Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fit the Fourth, Page 27, Panel 4 … locus snarquus

The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
A novel arrangement of bows:
While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
Was chalking the tip of his nose.

What a jolly Christmas treat we have for you, dear reader! A hearty quatrain of Lewis Carroll’s finest Snark vintage embellished with a festive pattern of squiggles, lines and dots which correspond to a semi-hallucinatory circus vision of Friedrich Nietzsche masquerading as a Bonnet-Maker while the Second-Greatest-French-Novelist-Ever, Raymond Roussel, exerts himself as a Billiard-Marker and dares to chalk the Prussian’s nose.

Quite a mouthful, especially when one is chewing over one’s rum-soaked Christmas plum pudding and mincemeat pie, prior to tucking into a restorative nap upon the family charpoy whilst the household domestics busy themselves with preparing the immense urns of thickly-sweet, syrupy hot tea with which they must lustrate you upon awakening.

But so be it! The lower classes will have their little jokes at one’s expense, it is the Way of Saturnalia and all of it jolly good fun. We have already had a laugh at Nietzsche’s expense, exposing the risible connection between himself and all things Bonnet, and quite frankly, the very words "Prussian philosopher" can provide sufficient innocent merriment for anyone's purposes.

As for the Billiard-Marker Raymond Roussel, it is his destiny here to powder the Nietzsche’s nose for all eternity, both of them suspended high above the circus audience, plummeting towards the earth at a frightening velocity. Roussel maintains his Gallic sang-froid with his customary grace. In fact, it may truly be said that after an initial, youthful setback, no earthly mishap or reversal ever again disturbed his composure or determination to write the Great French Novel!

To every young person who genuinely burns with a desire to make Art I say — look to Roussel! Look to him who, when asked what he thought of the Great War, remarked only that he had never seen so many men! Study this adept of Cartesian logic, who, when asked by a Parisian friend for some memento of his travels in India, mailed her an electric heater! Reflect upon the sagacity of the author who, when searching for an illustrator for his verse masterpiece, hit upon the brilliant device of employing a detective agency to find a suitable artist!

"I shall reach the heights; I was born for dazzling glory. It may be long in coming, but I shall have a glory greater than that of Victor Hugo or Napoleon … No author has been or can be superior to me … As the poet said, you feel a burning sensation at your brow. I felt at once that there was a star at my brow and I shall never forget it."

Next week : a Snarkalicious and useful New Year’s gift for all my readers! You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fit the Fourth, Page 27, Panel 3 … language is the house of the truth of the boojum

Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
And vainly proceeded to cite

A number of cases, in which making laces

Had been proved an infringement of right.

Judging from both the Barrister’s exasperated demeanour (played here by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Martin Heidegger) and from the general tenor of Lewis Carroll’s verses, the Beaver has no pride worth appealing to. And who can blame her, trapped as she is in a world not of her own making?*

Of course, all of us are trapped in a world not of our own making (probably) and it is at times like this that we might resort to the philosophical musings of the Barrister-Heidegger for further enlightenment concerning any time that we might spend being in this world almost certainly not of our own making :

"We name time when we say: every thing has its time. This means: everything which actually is, every being comes and goes at the right time and remains for a time during the time allotted to it. Every thing has its time."

After reading that, would it surprise you to learn that several philosophers were injured in the production of this Snark Hunt? Moments after this drawing was made, the Beaver savagely mauled the upper ontology of the Barrister-Heidegger!


* A common complaint of certain bright young things, those thrill-seeking, rootless cosmopolitans such as the Beaver … a Québécoise wearing an Iberian mantilla, enjoying the echt German music of Heinrich Ignatius Franz von Biber and reading the memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Babur.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fit the Fourth, Page 27, Panel 2 …der Schnark des Nibelungen

The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade —
Each working the grindstone in turn:
But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
No interest in the concern:

The circus-like atmosphere of this Snark hunt has turned dangerous, dangerous to a degree that Lewis Carroll would certainly never countenance! As a pedagogue, Carroll was very aware of the dangers posed by throwing sharp objects at others; he frequently had to remind his young charges to cease throwing sticks and paper clips and buttered scones at each other lest they put out someone’s eye!

The fact that the above-pictured Snarquistadores are all nominally adults does not lessen the culpability of their criminal negligence. The Broker, played here by Erik Satie, is recklessly endangering the very person of the charming Beaver with his lethal spades, whilst the Boots, embodied by the respectably hirsute Charles Darwin, says nothing.

Perhaps the Boots is afraid of Satie? Perhaps he is afraid of remonstrating with this mysterious person who founded his own religion (The Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus, Leader), who promulgated the use of boredom as a musical motif and who took up smoking to give his physician extra income?

We shall never know for certain, this drawing furnishes as few clues as Carroll’s stanza does. The Mona-Lisa smile of the Beaver, the inscrutable visage of the Satie-Broker, they all hint at some deeper mystery … perhaps the Boot’s odd position is a clue … yes … that may be it … how does he manage to remain so firmly affixed to his trapeze board whilst upside-down?

Is he transfixed there by boredom? Can it be that he is listening to the Broker’s 14-hour long solo masterpiece (which Gavin Bryars described as a sort of "Ring des Nibelungen des pauvres"), a work of music so maddeningly dull and repetitive that the ordinary laws of gravity have simply given up in disgust and gone somewhere else — somewhere less plagued by such boojum-like Vexations?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fit the Fourth, Page 27, Panel 1 … the greatest snark on earth!

Then the Banker endorsed a blank cheque (which he crossed),
And changed his loose silver for notes.
The Baker with care combed his whiskers and hair,
And shook the dust out of his coats.

The alert reader will notice that I’ve taken the liberty of transporting Lewis Carroll’s Snark Hunt into a tautological circus ring, replete with circus wagons, circus folk and their circus paraphanelia and even an audience of the requisite Chiricoid and Savinionesque mannequins and homunculi (for the latter proletariat of the surrealist hierarchy, this show, nay, any show at all, is indeed the Greatest Show on Earth!).

The more alert reader will observe that the Baker, played here by Lewis Carroll himself, is engaged in a classic bit of Victorian slapstick, involving a beard and a fork and the dust accumulated in his coat after decades of teaching Christ Church undergraduates. Although Carroll appears clean-shaven for most of this Snark Hunt, it is a little known but useful fact that this is how he looked when he was lecturing: hirsute and rather discombobulated. Any scoffers or killjoys need only refer to the Great One’s own self-portrait.

The most alert reader will immediately spot the utter absurdity of the Banker (played here by Karl Marx) endorsing a blank check and then crossing it, a bit of complex British financial skulduggery involving a stale and phlegmish sight gag redolent of the vaudevillian buffoonery of those other, less hirsute Marxists : Messers Harpo, Chico, Groucho and Zeppo.

But of course, you knew that all along, didn’t you?