Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oh, 'tis better to sleep with a sober Boojum than a drunken Christian

I'm very pleased to announce that Melville House is publishing my comixed version of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark in the Fall of 2010. Alas, it will have to appear without the Commentaries which I've been working up so assiduously over the years but no matter, that will be remedied when the book goes into multiple printings after its appearance on Youtube in a blurry surveillance camera video of some American TV celebrity shoplifting it in a opiated stupor.

Melville House is run by the same discerning folks who put out the excellent blog, MobyLives, all of which is meant as an homage to Herman Melville, a man who knew a thing or two about long, fruitless quests for annihilating animals. Melville chose to clothe his Boojum in the blubbery lineaments of the fat, white whale, Moby Dick, (not the excellent kebab joint in Georgetown) and he also made certain that the whale's pursuers got a snootful of insane, nonsensical, contradictory ravings from their leader, Cap'n Ahab. In these critical matters, it's quite obvious that Melville was plundering Carroll's Snark in a classic example of what literary scholars call Anachronistic Plagiarism.

None the less, I'm in a forgiving mood today, as you might imagine and so we'll put aside these petty insinuations concerning the Second Greatest American Novel and move on to the far more pressing matter of Snarkian Ontology, exemplified here in the unassuming person of the Boots, seen above. Carroll makes little mention of this rather pedestrian character except for some perfunctory business with a spade in Fit the Fourth, and some commentators have even insinuated that the Boots did not really exist or that he might have been the actual murderer of the Baker, sharing as he does a "Boo" with the dreaded Boojum.

To all that I say phooey. However, drawing phooey is a bit trickier and it was only after considerable research by my crack team of crack-head researchers that we came up with a solution to all of the above: the Boots was Charles Darwin!

Carroll was probably present at the infamous 1860 debate on Darwinism between T.H. Huxley and Soapy Sam Wilberforce; we know that he owned and read Darwin's works; we even know that he and Darwin corresponded but we are uncertain as to the Great One's exact opinion on Natural Selection.

Well-oiled Carrollians suspect that he disapproved of this logical undoing of the basic tenets of all revealed religions on mainly philosophical grounds. Carroll's faith was unshakeable and more importantly, the Master of Nonsense certainly would have understood the difference between Faith and Logic as far as religions go, a simple mental operation which still seems beyond the limited cognitive abilities of many noisy commentators upon the subject today (so much for evolution, eh?). What might have perturbed Carroll could have been the spectacle of publicly quarreling over such private things, and hence, our choice of Darwin as the Boots.

Both Darwin and the Boots lurk in the shadows of Victorian England and the Snark alike. The former utterly and categorically demolished the entire logical basis of all organized religions almost apologetically, the latter utterly and categorically demolished the entire logical basis of Carroll's Snark almost apologetically. Both belief systems of religion and Snark are solely premised upon revelations, the verbal revelations of a god or a poet who presents us with a priori facts about the fictional Multiverses they have created. Carroll's colorless, practically blank persona of the Boots is a dead giveaway that there really is nothing going on here, that the Snark is just a sound and fury signifying nothing.

Nature and poetry alike shun vacuums, they make such an ontological mess of things and clever, up-to-date gods and poets alike eschew 'em. There's nothing worse than Nothing in the midst of your Something, it's a dead giveaway that you really are up to something and that's the very last thing you want your acolytes and readers to suspect. Fictional suspension of disbelief and all that, don't you know.

In short, there's something going on here, as usual. I'll leave it to the Carroll boffins to sort out the sticky details of all of the above revelations, for now, just take my word for it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The bellman always rings thrice …

In honor of nothing in particular, we'll devote this week's posting to an in-depth look at the Bellman (as shown above), the presiding genius and master of ceremonies of Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark.

Readers who care to do so may remember that the Bellman appears in the very first line of the Snark, crying: Just the place for a Snark! This is of course, a tautology (and a rather clever parody of the traditional Homeric invocation of the Muse) and not the first which this avuncular, cozily insane personage will commit. Other Snarkologists have already pointed out that the Bellman may well have been based on an eponymous officer at Christ Church College, "Le Bellman", whose job it was to ring a bell whenever some particularly inert don had finally popped off for good.

Of such grim details are both great poetry and academic life made! An insane man armed with a large, blunt, heavy metal-and-wooden object with which he roams our poem and Oxford alike, announcing the beginning of the verses and the ending of some other poor college-wallah's life. No wonder this illustrator saw fit to flesh out this lugubrious person's person with the above drawing.

