Monday, November 28, 2011

The song of the goat fills my heart in the night

A brief break from hunting Snark …

Alice in Wonderland is the Admirable Carroll's most famous work and I thought it high time to discuss some of its lesser-known translations, in particular, Áloþk's Adventures in Goatland (Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénliy). It's available from Amazon here, UK buyers go to my "Available from this Artist" for the UK link.

It's been back-translated into English by Byron Sewell (the infamously good-humored Carrollian and bon vivant), published by Michael Everson at Evertype Publications and illustrated by this artist.

Let's let Byron do the talking for a change … 

Róaž Wiðz (1882-1937), the locally-admired though otherwise little-known Zumorgian translator, spent seventeen years of his miserable life (when he wasn't tending to his beloved goats) translating Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Zumorigénflit and transposing it into Ŋúǧian culture.

Sadly, Ŋúǧ was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in 1947. Most of its citizens were either purged (lined up and summarily shot when they refused to combine their goats into a communal herd) or transported to the Gulag for political re-education and attitude adjustment … 

For those interested in such esoteric things, "Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénličy" was first published by the Itadabükan Press in the capital city of Sprutničovyurt in 1919. The city, which was mistakenly thought to be a German forward supply area, was literally flattened and burned to the ground by Royal Air Force saturation bombing in 1943, and all that remains of it are a few remnants of the ancient Palace's foundations and a gigantic reinforced concrete statue of Joseph Stalin, whose face has been shattered by what was probably machine gun target practice.

The original story has here been updated to modern times, as if this strange, harsh, and dangerous land still existed in the modern world. It doesn't, except in my imagination and that of Mahendra Singh, whose heart swells with the Song of the Goat …

The book comes with a glossary and besides being a very funny book to read (especially for anyone who loves  the Alice books), my own meager, visual contribution is meant as an homage to the great Sir John Tenniel. Until you've inked in another illustrator's footsteps, you can't truly know him … 

And for those who wonder about such things, this artist really did spend many happy years of his life tending and milking dairy and meat goats (French Alpine and Nubian mostly) and despite the urban Quebecois blight I live in now, la chanson du chevre still fills my heart at night … 

The ladies of Unicorn Farm contemplate things …

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/3 … the square root of negative one is snark!

There are times in one's life when one realizes that one has simply drawn too many lines for one's own good. Not in the above stanzel, of course, which has precisely the number of lines and squiggles necessary to evoke the horror of a fat, timorous Banker (played here by Karlos Marx) being done away with by a snappy, savage Bandersnatch, played here by a Hindustani monkey who spends his spare time inside a snake charmer's basket.

This business of lines without rest or pause makes a middle-aged cross-hatcher wonder at times: what's it all about, eh? One skips and hops one's way across a page and once one is done, good lord, there's another page! And another and another.

To those readers who come here regularly for a bit of snappy analysis and pithy tomfoolery concerning whatever page of my GN Snark happens to be up for it this week, this must all come as a bit of a surprise.

There are no deep thoughts behind the above stanzel. There is no meaning, hidden or otherwise, nor any subtle message. It's genuine Nonsense of the highest, inkiest, most linear order.

It's just a bunch of subcontinental monkeys and a possessed hookah shanghaing a Banker dressed up to look like Karl Marx until, like this rather depleted illustrator, fainting he falls to the ground.

Next week: more lines! Who would have thought it?


NB. Saturnalia is fast approaching and smart shoppers know that no child's stocking is properly stuffed without a copy of this artist's GN version of the Snark. Not only is it the best thing Lewis Carroll ever wrote but this version goes all out to furnish the little tykes with what one reviewer called a "Surrealist version of Where's Waldo."

