Sunday, August 29, 2010

There go the ships: there is that Snark, whom thou hast made to play therein

The HMS Snark, silently proceeding at full speed, has just narrowly avoided a collision with a gigantic avatar of the Prussian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, cunningly disguised here as the Bonnet Maker in the Hunting of the Snark.

Let this be a warning to all those Snarkistadores who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great nonsense: keep a sharp eye out for the wonders of the deep, in particular the to and fro reeling and writhing of Continental philosophers with a penchant for cross dressing and cross hatching.

Thanks, Will!
Will Schofield has been kind enough to do a profusely illustrated posting about some of my projects at his wonderful bibliophile's blog, A Journey Round My Skull. It's all good clean fun, and it makes me realize just how much illustrating of verse I've been doing for the last few years. What a novel and even more penurious niche for an illustrator to stake out for himself … poetry! What's next for me, I wonder, in my rapid descent into the nether regions of unprofitability … stay tuned — you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Snarkness at Noon

Max Muller once called mythology the disease of language, in which case this wordless picture of the HMS Snark making way off Snark Island is safely myth free … for now …

Of course, myth is the mother of religion and we all know that a pure heart (and not a Socratic smarty-pants-unexamined-life-blah-blah-blah) is the sole requirement for the proper enjoyment of religion and so we can safely assume that a pure heart and a certain mangling of language go hand in hand.

The natives of Snark Island seen here are busy at their mute pastime of creating immense pictures which almost, but not entirely, fail to resemble reality. They eschew the noisy double-talk of the pure-hearted for they are a rascally band of epistemological purists whom this heathen artist has mythologized with this inky pictogram of lines, dots and squiggles, all of it a sound and fury signifying nothing.

Manhattan Repertory Theatre's Snark Update …
Here’s more information concerning this September’s performance of the Snark in NYC. It appears that Kate Dickinson, the founder of Snark Productions, likes to celebrate her birthday by reading Nonsense verse, which seems an honest way of marking the inevitable passage of one’s time into entropy and oblivion.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The jungle boojum

More aspersions casually flung at our beloved Bellman by an increasingly grumpy 3rd-person omniscient narrator who is better known around these parts as the Admirable Carroll.

This whole business of east and west is a mere bagatelle, unworthy of a poet bent upon the construction of a Snarkian Multiverse meant to rival the mightiest empires yet known to mankind.

As usual, that pukka Imperial sahib Rudyard Kipling put it best in his own verse:

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet …

Kipling obviously did not care for the Snark (he claimed that it made his throat hurt) and his dismissive attitude must itself be dismissed. This double dismissal will suffice for now, Kipling sahib, but we’ve got our eye on you … any more of these anti-Clochetic sentiments and we’ll send round a madly gyrating Assamese nautch girl to put you in your place, lest you forget!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mad Max Beyond the Snarkodome

The Bellman’s seamanship was much disparaged by Sir David Beatty at the Battle of Jutland, when he remarked that there was something bloody wrong with our ships today.

Alas, to what depths had Great Britain sunk to when its ships were put to sea with men such as the Bellman at the bridge! Such was the inevitable decay of empire, especially an empire beset by the seductive sea sirens of Nonsense …

The snarking of a ship is not a pretty sight and it is no wonder that certain German artists, themselves veterans of the Great War, were still haunted by the sight many years afterwards … and so, this Indo-Germanic artist continues their oedipal tradition of poking oneself in the eyes with a bit of sharp maritime cross-hatching.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

French Snark

We will deviate somewhat from the Way of the Snark to further pursue our avian vein with these rhymes from Jean de La Fontaine and his Selected Fables …

Sir Crow and the Fox (I; 2)

Sir Crow made merry in his tree
a festive cheese twixt his beak
Sir Crow made sport for Fox to see
and beg hungry leave to speak:

« god save your ravenous grace
god save your handsome face
if only your honor’s proper voice
could match your feathered poise
and confirm you a melodic god in disguise. »

at which Sir Crow first smiles, then sighs
then clears his crowy throat and tries
a slow crawling trill
of avian mal canto till
cheese from beak must spill
for poor Fox to gobble up and say:

« sirrah, learn how flatterers prey
we dine on those who lend us ear …
an alimentary lesson costs you dear. »
sans cheese sans pride Sir Crow swears too late
nevermore swallow flatterers’ foxy bait

