Monday, May 31, 2010

She’s a 21st-century snark, yeah!

This artist’s recent entry in Will Schofeld’s Rousselian contest (accompanying text is here) will have to make do for today’s Snarkian musings. And yet … what on earth does such an image have to do with Messers Dodgson and Carroll’s Snarkian Multiverse?

Plenty, it turns out. In fact, if one was so inclined, one might even discover 6 degrees of separation from not only Kevin Bacon, but far more exciting for my more virulent Slavic readers, Sir Francis Bacon (tho' a mere speck for our German readers).

What ho for this truly Novum Organum of the Hunting of the Locus Solus!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Martin Gardner

The news of Martin Gardner’s death on May 22nd, 2010 marks the end to a spectacular era in not only Snarkian but Carrollian studies, perhaps even a Golden Age of sorts. Which is not to say that there are no new discoveries or insights to be made nor adequately perceptive scholars to make them, rather that it is unlikely that we’ll see a similar renaissance again.

Gardner’s Annotated Snark was my first reading of the poem. I was a young lad and I will confess that Gardner’s approach fascinated me as much as Carroll’s epic masterpiece, perhaps even more in a certain way. Gardner’s genius (in this and in the Alice books) lay in his talent of explaining the Carrollian Multiverse in plain-spoken terms which encouraged the curious reader — and not just the specialists or scholars — to proceed further upon the obscure quest of Culture, Art and Knowledge at all costs.

And all while making sure that nothing got in the way of the Ripping Yarn itself, which is far too often the chief fault of certain academics. My own Snark owes much to Gardner and I hope that I’ve done some sort of justice to the man and his philosophy of Enlightened Rationalism.

Above is an example of my rendering of the infamous Snarkhunters’ refrain, the galdor, as I’ve called it before. Here is what the magisterial Gardner had to say about this stanza …

“ The fact that essentially the same stanza occurs altogether six times in the poem has led some to suspect that it may conceal a private, cryptic message. If so, the message has never been decoded.

My theory — the reader may be able to formulate a better one — is that thimbles, forks, a railway share, smiles and soap are connected with the Snark’s five unmistakeable marks mentioned in Fit 2. The forks are for eating crisp Snark meat. The railway share appeals to the Snark’s ambition to become wealthy and so can be used for baiting a death trap. Smiles are to let the Snark know when a pun has been perpetrated. The soap is, of course, for the bathing machines that the Snark carries about, and the thimble is used for thumping the side of the creature’s head to wake him in time for five-o’clock tea.”

And there you have it — exegesis from the master!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the snarks!

The above drawing from Fit the Sixth, the Barrister’s Dream, is suffused with the gentle melody of protracted litigation, the dream of every musically-inclined barrister. Traditionally, this Fit of The Hunting of the Snark is read aloud to defendants and their small children by a suitably avuncular semi-sodden bailiff, accompanied by the jolly airs of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial By Jury as performed by the Minnesota Underwater Orchestra.

But we have a special treat for our readers today, all this talk of musical barristers is but a segue to a far more important and useful fact: the just-announced Chicago performances of Boojum!: nonsense, truth and Lewis Carroll, a musical by Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith. The Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard will be doing it Nov 18, 2010 to Dec 19, 2010, further details are available here.

We’ve reviewed Peter’s other Snarkian work earlier (and he still has copies available if you write him nicely) and I can assure all North American Snarkologists that this delightful piece is of the same high caliber and well worth the trip to Chicago. The musical’s post-colonic epithet of Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is a pretty fair summation of things, an intermingling of Snarkian and Alician themes with semi-comic relief provided by those two indefatigable fixtures of High Nonsense, Messers Dodgson and Carroll. Unlike Mike Batt’s Snark (a rather turgid affair redolent of Lewis Carroll in his brief arena-rock phase), the Wesley-Smith Bros. possess the good sense to keep things light, yet never mawkish. Both lyrics and scoring are subtle enough to let Carroll’s theatrical mojo work on its own, for both the Snark and the Alice books are deeply imbued with the ritual and structure of the theater and the musical builds upon that very well. And frankly, the lyrics are quite funny and the music is genuinely fun to listen to, all of it done without insulting your intelligence or even arousing the wrath of the genuinely devoted Carrollian.

CDs of the musical are available here and we have a sample track, Will We Return?, a rather melancholy setting of Carroll's explanation of the Snark's genesis. This should whet your appetite for more, so you can hear the creature quite plain, as our legal advisor has so judiciously put it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nonsense ex Machina

The Machines rule, their word is law and their rendition of The Hunting of the Snark is nonsense of the highest order — nonsense without a soul!

The following stanza of the Snark has been submitted to the Machine-Translation Tractor Beam:

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well

Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,

And that was to tingle his bell.

After several passes through the force fields of the Machine-Human Semiotic Interface, we are left with this bit of faux-Zen, quasi-Brownian prosodic motion:

They are not the period of diffidenza;
But they have, the end to make the material

so that the controls of the very direct concept

of this good one for the sea in the past

deciding to that they happen and

this ku acoustic of signaler is the turbulent flow.

The human once known as Théodore Géricault, along with the semiotic residue of his Raft of the Medusa is now fed into the Machine …

Then once more, the Machine Force Field is lowered upon this hapless relic of French Romanticism … leaving us with this ugly artifact of pure visual nonsense …

So beautiful … so dangerous … The Hunting of the Snark in the Age of the Machine!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Big Sleep

They say that the sleep of reason produces monsters but what does the sleep of monsters produce? The denizens of Alice’s Wonderland and the Looking Glass World must fit, perforce, the latter description and we shall wonder aloud: of what does Nonsense dream?

