Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fit the Sixth, Page 40, Panel 2 … if that there Barrister was to wake, added the Snark, you'd go out — bang! — just like a candle!

But the Barrister, weary of proving in vain
That the Beaver’s lace-making was wrong,
Fell asleep, and in dreams saw the creature quite plain
That his fancy had dwelt on so long.

And on the sixth Fit, the Barrister slept.

Played here by the notorious Continental steamer, Martin Heidegger, (right Zeit up and left Sein down) the Barrister has been overwhelmed by the fumes of cheap plonk and the Beaver’s well-turned ankles and has sunk into a torpid sort of slumber upon the thickly inked lawn.

Our dear reader, who eschews cheap drink and chorus girls in favor of the headier vintages of Carrollian verse, will note that the Barrister has been furnished here with dreams in the plural. He or she will nod knowingly, perhaps even smugly, for every Carrollian worth their mustard and cress is cognizant of the Master’s mysterious penchant for dreams.

In fact, Lewis Carroll never met a novel or poem in which he didn’t feel obliged to stuff in the odd bit of dreamwork to move the plot along, and by providing the luckless Barrister with an multiplicity of dreams our poet may be betraying his own crypto-Hindu sympathies! Classical Hindu epistemology, bursting at the seams as it does with a nightmarish superfluity of dreams and illusions, all of ‘em nested one within the other, would have been pure catnip for the likes of Carroll.

This artist is aware that there are those amongst us who will object to the above theory, they might mutter darkly about a certain virulent strain of Neo-Platonism run amuck on the playing fields of Eton from which Carroll may have been infected, rather than some curry-inflected metaphysics hailing from god knows where. Well, they can toss their Neo-Platonic influences into the dust bin as far as we’re concerned, for it’s Hinduism which has the real pukka goods on Runaway Idealism and this Floating Metadream We Call Life. Like the Red King in Through the Looking Glass, we are all of us, readers, artist, poet and Barrister, dreaming of one another and if we ever do wake up to find out what’s Real, well, what is Reality anyway, huh?

After mentally digesting all of this, the less tolerant DR will start things off by giving this over-heated illustrator a gentle boxing about the ears and a light touching up with a lead featherduster. They will then will reach for their Bradshaw of the Future (our preferred etymological opium den) and look pensive whilst they peruse the pedigree of the word "dream", a word which in Old English meant "joy" or even curiouser and curiouser, "music".

Tossing aside their Bradshaw with an insouciant pshaw, the less tolerant DR will then gird their loins and push their way past the more tolerant DR (still asleep and reeking of cheap plonk and ankles, no doubt) and towards the well-inked anthropomorphic forks afflicted with the Amorous Gigantism of Inanimate Objects, the Beaver’s size 9 chukka boots, the winged goblets and obligatory bar of soap, the Man-Ray-smiles and the cloth-headed judge-and-jury — all of ‘em merely a smokescreen for the 9-piece band ensconced in their band-shell in the background of this etymological-cum-epistemological mis-en-scene!

And what is this joyful music that our dream orchestra* is producing for the benefit of our dream Barrister? Is it the melodious warblings of some Hindustani songstress afflicted with a keening adenoidal distress? Is it the rock ‘n roll oompah-oompah of some hipster, Platonic cave-dwellers? To find out, dear readers, stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Hunting of the Snark!

*Our readers might even be more bewildered than usual to learn that this illustrator is personally afflicted with the rather enjoyable syndrome of musical dreaming; that for many years his dreams have been provided with a sort of involuntary cinematic soundtrack, not of his choosing although usually of a classical nature with full symphonic scoring and occasional instrumental soloists. On occasion a bit of pop rubbish gets by, the theme to Star Wars or suchlike, but this artist is the sort of high-minded fellow who thinks nothing of walking out of a bad film or dream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fit the Sixth, Page 40, Panel 1 … the snarkhunter’s guide to the galaxy

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Well, isn’t this jolly, all of us having our tiffin in this lovely English garden waiting for the sun, and if the sun don't come, we’ll get a tan from standing in the English rain. What a clever way with words these Brits have, always joking around and making light of the darkest (and wettest) situations. Here we are, in the very thing-um-a-jig of a Snark Hunt, crosshatching to the left of us, crosshatching to the right of us, and our merry lads have seen fit to burst forth into song, a semimelodious bit of Old English galdor reminiscent of the salad days of Aethelred the Unready and suchlike skaldic mumbo-jumbery.

