallucinations and delusions of St. Anthony and his Victorian spiritual descendants, those lecturers at certain educational institutions who were condemned to the spiritual tortures of instructing the Boschian progeny of the upper classes in all matters animal, vegetable and mineral.

As proof positive of all of the above, let us note that Lewis Carroll, a mild-mannered man noted for his personal gentleness, saw fit to end this Fit with a semi-Swiftian comment upon all of the above. This novel friendship between the Beaver and the Butcher is cemented not by the altruistic bonds of selfless love but by the grotesque imperatives of Fear and Loathing!

You old cynic, Mr. Carroll! You’ve been hobnobbing too much with that old boojum-lover Mr. C.L. Dodgson, whose years of teaching at Christ Church had taught him to regard his young charges as at worst, nasty, brutish and short, and at best, nasty, brutish and short from the right sort of families.

Which is why this illustrator thought it might brighten up the place a bit if we had a little bit of Pepperland and the Fab Four smuggled in to do the honors for the Jubjub’s Song which closes this Fit. Come on, Messers Dodgson and Carroll, it’s not as bad as all that, all you need is love!

Please note that I'll be posting on Mondays & Thursdays from now on. This snarkery is time-consuming!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The snarking of the hunt

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and here explained page by page, panel by panel. Today's panel is part of page 59, the final page of Fit the Fifth …

The attentive reader will notice that in this panel, as in the last two panels, we have been undergoing what specialists in this sort of thing call a Transition. Beginning with an ur-schoolroom redolent of the worst Boschian horrors that any academia could have on tap, we shifted into a theatrical backdrop, then flitted through a hasty visual flashback of various preceding Fits and now find ourselves in a pastoral sort of setting, evocative of an English garden party frequented by exactly the sort of Carrollian riffraff one always finds lurking about at such affairs.

Gosh! This Transformation business is mickle hard to pull off, it’s certainly easier for the likes of poets such as Lewis Carroll to shift quarters if they wish, it’s merely a question of them upending a spare thesaurus and rummaging about with a few new adjectives and suitable prepositions. For us picture-wallahs, it’s a whole different story! The extras have to be chosen and then costumed, the appropriate locales have to be researched and then reproduced at considerable expense, then there’s lighting and makeup, why, the catering alone is an logistical boojum!

In this case, we’ve arranged for some currently unemployed peons from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to serve drinks and snacks whilst the Fellowship of the Snark mill around in period costumes with various Protosurrealist floozies glued to their arms, all of ‘em muttering rhubarb-rhubarb-custard-custard to give it all that air of Carrollian verisimilitude.

Of course, in the Good Old Days they didn’t call it a Transition, it was a Metamorphosis back then and it was all the rage in pre-Christian circles. You couldn’t go outside for the morning paper without bumping into someone’s teenaged daughter bursting into foliage or regressing into a giant spider; such goings-on were pure catnip for the poets of that time and I think it’s safe to say that the advent of monotheism put the kibosh on a considerable source of innocent merriment for both gods and mortals.

All of which brings us to the semi-belated point that in some subliminal manner, Lewis Carroll’s High Anglican penchant for Nonsense verse is really the sneaky pagan’s taste for Metamorphosis resurgent in the usually sacrosanct domain of Logic and Semiotics! As always, I’ll eschew further elaboration of this particular observation out of respect for the sausage-stuffing-phobia of any decent reader towards such crypto-Bismarckian literary goings-ons.

I shall confine myself to remarking that Metamorphosis is a fine thing, a double-plus-fine thing to liven up any bit of illustration or verse you might have handy; perhaps the Beaver and Butcher’s unexpected metamorphosis into the very best of friends is just the sort of versification needed to bring back the salad days of wine, women and Pagan Nonsense …

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zoot Snark Allures

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and here explained page by page, panel by panel. Today's panel is page 59, nearing the end of Fit the Fifth …

May we conjecture that in this melodramatic passage of verse (redolent of Tennyson’s more sentimental confections) the poet Lewis Carroll is performing some sort of prosodic sleight-of-hand meant to encapsulate into a very nutshell, as it were, the entire gamut of stormy passions and turgid pleasures which we lesser folk call Married Life?

The fool-suckling and small-beer-chronicling of married life was unknown to Carroll personally. However his friend C.L. Dodgson seems to have known something about the Vast Mystery of Connubial and Familial Bliss in a second-hand sort of manner and probably let Carroll in on the joke, so to speak.

