Monday, June 25, 2012

Some snarks do 'ave 'em

" 'You may seek it with thimbles — and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
You may charm it with smiles and soap —' "

Do not mistake this infamous stanza as a magical refrain or prescription designed by Lewis Carroll to assist the B-Boyz in their Snark hunt, nothing could be further from the truth. Such misthinking is an anthrosemiotic bogeyman put forth by certain academics & philosophies of the Sir James Frazer ilk, Cheapside tailors peddling "ready-made suits" for their naked and the dead.

Consider instead the internal Mind of this poem (yes, there are such boojums), which lives a life independent of its creator, its inhabitants & even its readers. All works of art have these primeval Minds, each according to its national character. The Mind of this poem, being English, roams the midsummer nights daubed in woad, speaks in runes at high tea, shares small beer with the Mind of the Domesday Book and Prospero’s Books in the Mermaid Tavern, and dosses behind hedges with the Mind of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide, a direct descendent of Achilles’ Shield presently down on her luck.

Before you can voice your objections, I must interject — pshaw! Be unperplexed, dear reader! — the Snark and the Mind of The Hunting of the Snark are not the same beast. The latter is a deliberate fiction bandied about by Lewis Carroll. The former is the Art behind the fiction — a magic which the Muses have excused from the lie of being truthful.

Oh, ye of too much faith! Can’t you see that all your seeking and hunting and threatening and charming, that all of your sacrifices are meant for you, you alone, that they serve only to distract you from the truth? We heap up our sacrificial relics at the feet of the Mind of the Snark: the thimbles, the cares, the forks and hope, the railway shares, the smiles and soap, all that Victorian bourgeois clutter mouldering in our mental attic — for ourselves only!

Pack up your smiles and soap, abandon all forks and hope, ye überliterati! Repent and understand at last that the Hunting of the Snark is a robinsonade (the mysterious island from whence all Nonsense springs) and that the Mind of the Snark is its pagan god-chieftain at whose feet we pile gifts useful to no one but ourselves.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I sing of snark and the man …

In a world without words, only the small-minded will be tongue-tied. Although our gallant crew aboard the HMS Snark is none of the above, they are maintaining strict radio silence as they slip by the pictorially-fortified beaches of the deadly Festung Schnark. The tension is palpable, our brave lads (and lass) are straining every nerve as they man (and miss) their weapons.

And what weapons are these? Steam-powered concussion-primed pencils? Petrol-driven semi-automatic violins? Pshaw to such antiquated music-hall-cross-talk-claptrap! Our snarqistadores are armed with only an indifferent somnolence, punctuated by an insouciant nasal susurration … they are snoring, they are snorting, they are sniffing and sneezing, they are speaking that most ancient, somatic and asemic dialect of the body physical, proof positive against all visual illusions and cognitive man-traps of the so-called higher intellect.

Hold on, what’s all this, you say? Lost in the disorienting farrago of my mixed metaphors and strained allusions? Missing the connection, the old brain-box gone off-track, signals crossed somewhere? Don’t panic! I shall refer you to the classic solace of the dislocated and confused Victorian bourgeois Snark hunter — a Bradshaw’s Guide!

Look here, sirrah, here it is writ out, plain as can be! All the lost luggage and missed connections of long-dead phonemes, waiting on long-gone railway platforms for a linguistic rendez-vous with a common usage that never arrived … schnarren, schnarchen, snarren, snerka … and yes, dare we say it — SNARK!

I think I’d better go and have a nice lie-down now. To sleep, perchance to snore — aye, there’s the snark.


NB. A tip of the ink-stained tuque to goofy, the proprietor of the wonderful and highly recommended Bradshaw of the Future, whose etymological assistance in our Snark hunt has been invaluable and fascinating. BOTF’s provenance stems from that " desperate wrong-doer " in Lewis Carroll’s " A Tangled Tale ". Any resemblance to railroad Bradshaws real or fictional , either living or dead, is purely coincidental on my part … dismiss it all as a false cognate destined to plague as-yet-unborn googlistas surfing the digital Bradshaw of the future.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The heart of a snark is a lonely hunter of darkness

"To seek it with thimbles, to seek it with care;
To pursue it with forks and hope;
To threaten its life with a railway-share;
To charm it with smiles and soap!

A reiteration of the Snarkic Galdor … a type of verse-charm first overheard by the poet Lewis Carroll whilst sipping his tea and mentally searching for rhymes in the commons room of Christ Church College in the depths of the latter half of the 19th century. No doubt Carroll was puzzled by this sudden outbreak of cryptoskáldic fervour in what was then a bastion of High Church Anglicanism but he was a discreet man and kept his thoughts to himself.

However, I am congenitally incapable of keeping any thoughts to myself! At this very moment I am mentally whirling along certain transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention, as the infamous Hedly Lamar once pensed aloud to the uncomprehending Slim Pickens.

Unlike Slim Pickens, gentle readers, you will easily grasp the essence of my thoughts, which I’ve thoroughly illustrated above. The Snarkic Galdor is baited, literally, with the tempting person of the Baker himself! Lured by his smile and a bar of soap, the unsuspecting Snark will venture underneath the requisite giant thimble and then be trapped there by the quick and concerted action of the Baker’s Fellows!

The Baker’s transient nodes of thought on the matter can only be guessed at. However, thanks to the learned Adam Roberts’ ingeniously cosmic vapors of invention, we now know that the Baker’s earlier polylingual attempts at communication with his fellow B-Boyz (see Page 25, Panel 2) were simply an enunciation of the observation that Humanorum hetaeria es auto (you are yourself the brotherhood of all men). His comrades have taken this generous, fraternal gesture of self-sacrifice on the Baker’s part as carte blanche to proffer him up as living Snark-Bait.

This business of offering oneself up as a bait for Evil must inevitably occupy the whirling, transient thought-nodes of anyone enjoying his tiffin at the aptly-named Christ Church College. Perhaps, as Carroll munched his bread and butter sandwiches and plotted his rhymes, he was entertaining first, second or even third thoughts about his own personal Boojums … or perhaps he was merely biding his time till the invention of the talking-type-wireless with which the ubiquitious Slim Pickens would finally set all of his religious doubts to rest!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The infernal bathing machines of Dr. Hoffman

"The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
Which it constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes —
A sentiment open to doubt.

Given : Only with one’s bathing-machine can one bathe properly and thoroughly.
Given : The divinely-ordained, absolute and ineffable perfection of any place cannot be achieved without a bathing-machine.
Ergo : Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Not a surprising sentiment coming from the pen of an English clergyman’s son but it is an accurate depiction of the Snark’s true character and motives? Read on, MacDuff …

Given : The Snark’s sentimental attachment to bathing-machines does nothing to improve the beauty of scenes.
Given : The Snark’s sentiments are open to doubt.
Ergo : When in doubt, do nothing.

A Fabian approach to the hunting of Snarks but will the poilu tolerate it? History warns us otherwise! Je me souviens de Cannae …

Given : The utility of a bathing-machine lies solely in its property of not allowing an observer to know what is inside it.
Given : The Snark’s chief happiness is the transportation of its bathing-machine from one place to another.
Ergo : Ignorance is bliss.

And there you have it, another Clochetic validation of the platitudinous proverbs with which we usually stave off our lexical and cognitive horror vacui. I have illustrated all of the above palaver with another infamous platitude, one of the Comte de Lautrémont’s most infamous bromides: the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. I think the bathing machine lends a certain banality to the whole thing, don’t you? Even surrealism (and especially protosurrealism) has its sentimental, even hackneyed picture-postcard moments!