All of which affords this illustrator a bit of artistic license sufficient to render a thimble, some forks, an esperant anchor, a smile and some soap, ie., five-sevenths of the afore-mentioned Snarkic prophylaxes. He’s also taken the liberty of laying on some cakes and ale (on an illustrator’s meager pittance of a moon and sixpence, no less!) and has even hired a band-cum-bandshell, all of which should provide sufficient innocent merriment for the B-Boyz and their Protosurrealist demimondaines, at least enough to show ‘em that this illustrator cares.

Naturally, this illustrative care increases our stanzel’s Combined Snarkic Prophylactic Level (CSPL) to six-sevenths, which fraction, when its numerator and denominator are multiplied, provides us with the number 42, a number mooted by some to be The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything in It.

Lewis Carroll thought enough of the number 42 to provide it with a comfortable home and small pension, way back in the Good Old Days of Fit the First. There are certain small-minded persons who will always look askance at such instances of numerophilia, they will mutter darkly of alphanumeric miscegenation and cryptokabbalistic cabals and all that sort of thing which they suspect is always going on at parties like the one pictured above. Which is why those sort of people never get invited to this sort of party, huzzah!

And so, ladies and gentlemen and sundry weirdos, proclaims this illustrator as he sways drunkenly onto his feet, I propose a toast!

Let’s hear it for Lewis Carroll (tipsy shouts of hear, hear!) … the best Anglican maths-tutor-cum-nonsense-wallah Oxford ever produced (gurgled cries of approval emanating from a giant thimble full of wine) … a true friend of man and anaepest alike (slurred bleats of rhubarb-rhubarb, custard-custard) … and the most important Victorian poet to ever use the words railway-share! (exeunt all, with general bedlam light to variable).

NB. It is a semi-useful fact to know that this artist is capable of more than mere ink-slinging. I am equally dextrous at not making money with mallet, chisel, rasp and stone, so there, ha! With nephew Leopold's 2nd birthday this Tuesday, the 22nd, I thought it best to commemorate the grand event by casting the young rascal in a sort of Imperial Roman role, to wit, a bas-relief of the smoothest alabaster … happy birthday, Leo! Now go eat your vegetables!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fit the Sixth, Page 39 … lex snarqui

With a nightmarish fanfare of snores and snorts, Fit the Sixth of Lewis Carroll’s cri-de-cœur, AKA The Hunting of the Snark, now heaves into view. This page, a little number which I call The Barrister’s Dream, is an illustrative poke-in-the-snoot aimed squarely at the grand English tradition of Oneiric Verse, ie., such yawn-inducing showstoppers as the Dream of the Rood, Bill Blake’s Dream and Christina "Sister Wombat" Rossetti’s Dream Land.

The well-read reader, and perhaps even the ill-read reader, will note that in this Fit of his Snark, Carroll successfully introduced the nightmarish element of potential litigation into the English Dream Poem, thus bringing to light the adversarial relationship twixt Dreamer and Dream.

We all of us dream and yet none of us truly know why, nor, more to the point, what our dreams might mean. If this is not an apt metaphor for the relationship twixt the Average Citizen and the Law, I’m a frittered-cheese-wig! Hence, our need for barristers and all their jolly legal ilk cluttering the land, and hence we find that even whilst asleep, Carroll has seen fit to provide you, the D.R., with qualified legal assistance at affordable rates.

If you are so inclined, it might occur to you that the Entire Meaning of the Snark is a similar enigma, impervious to explanation save by employing the services of a picture-wallah such as my ever-so-‘umble self. It might even occur to you that my tactic of employing Martin Heidegger as our Snarkic Barrister bodes ill for any useful solution to any of the above questions. Heidegger was a notorious Teutonic chatterbox and utterly useless for any explanation more complex than obtaining the directions to the nearest washroom, in short, prime material for any barrister’s office wishing to pad their billable hours beyond all human endurance.

Alas, you are not so inclined. You are, like the Barrister Heidegger, comfortably reclined and fast asleep on company time, amazed by this Snark-hunter’s dream which we call life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fit the Fifth, Page 38, Panel 2 … I read the news today oh, boy, four thousand snarks in Blackburn, Lancashire

And when quarrels arose — as one frequently finds
Quarrels will, spite of every endeavour —
The song of the Jubjub recurred to their minds,
And cemented their friendship for ever!

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!