And why not lavish a fresh copy of Martin Olson's Encyclopaedia of Hell onto any disaffected, black-clad gothic teenagers you are compelled to know? The LA Weekly has an excellent review of it here and even better, you can buy the full-color poster here. It sure beats having Kurt Cobain on the wall, mom and dad. Available from Feral House or even Amazon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/2 … there's nothing like a good ol' delhi sandwich with extra snark and hold the marx

The Banker’s annihilation, or rather, impending deracination, at the hands of a Bandersnatch provides an excellent opportunity to shift the entire setting of this Snark into the farther reaches of the British Raj. We are in Old Delhi now and in the background of this Fit one can spot the distinctive silhouette of Delhi’s Red Fort, the last bastion of the Mughal emperors.

As for the Bandersnatch … modern Delhi is plagued by monkeys (they’ve even assassinated the deputy mayor) and the word for these sacred and homicidal creatures in Hindi, bander, combines perfectly with snatch for our deadly, Nonsensical purposes.

Was this deliberate on Carroll’s part? Who knows. Both the bander and his hookah have ensnared our Banker into playing the fatal role of the priest Laocoön, as immortalized in the immensely influential Greco-Roman sculpture of the same name.

The Laocoön: the marriage of rhetoric & draftsmanship … yow!

No scene of Carrollian tragedy would be complete without a pun of some sort and in this case, I’ve ensured that the cheque drawn to bearer really does bare her. Such a splendid specimen of well-inked feminine Snark-hunting pulchritude, eh, Carroll sahib?


NB. Apropos of nothing in particular except the desire to emphasize the importance of being paid to any young illustrators/writers/designers who happen to be reading this, Harlan Ellison has this to say:

… I did a very long, very interesting on-camera interview about the making of Babylon Five early on. So she calls me and she tells me they’d like to use it on the DVD, and can that be arranged? And I said, “Absolutely, all you gotta do is pay me,” and she said, “What?” And I said, “You gotta pay me!” She said, “Well, everybody else is, just, you know, doing it for nothing.”

There's more here and it's worth reading. If the suits are stiffing Harlan Ellison, what do you think they're going to do to the likes of you and me? And doesn't this imply that certain artists/writers with marquee value equivalent to Mr. Ellison must be doing it for free?

As the prostitute Miss Trixie put it in Jacques O'Bean's classic satire of American politics & mores, American Candide:

“Doctor Pantone always said that the business of Freedonia is business … That means don’t do anything for free, unless you want everyone to disrespect you and call you a really cheap slut. And that kind of sucks.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/1 … the snarkhunters of kumaon

We've arrived at the central conceit of this particular Fit of the Snark. The Banker, played here by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Karl Marx, is about to be assaulted by his nemesis, the Bandersnatch. You can see the latter's oddly mishapen hand clutching at the rotund Teuton's bloated ankle.

Karl Marx never visited the Old Delhi Railway Station, nor did the Admirable Carroll but we can be fairly certain that if they did, the general tenor of their surroundings would have appeared much as this artist has depicted them. The animal and mannequin headed bystanders, the bazaar atmosphere of narghila-puffing loafers, complete with a snake-charmer awakening the mysterious inhabitant of his basket, it's all there.

Perhaps the less-travelled reader will be taken aback by this local color but those of you who ever wandered into Old Delhi will heave an appreciative, paan-fumed sigh. It's all there, the latter will confirm, and the artist has done a slap-up job of capturing the ineffable, nonsensical air of the place.

In short, thanks to a little judicious visual interpolation and conflation by yours truly, the poet Carroll has done a superb job — despite himself — of conveying the air of a place where he had never been and probably never wished to be. And that is the very essence of hunting a Snark, a beast which conceals itself by cleverly non-existing wherever you are — you need to be where you aren't to pick up its ineffable trail.

To be where you cannot possibly be, that is the Snark Hunter's essential dilemma and you might as well get over it right now. It's not logical, Carrollian Nonsense, so go ahead and heave out your pathetic shriek of despair as you understand — too late! — that it's useless to fly!

Take a locally crosshatched scooter rickshaw instead, sahib, and above all, don't drink the water.