Monday, March 19, 2012

Fit 8, pg. 81/2 … The Origin of Snark in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind



Well, isn't this jolly? The Baker's vanished at last, leaving his fellow Snarquistadores in their usual state of slack-jawed bafflement. The assiduous illustrator has little left to work with in this cryptic stanzel — German Snarkologists call it the "Unheimliche-Jumpunkt" — except for a wandering sigh disguised as a passing breeze better known to the authorities as "Jum."

The illustrator's task is not made any easier by the general ambience of fruity-headed lunacy which saturates the entire poem and renders all such illustrative chores, well, choreful indeed. Try drawing a breeze in these drearily monotheistic times, when the zephyrean and borean puffy-cheeked gods which once provided hot and cold running air to the art-loving masses are relegated to wine labels and New Age tattooes.

As for the wandering sighs, they are but a consonant away from the Wandering Singhs, a subspecies of sticky-fingered North Indian circus folk with a penchant for small change and unattached nautch girls, ie., not only un-drawable but all-in-all unfit for genteel Carrollian society.

Which leaves us with a visual and even moral problem: in a world which lacks clear-cut visual solutions to most such questions, what's a young artist to do? Luckily for us, a contemporary acquaintance of the Admirable Carroll, the photographer Oscar Rejlander, once confronted that very same problem.


Oscar Gustave Rejlander, “Two Ways of Life”

His solution was an epic montage photograph, “Two Ways of Life," which depicted a generic specimen of Modern Victorian Youth confronted with a choice between Evil (naked party chicks brandishing fulsome jeroboams of French plonk) and Good (fully dressed college co-eds armed with deadly dull social and moral compasses). Tough choice, eh?

After a bit of gentle persuasion involving the traditional lead-weighted feather duster, this illustrator persuaded the Fellowship of the Snark to step into Rejlander's tableau vivant and pose for the stanzel in question. The subtle moral and factual questions posed by Carroll's verse are now neatly translated into a clever post-post-Modern, crypto-Victorian meditation upon whatever it was that the verse was about.

And just what is this verse about? It's about choosing between a wandering sigh and a passing breeze in the Carrollian Multiverse's police line-up of suspected villains, between saying "jum" or merely maintaining an awkward silence … the two ways of the Nonsensical Life!