The sharp-eyed reader who eats his carrots will instantly ferret out, in his offhand, weaselly ferret-like manner, the fleur-de-lys motif lurking in the wallpaper. This outbreak of French monarchism has been induced by the Bellman's notorious insistence upon the Rule of Three which occurs immediately afterwards in the same opening stanzas:

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.

Such pronouncements reek of royal diktats to this artist's ear; and furthermore, the trefoil motif nicely complements the trinitarian obsessions of what we now call the Clochetic Rule of Three. Learned Snarkologists have found all manner of historical riffraff lurking inside this Rule: a reference to a Victorian mathematical classroom crib, perhaps a jab at the Mad Monadist, Charles Peirce and his triunary blatherings, or it could even be a clever Protosurrealist, anti-anachronistic reference to cybernetics and human cognition and crypto-Catholicism.

But we here at Chez Snarque are made of sterner stuff! We think that the Bellman is nutters because he just is, and we've dug up some really cool facts to support our Nutter Theory. Firstly, the Bellman's odd physical appearance is based upon that of Sir John Tenniel, the quick-fingered illustrator of both of Carroll's Alice books, and a rascally bon vivant, to boot! This cyclopean ink-wallah looked the part, indeed!


Secondly, Sir John's illustrations for Carroll included several drawings of the White Knight, that avuncular, cozily insane personage who assists young Alice in her regal quest (zut! more monarchism!) in Through The Looking Glass. Well-oiled Carrollians will grunt appreciatively at all this, knowing that the White Knight was a stand-in for Carroll himself, who was notoriously shy about being bruited about in public as a avuncular, cozily insane personage.

Which leads us to our third observation, and hence, owing to the Clochetic Rule of Three, our self-evident, truly definitive and tyrannically final royal diktak upon the entire matter: the following drawing by Sir John of the Admirable Carroll in mufti as a White Knight who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Bellman trying pass himself off as — gasp! — Sir John Tenniel disguised as a certain Christ Church don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who had a penchant for going out in public as none other than — gasp again! — Lewis Carroll!


Well, I think that just about wraps it up for both the Bellman's little scheme of trinitarian cross-dressing and more importantly, for whatever little standing I still possess amongst legitimate Carrollian circles.

No, no applause, please, I have more simple tastes. Just rattle your kippered herrings or something like that, I'm off for a nice lie-down with some hot-gin-and-nautch-girl-compresses. I feel a lynch mob coming on …

Thursday, January 14, 2010


In the cozy world of dreams, Nonsense and Lewis Carroll in general, the common house cat is most usually found curled up in the warmest spot in the dream, well-fed and utterly oblivious of the sundry mice and other oneiric vermin which are scurrying in the shadows.

The cat cares not. She betokens nothing and like King Lear, knows that nothing will come from nothing. There is no cat in the Hunting of the Snark for the simple reason that cats are philosophically opposed to anapestic verse … it has such a dog-like trot to it, don't you know.

There are cats in both of Carroll's Alice books but don't get your hopes up, they were attracted there solely by the books' popularity. They enjoy the attention, nothing more.

If you dream of a cat, refer to your dog-eared copy of the Dreambook of Mister Pyridine and then make your preparations quickly, lest the cat wake too soon and leave off dreaming of you!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

hunting snark in the land of nod

To those of you who are wondering what this perturbing image from the Dreambook of Mister Pyridine might have to do with Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark, I can only say: 42, man, 42!

It is a popular fact that dreams are suspected to embody some sort of hidden wisdom, a curious belief when one also considers the general thickieness of vast swathes of the good ol' human race. From whence comes this universal desire to believe that the semiconscious reveries of cerebral organs that are also collectively responsible for war, state-sponsored famines, racial pogroms, organized religion and French grammar might also somehow possess a hidden meaning and wisdom?

This risible desire to find meaning where there is none is responsible for a lot of unhappiness and at the same time, happiness! The Expulsion from Eden is proof positive of the former and the Admirable Carroll's Hunting of the Snark will do nicely for the latter. In both cases, a pattern of facts and events is stitched together into a logical pattern of meaning through sheer will power.

Those who search for the hidden meaning of the Snark are playing at Adam and Eve sitting underneath that infamous Boojum-Tree of Knowledge. Rather than just enjoy the shade it casts (and each other) they have to spoil everything by figuring it all out. When will the human race understand that the meaning of a pattern can sometimes be nothing more than the pattern?

Deep thoughts indeed, you're probably better off just looking at the pretty picture I've provided for your entertainment this week. Believe me, there's no hidden meaning there.