The true-life confessions of the Beaver are spicy stuff indeed, by Victorian standards! Her bitter observation that looks are always more eloquent even than tears is a clear reference to the Eternal Dilemma of the weeping, middle-aged woman confronting the illicitly toothsome paramour of her caddishly retro-adolescent-spouse.

The Bellman’s fleeting emasculation is a proto-Freudian dig (or even a snigger, I’m not quite sure) at thing-um-a-jig and perhaps even what-you-may-call-um, pretty strong stuff indeed for a commoner’s garden variety Snark Hunt and better left to the plain-brown-wrapper crowd who frequent the less-reputable purlieus of English verse!

There’s also some versical bits and pieces hinting at the Disconsolation of Books, the Inevitable Patching It Up for the Sake of the Kids and even a bit of emotional doubletalk on the Bellman’s part, solely for the purposes of smoothing things over for his pal the Butcher, who remains conveniently silent throughout this whole cringe-inducing, Mills & Boon production.

All in all, it’s a pretty sordid low point in this Snark and perhaps even in this artist’s ongoing commentary upon the same. Sure, I’ve dressed it all up with a nice picture and some fancy music-hall-type crosstalk of a pseudo-intellectual bent but deep underneath it all, it’s all really quite shallow. Wearisome days, indeed, eh?

Monday, May 2, 2011

I saw the best snarks of my generation destroyed by madness

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about my previous rant concerning cross-hatching. I plan more rants as soon as my medication runs low again. It's somewhat ironic because my GN version of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (which we are explicating here, panel by panel) is mostly hatching, not cross hatching. More on that later …

Please note that I'm posting every third day (occasionally skipping weekends) for there's a lot on my drawing board … some neat Alician stuff for Byron Sewell and Michael Everson, more Satanica, some steampunk, some Candide, some Shakuntala (the latter is especially cool but really time-consuming) …

… in the meantime, here's a clever bit of Snarkplication, Fit the Fifth, page 58, panel 1, in which the Butcher and the Beaver are hatching a friendship …

Friendship is, of course, a double-edged sort of business, the very sort of tricksy fritter-my-wig-thingum-a-jig that Messers Lewis Carroll and C.L. Dodgson must have pondered over quite a bit in the course of their own long and fruitful association.

The attentive reader (is there any other?) will remember my own reasons for emasculating the Beaver, and I think that this very stanzel is proof positive of the aesthetic rightness (or is it righteousness?) of that long-ago, fateful decision on my part.

And so, we see here the Beaver and Butcher heaving into view with their freshly-minted friendship in tow. Needless to say, the friendship of the Butcher will prove a heavy burden for the luckless Beaver. The former’s penchant for looking the part of an incredible dunce, as evidenced in his just-concluded, semi-interminable monologue upon all things Jubjub, will weigh heavily upon the Beaver’s sensitive soul.

May we conjecture that Carroll might have had the same private misgivings concerning his rather leechlike pal, Dodgson? The basic principles of Prosodic Forensics may apply here, my dear Watson, when one bears in mind that once one has removed the impossible from whatever verse one is studying, whatever one is left with, however improbably, is the logical solution.

The Butcher’s poetic modus operandi is painfully obvious: dunderheaded obliviousness to all things outside his realm of expertise, a compulsion to lecture strangers ad infinitum, etc. Such a description is, as some of us are painfully aware, the very epitome of the college lecturer, of which C.L. Dodgson was a prime example.

The Beaver’s versical activities in the last Five Fits have been limited solely to making lace and saving the entire crew from wreck. The former activity is utterly frivolous, as is versifying in general, and the latter activity is nothing less than an oblique reference to her skill in composing galdors, those Celtic verse charms used in pagan times to protect the common folk from evil through the application of some mysterious, verbal magic unknown to the layman!

The attentive reader should promptly compare the above description to Lewis Carroll, and finding that it’s a perfect match, brandish their regulation Scotland Yard handcuffs, then secure the guilty party and march him off to the station to take his statement, the villain!

And while you’re at it, Sergeant, cuff that Dodgson wallah, he was probably in on it with Carroll, the two of ‘em are inseparable friends, don’t you know. We’ll soon have at least one of ‘em singing like a canary, probably till the next day, I’m afraid.