Le Corbeau et le Renard

Maître corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître renard par l’odeur alléché ,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
«Et bonjour Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli! que vous me semblez beau!
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois»
A ces mots le corbeau ne se sent pas de joie;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec laisse tomber sa proie.
Le renard s’en saisit et dit :
« Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage sans doute. »
Le corbeau honteux et confus
Jura mais un peu tard , qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Bellman Always Rings 42 Times

We see here a striking example of how Lewis Carroll used his Hunting of the Snark to foreshadow many of the significant scientific advances of the Victorian era. This stunning example of an x-ray of the Bellman’s head is not only a vivid drawing of a fax of a xerox of a sodden cocktail napkin of an x-ray of a genuine bird brain; it is also quite a poke in the eye of a certain Herr Wilhelm Röntgen.

The latter had claimed to invent the x-ray in 1895, without ever acknowledging Carroll’s groundbreaking contributions to the nascent science of looking through opaque objects to find nothing in particular within them.

Later researchers would further refine this technology until it became possible, by the 1920s, for aviocervellians such as Martin Heidegger (better known to Snarquistas as the Barrister) to find Nothing hidden everywhere.

Of course, the Bellman knew that all along, you can tell by the self-satisfied, smug look on his face … can’t you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I’ll be your Georgia peach if you’ll be my Tennessee snark

I must confess that this panel, the frontispiece to Fit the Second, is one of my favorites in the entire comix, for the simple reason that it utterly disproves Thomas Aquinas’ mean-spirited assertion that dogs have no souls.

They do indeed and here is the proof positive. This dog is plainly the sole dog of Snark Island and as such, blessed with the same homophonic dispensation as his master’s speech whose fruity tones entrance him so.

Attention Manhattanites — A Snarkian Call!
The Manhattan Repertory Theatre is putting on a production of the Snark this fall and has put out a casting call, details here. This sounds like a rare opportunity to put your Snark-jones to a proper thespian use. Of course, we all know about that quaint British actors' tradition which forbids the mention of the word Snark off-stage, but Manhattanites are a resourceful tribe and will pooh-pooh any heavy vibes emanating from the Sottish Play.

It's Official — this is the Summer of Snark!
The semi-mysterious McNeff film of the Snark seems to be surfacing, laboriously yet assuredly, from its bathing machine into the light of day … the poster is here and it looks good! Thanks to Goetz for bringing our attention to this, MacNeff himself seems hard to reach.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

They that go down to the sea in snarks …

As we drift through the dog days of summer, let us close our eyes, relax and float downstream aboard the HMS Snark, the very same Boojum-destined ship upon which Marlow searched for his personal boojum, Mistuh Kurtz … aboard which Don Aguirre searched for the boojum of El Dorado and Senor Brian Sweeney Fitzcarraldo searched for the boojum of his opera house … and upon which Rimbaud searched for the drinks trolley before it became entangled in the eyes of panthers in the skins of men …

Thursday, August 5, 2010

All you need is snark

Gosh, there seems to be nothing on the TV but re-runs this summer …

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!

Over at Bradshaw of the Future, the etymology of the Snark has once again reared up its translucent head! John notes that certain otherwise respectable dictionaries trace the derivation to a portmanteau of snail and shark; the entire theory being further traced to Beatrice Hatch's remarks in the Strand Magazine (April 1898, pgs 413-423, as referenced in Gardner's Snark).

But John, very sensibly, refuses to let the matter rest there … is there no better source for this, preferably from the Admirable Carroll's very own pen? Any snarkologists in possession of the full facts (come on, Byron … Doug?) are urged to contact BOTF and put the matter to rest. For me, the theory has always been a mere excuse for some of my usual inkery-pokery … I think Doug Howick's snark'd warrior long ago made this etymology a bit suspect.

I've never read any other reference to Carroll mentioning that particular portmanteau except Gardner's and my own bound copies of the entire Strand for that year were pilfered long ago … curse those rural Virginia steampunks!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Snark and antisnark

Owing to deadlines and a general sense of laziness masquerading as fritter-my-wig, we present you with a reprise exegesis of the following panel from 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 Christ Church could have on tap, we shifted into a theatrical backdrop of sorts, 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 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 …