Monday, January 28, 2013
The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens,
And ink in unfailing supplies:
While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
And watched them with wondering eyes.
Strange, creepy creatures are the bane of modern life and both Lewis Carroll and myself have seen fit to embellish this crucial stanzel of The Hunting of the Snark with a surfeit of ‘em. Suitably alarmed, the Butcher has darted into a convenient telephone booth and re-emerged in the guise of St. Anthony, the father of Christian monasticism and more to our purposes, a veritable bit of human fly-paper for all manner of hallucinatory things that go bump in the night.
The attentive reader will remember that the very first stanzel of this Snark involved a direct quotation from Mathias Grünewald’s version of St. Anthony, a quotation which involved a fair bit of mirror-work and the cramming of a very hirsute and oddly fey Saint into the sturdy 19th-century country-squire’s boots of the Boots, AKA Charles Darwin. This saint-bashing mania of mine is shared with many other artists; throughout the ages, we picture-folk (or Bildervolk, gesundheit) have mass-produced St. Anthonys by the bucketful. Even Henry Holiday joined in the fun, establishing an Antonine precedent for Fit the Fifth which even the religiously fastidious Lewis Carroll approved!
From whence comes this Antiantonimania? Are Salvador Dali (the Norman Rockwell of Surrealism), Hieronymus Bosch, Feliciens Rops and Gustave Flaubert all victims of a sudden outbreak of religious fervor? Or is it all just an excuse to draw legions of naked women and creepy circus sideshow freaks mobbing a defenseless old man in a desert?
To be sure, there is a certain visual, even Luis Buñuel kind of appeal to such a proposition but nonetheless, dear reader, it’s just not very sporting, is it? The genuinely Christian thing to do is to insist that all these unreal phenomena besetting a very real person are promptly replaced with a new and improved denful of very real phenomena besetting a patently unreal person! The latter personage would be, of course, our Snark, and I’m certain that you, the readers and thus the ultimate — and only! — reality of this poem, will do a splendid job of standing in as the former.
So, that’s all settled, is it? I’ll go and have a nice lie-down while you slip into your new Snark-baiting role. Just study the above drawing very carefully and do whatever Mister Bosch says. He does have an active imagination and if anyone asks you why this is so, hint vaguely that it’s just that Hieronymo's mad againe.
Monday, January 21, 2013
“Two added to one — if that could but be done,”
It said, “with one’s fingers and thumbs!”
Recollecting with tears how, in earlier years,
It had taken no pains with its sums.
“The thing can be done,” said the Butcher, “I think.
The thing must be done, I am sure.
The thing shall be done! Bring me paper and ink,
The best there is time to procure.”
One can say what one likes about Lewis Carroll, one can say what one likes about The Hunting of the Snark, one might even cast aspersions at Carroll’s secretive doppelgänger, C.L. Dodgson, but one cannot say that any of the above ever ignored the intellectual and literary ramifications of what we now call common, garden-variety Stupidity.
The above stanzel is proof positive of all of the above blather, 100-proof positive, I should think, with all its various pictolinguistic bits and pieces denoting a thorough inability on the part of its protagonists to perform even the simplest of arithmetical tasks.
We know that C.L. Dodgson, in his capacity as a maths tutor at Christ Church, had many opportunities to complain to his associate Carroll of the genuine dunderheadedness of most of his pupils. Many of these young scholars, being scions of the British upper classes, abjured all thought whatsoever and devoted themselves instead to the less mentally taxing pastimes of drinking, gambling — and yes! — hunting!
Can we venture to guess that Carroll, sympathizing with and perhaps even assisted by the unlucky Dodgson, undertook an elaborate scheme of passive-aggressive revenge, composing a cunning lampoon which in its essence is nothing more than a verse epic dedicated to the Stupidity of the Hunting Classes, a Victorian Dunciad, so to speak?
We know that the entire Hunting of the Snark is predicated mostly upon the Clochetic Rule-of-Three, a shining example of logical inanity. We know that this poem’s very title admits of two, very opposite meanings: either a hunting for a snark, or rather, a hunting undertaken by a snark! In either case, a nitwittery is produced since the Snark is unreal and thus unavailable for hunting in any sense of the word.
Furthermore, Dodgson’s fellow Oxonian, the inestimable Dr. Johnson, himself noted that no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money*, a pertinent observation in light of the fact that Carroll wrote all his Nonsense solely for the sake of Nonsense.
And so, in the most approved clochetic manner, we will triangulate from all of the above and arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the very Genius of Stupidity thoroughly permeates every phoneme of the Snark! We’ll then fritter all of the above’s wig by quickly dredging it in Jules Renan’s oh-so-Gallic remark that he never understood the concept of infinity until he contemplated the stupidity of the human race, in particular, the blockheaded stubbornness of those sportsmen who persist in chasing an infinitely receding prey!