The dream-world of Alice is the world of the Snark, for although the Snarkian Multiverse is a dependency of Nonsense, it is clearly a distortion of the quotidian Victorian reality of Alice’s waking world, and as such, it is the nightmare of monsters, even such small-beer monsters as the Walrus and the Carpenter.

This is the secret allure of hunting the Snark, this is why the majority of Carrollians prefer the purity of Alician Nonsense … we Snark Hunters have gone over to the Dark Side where Nonsense is always tainted by an alien Reality — the Victorian reality of Bakers and Billiards and Butchers and ultimately, the Boojum of death!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Love, Actually

We already had a rousing go at Dante Alighieri a while back, using good ol’ Witold Gombrowicz in his customary role as the curmudgeonly cudgel of Modernism:

"Dante was reciting his epoch, but the epoch was also reciting, and the poem is, so to speak, a double platitude, the poet simply recited what was already being recited. Something like those Sunday discussions of soccer by people gathered in bars and coffee houses. Do they really care about soccer? Not in the least. … Humanity glides along the worn ruts of articulation. An empty poem, which exists in defiance of reality and almost as if to spite it!"

Although Carroll loathed sports, both Dante and he did share a similar modus operandi; constructing vastly complex and ultimately nonsensical multiverses with Trinitarian proclivities …

The Inferno goes along nicely with The Hunting of the Snark, the Purgatorio makes a handy accessory to Through the Looking Glass and the Paradiso looks so much better with Alice in Wonderland rakishly topping it off.

A mighty prosodic fortress indeed, and all of it, Dantean and Carrollian alike, firmly centered upon the secret axis mundi and prosodic omphalos of all great poetry, love.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day of the Locus

Certain readers have characterized my recent posts as being “the same old rubbish … regurgitated over and over like a hamster in a wheel” and even worse (or better?) as being “recycled nonsense”.

And so, in an attempt to liven things up, I will explicate my soon-to-be-published comix version of The Hunting of the Snark — and all other things Snark — in a new and easier-to-digest shorter format and I’ll also try to post more often, hopefully every three days.

It is a curious and important fact that the entire Hunting of the Snark could be easily consummated at any moment by the simple expedient of the Bellman simply uttering these words, three times: “hey look, guys, there’s a Snark!”

The infamous Clochetic Rule of Three would make this a snap to do yet our Bellman avoids all that in favor of telling us only that this is “just the place for a Snark”, times three. In short, he thinks it far more important to begin the entire epic by providing the Snark with a locus rather than a corpus.

In this, as in so many other matters, Mister Carroll (seen above with his notorious multivalent portmanteau) will have his little theological jokes, once again reminding us of the first verses of Genesis wherein God creates the locus for Evil (his own personal Snark-cum-Boojum) but never a corpus.

To those who demur at all this, insisting instead that Mankind, not Evil, is God’s Snark I will merely say: pshaw and prubbish! That is the crux of the jest! The Snark of Evil existed a priori and needed no corpus, just a warm place to bunk and three squares a day. Isn’t that what recycled Nonsense is all about, anyway?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Share and enjoy, share and enjoy, journey through life with a plastic snark by your side

After spending ten weeks focusing upon each of the Snark Hunters in their turn, it is time to turn our attention to She Who Must Be Obeyed* … yes, the Snark itself!

The Encylopedia Snarkiana defines Snarkus Snarkensis as a colorless, odorless, tasteless, soundless and bodyless entity designed to fluster illustrators with its annoying penchant for self-contradiction and nonexistence.

The Hunting of the Snark defines a Snark in its usual evasive manner, employing an impressive array of half-truths, demi-truths, pseudo-truths and mini-truths. We shall examine these laughable attempts at Factualism at greater length over the coming weeks, but for now we present you with the above inky approximation of a Snark as a sort of semiotic apertif designed to whet your appetite for something or the other.

This drawing of a sketch of a xerox of a fax of a Snark is the very drawing with which my version of the Snark commences, the notorious frontispiece to Fit the First, of which the author, Lewis Carroll, once complained that this was not at all the sort of landing he had in mind.

Very well, we will have our little jokes at the expense of the Admirable Carroll but when one is commencing a hunt, it is customary to inform one’s fellow hunters of what it is exactly that they should feel free to aim at — we must eschew the unorthodox tactics (effective though they are) of the Dick Cheneys of the sporting set!

Indeed, there was much chewing of pencils and tugging at fetlocks on this artist’s part as he contemplated this particular dilemma, he endured sleepless nights of carefully feigned slumber as he concealed from his wife the mental turmoil which so agitated his overheated mind.

In the end, bereft of inspiration, the above drawing was hastily tossed off in the hopes that no one would notice its lack of meaning. The management apologizes in advance for any dashed hopes on the reader’s part, no doubt so many of you had eagerly seized upon this image, excited at the hopes of discovering the Snark’s true identity at last, after 134 years the Holy Grail of Snarkology would be in your sweaty grasp at last — and then you gasped aloud, oh, the horror! the horror! — you cried out in your despair! — the Snark … it is Eye!

*Without belaboring the point, I think it’s clear to any happily married man that the Snark is a she, a revelation of sorts which came to me as I was attempting to move our entire domicile six inches to the left to improve the television’s imperfect reception at the behest of a certain someone.