Monday, August 20, 2012

Bartleby the Sniveler

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late —
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad —

He could only bake Bridecake — for which, I may state,

No materials were to be had.


Overheard by our foreign correspondent whilst loitering in the Immigration and Customs queue boarding the HMS Snark :

Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any personal articles of clothing which you are taking aboard?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Have you any luggage or packages which you are taking aboard?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Can you state your own name?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Can you make bridecake?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: Do you not know whether you can make bridecake or are you simply unable to procure the materials to do so?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.
Immigration and Customs Officer: (in a heated manner while vigorously waving his arms at the HMS Snark) But confound it all, sir, what does all this mean?
A Baker resembling Lewis Carroll: I don't know.

Note that the Baker consistently eschews the binary either-or of conventional logic upon which his interlocutor is depending, resorting instead to the triunary-based logic of "I don't know". We have already seen how the principle of threes supersedes all other logical statements (what I tell you three times is true) aboard the HMS Snark. Thus, the Baker disposes of the boojum of binary Marxist dialectical materialism, its frumious one-two is slain by his manxome one-two-three! Huzzah! The vorpal blade of the trinitarian Snarkist trialectic immaterialism goes snicker-snack! Oh, there's a PhD dissertation somewhere in all of this, my beamish boys and girls — oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

In the meantime our correspondent had fled the scene and was unable to record any more of what transpired. She had observed that this exasperated public official was being approached now by the pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn figure of Bartleby the Scrivener — a signal for general bedlam to ensue, huzzah again!

NB. If you ever had to deal with a real Bartleby in either your professional or private life, you will agree with me when I say that there's nothing particularly profound, nor artistic, nor even bathetic in such people. Slack-jawed loafers, I call 'em.