The result is a infinitely-toasted-cheese sort of thing of utterly mixed metaphors which lets you, dear reader, off a certain hook entirely, for the fact that you have followed this ungainly argument so far is double-plus-proof-positive that you’re a Genuine Smartie and no Thickie at all! Huzzah for good breeding and the finest education that Mummy and Daddy’s pelf can buy, eh?
Now, join with Messers Carroll, Dodgson and myself in a spot of jolly good schadenfreude as we observe the Beaver and Butcher chase after those mysterious semioglyphs of numbers and language which puzzle them so. Ignore their tears, please, pay them no heed for they are but the tears of a clown!
*A statement itself proved true by the Clochetic Rule of Three in light of its triple-negative syntax! Darn these pesky liberals and their sin tax!
Monday, January 14, 2013
It felt that, in spite of all possible pains,
It had somehow contrived to lose count,
And the only thing now was to rack its poor brains
By reckoning up the amount.
Ladies and gentlemen, please gather around this small table which I just happen to have upon me, and pay attention, you might get lucky. The name of the game is Hunting the Snark and today we’ll try to find a Jubjub Bird, a beast just like the Snark but even better.
Finding one is child’s play, especially for a smart operator such as you. Simply lay your money down and watch the origami cranes closely, the clue you seek is beneath one of them. Pay no attention to the young gentleman with the fieldstone head and vacant expression, he’s a Polynesian exchange student studying mid-19th-century British abattoir practices and he has nothing to do with me, I assure you. The epithet of shill worries him not, it's idle speculation and his empty head is entirely innocent of such nefarious thing-um-a-jigs.
Using the Clochetic Rule of Three (known to polite society as the Logician’s Variation Upon Three Card Monte) the Butcher has already won a Jubjub Bird, the lucky guy! Alas, his fellow gamester, the plucky Beaver, has lost count. Last week’s byzantine labyrinth of puzzling quills and Poes and desks and birds has befuddled her pretty head; and she now is, as they say, a flummoxed castorian incapable of reckoning the amount of anything in this farrago of pictoversical sleights-of-hand.
She is, in popular parlance, a mark, and as such, quite appealing to homi-and-femicidal beasts such as Jubjub Birds! In fact, her dizzy-headed state of pixilation is the only correct strategy to defeat this nefarious, thimblerigged scheme! Dispossessed of all common sense, proudly ignorant of all logical acumen, she blithely chooses the closest origami crane — et voilà — all the fluttering, flying, flittering semioglyphs concealed therein are freed at last!
Yes, dear readers, it’s all rather zenlike, most confidence games are, you know. Truth and deception, sense and nonsense, all enfolded upon themselves into origamic puzzles which, when upended, release into the wild the crypto-Jubjubian fledgings of raw meaning.
And if all the above crosstalk wracks your poor brains, then beware the Jubjub, my son, and watch the telly instead, it do the Snark in different voices!
Monday, January 7, 2013
The Beaver had counted with scrupulous care,
Attending to every word:
But it fairly lost heart, and outgrabe in despair,
When the third repetition occurred.
When Lewis Carroll sat down at his writing desk to compose his masterpiece of passive-aggressive nonsense, The Hunting of the Snark, he often chewed reflexively upon his quill pen as he pondered what effect his words might have upon future readers.
Words, words, words! They have naughty bits which we cover up in polite company, they have sad bits to make the grownups cry, and sometimes, if you push ‘em together just so, their silly bits will make the kiddies giggle!
Of course, every word needs a voice and the above stanzel’s assemblage of words, birds, quills, desks and notes is stuffed with ‘em. Alas, poor Beaver, chronically outgrabed and all those voices in your head to boot! One of them, sounding suspiciously like the (Mad) Hatter, is wondering why a raven is like a writing-desk? Another (rather familiar) voice is telling her that this is so "because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front". Yet another voice (craftily mimicking Sam Lyod) is telling her that the correct answer is simply that Poe wrote on both. There’s even a voice chiming in about them both having quills dipped in ink.
These words are all meant to answer those other arrangements of words which more evolved thinkers call riddles, that is to say, an augural flock of words meant to signify something despite themselves. Replete with all the requisite overtones of linguistic juju, riddles were once all the rage in the Good Old Days. They served as social icebreakers for all manner of homicidal and imaginary beasts such as sphinxes, trolls, dragons and even — yes! — Jubjub Birds!
I shall cue the evil laughter now for our jolly little metafictional cabal stands revealed at last! Outgrabe all you like, Miss Beaver, but the bird you are really riddling here is no mere raven, it is the Urschreckvogel, the dreaded Jubjub itself!
And so, dear reader, can you enlighten the Beaver as to why a Jubjub is like a writing desk? Simple, you reply — because none has an o in it (pace Huxley). Then run as fast as you can before all these birds wreak their Hitchcockian vengeance upon your person!