Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Fit Three, Page 22, Panel 2 … Boojum! Boojum! burning bright in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
"I engage with the Snark — every night after dark —
In a dreamy delirious fight:
I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
And I use it for striking a light:
The Eminent Victorian Mr. Lewis Carroll well understood the human condition! The difference twixt nonsense and tragedy is but a hairsbreadth at best. Observe the above pictolinguistic Snarkglyph. A certain baker, a maker of cakes and pastries, suffers from nightmares — possibly the result of over-eating his products — which he combats with healthful salads and the nocturnal illumination of phosphorus matches. So far, so good, an eminently plausible scenario without the least taste of Nonsense about it. In fact, it is a commendably sober and salubrious cautionary verse upon the dangers of gluttony!
And yet …
These nocturnal adversaries of which our pistorian hero complains so mightily, these things that go bump in the night, these incubi, night hags and other mares that sit upon one’s chest and pose so stylishly for certain other artists, well, that’s all very well for the likes of the Talented Mister Fuseli, but here at Chez Snark we have simpler tastes perforce — economy is our watchword! Even nightmares cost time and money! Let Messers Ernst and Holiday squander jeroboams of ink and hogsheads of paper upon their champagne-soaked renditions of the Baker’s Dream of the Snark — I cannot!
With a meager drop or two of ink (2nd-grade-fresh, alas, which makes my throat hurt so) and a few scraps of pentimenti (Chianti-stained and still reeking of garlic) I lie upon my tatty charpoy, with both pen and Assamese nautch-girl in my feeble hand and draw, as best as I can, the simple rudiments of the Baker’s Nightmare, that grim Adversary with which he struggles night after night.
I ink a hard-won fork here, pencil in a desperately-needed matchstick there … the simple yet telling domestic detail of the wardrobe drawing nearer … render the Baker’s tear-stained, tattered leaf of Boston lettuce with which he keeps at bay the nocturnal chill … perhaps I even shed a tear into my tumbler of single-malt as I labor but no matter (no one can hear you weep in a modern, soundproofed garret anyway) … for that is the task I have taken upon myself, to draw things just as I see ‘em … and that is the nature of real Tragedy! — to engage with the Snark, every night and every day — on spec …
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"It is this, it is this — " "We have had that before!"
The Bellman indignantly said.
And the Baker replied "Let me say it once more.
It is this, it is this that I dread!
Gosh! This Baker-cum-Lewis-Carroll-wallah really does go on and on about Boojums. Of course, we all know how unwelcome they are and what havoc they can wreak on priceless family heirlooms like forks and hope, but methinks the Baker doth protest too much!
Yes, yes, yes, we’ve heard all of this before, a Boojum is a dreadful thing to contemplate, a Boojum fluoridated my drinking water and a Boojum tampered with my automobile’s brakes … but has the Baker ever gone mano a mano with a teenage daughter? Has the Baker any idea what it is to roll up one’s sleeves and decervellage an American atheist? Has the Baker never crossed swords with a sharp-witted Englishman forced to squander his life and considerable talents as a mere maths tutor whilst blathering absolute nonsense to his young, boojum-like charges?
As for me, pshaw to all that! Yeah, mister, I’m a tough guy! I snap my inky fingers at ‘em, these pesky Boojums, they are but a trifle compared to coming up with some nice, snappy copy for each and every line of The Hunting of the Snark … week after week … year after year … stanza after stanza … panel after panel … oh, god, it is this, it is this that I dread!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Of course, we all know that paranoia is the distilled essence of our postlapsarian times, simply observe this page spread heaped high with its visually corrosive effluvia. We pride ourselves on our supposed ownership of paranoia, the quintessential modernist food additive, the favorite poison of Franz Kafka and Bruce Wayne alike, but such is not the case. We, who live in an era which will eventually be considered the final perfection of the very concept of an ancien regime, must admit that paranoia was also a favorite condiment on Victorian drawing tables.
The Baker, whom we have conclusively demonstrated to be a pistorian doppelganger of Lewis Carroll, has spent these entire two pages wringing his hands in a semi-subjunctive funk over the menace of Boojums. He sees Boojums in his salad, he sees Boojums in his railway carriage, he sees ‘em in his soap dish and he sees ‘em in his sewing kit. Oddly enough, the one place where the Baker never sees Boojums is in the here and now and it is this very suspense which oppresses our souls! Suspense and paranoia, the perfect Victorian bogeymen, nay, Boojums! It was Lewis Carroll’s master stroke to introduce paranoia, dread, fear and loathing into English nonsense verse, into the very inner sanctum of Jolly Olde Escapism but there you have it. Facts are facts, however unpleasant!
I usually pepper my remarks with links to pertinent illustrations and quotations but I dare not this week … I think someone … or something is following me … trying to catch me unawares … mustn’t furnish ‘em with a cybernetic trail to my underground bunker. Remember, trust no one … there are Boojums in the woodpile!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
" 'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!'
"It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
When I think of my uncle's last words:
And my heart is like nothing so much as a bowl
Brimming over with quivering curds!
The crossing of international frontiers whilst engaged in the hot pursuit of a Snark is no excuse for scofflawyery or other antisocialism. We see here a young Surrey fellaheen, a Baker-disguised-as-Lewis-Carroll by trade, who is preparing his claim for refugee status on the grounds of Boojum persecution. Rendered supine by his well-documented apprehension of meeting a Boojum through no fault of his own, he remains a-bed to conserve precious forensic evidence, ie. decervellage and involuntary dairy-product substitution of major organs. His parents bid him a tearful, wooden goodbye. His uncle, a Major General doubling in the role of Psychopomp-cum-coyote (thus saving this artist considerable ink and labor), carefully peruses a Customs and Border Protection Declaration Form …
1. Declare all fetishes, such as smiles, soap, forks, etc., that you might have on your person for the purpose of hunting Snarks. Please have them unpacked and ready for inspection upon your arrival. The time for observation is limited and we mustn’t hold up others!
2. Notify the authorities if you are approached by anyone offering to distort the relative proportions of your surroundings. Any illicit trafficking in the amorous gigantism of the inanimate world, whether voluntary or not, may cause permanent semiotic confusion.
3. Please stay in line. Running into another line, or enjambment, might cause injury, disfigurement or even loss of life and limb. All lines should be end-stopped and masculine rhymed as befits true English nonsense.
And to where is our Baker emigrating, you might ask? Perhaps, like the late, great Hedly Lamarr, he is fleeing this poem for another, hailing a hansom cab (with ugly driver) and demanding to be taken out of this stanza to a less paranoid quatrain … where your wretched refuseniks of tired masses huddle to be free, tally ho!