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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Monday, May 19, 2008


Posted by Adam Roberts on 05/19/08 at 07:42 AM

Verbum sap:  Mahendra Singh’s superb protosurrealist edition of The Hunting of the Snark (or the first two cantos thereof) is now available to download in a handsome pdf format.  You need to peruse this if you have not already.  It is a thing of startling beauty.

One of the things Singh gets right in his illustrations is the balance between the too-literal and the too Max-Ernst-y oblique.  Somewhere in the middle is the best place to excavate the strangeness and solidity (the solid strangeness, the strange solidity) of Carroll’s poem.  So Henry Holiday, the original illustrator (with whom Singh’s own edition exists in a fertile dialectic) tends towards the former: as, famously, when he illustrates “They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;/They pursued it with forks and hope” by drawing the crew not only carrying actual thimbles and forks and also accompanied by the allegorical figures of ‘care’ and ‘hope’:

On the other hand eschewing representational sense altogether would also miss the point of the poem.  As Singh notes, it’s easy to overplay the complexity and allusiveness of ‘what the Snark means’.  Really, it’s simple.

Whenever asked what the Snark meant, Lewis Carroll always replied: I don’t know. Huzzah for these cheeky Victorians and their tautological transparencies in which the meaning is the meaning, they never cease to baffle the small-minded and delight the light-hearted!

We could put it another way: it’s obvious what the Snark is.  The Snark is a monster.  Now, monster is an interesting word.  It derives from the Latin, monstrum, which means (I pluck Lewis and Short from my shelf) ‘a divine omen, indicating misfortune, an evil omen, portent’.  This word is in turn from moneo: ‘to teach, instruct, tell, inform, point out; to announce, predict, foretell’.  Originally a calf (say) born with two heads would be a monster in the sense of being ominous: through it the gods would be trying to tell us something.  Though the word now has the connotation of a large and terrifying fantastical beast, the earlier meaning still haunts it.  Godzilla, say, is a monster in the contemporary vulgar sense, but also in the sense that he is trying to tell us something (in his case, something about the evils of nuclear testing).  What Carroll’s monster teaches us concerns the process of enquiry itself: what it means, as Singh notes, is meaning itself ... unless, of course, it is a boojum in which case the monster means the devouring of meaning, the meaningless cry (Latin, boo, ‘to cry aloud, roar’).  Either that, or a boojum is a cow (jum short for jumentum, the Latin for draught-cattle; and bo, from bos, ‘ox, bull, cow’), a cow being the size of our problem after all.  Imagine how disappointed you’d be if you went to all that trouble to find a Snark only for it to turn out to be—a cow.  Do you think you’d be disappointed enough to softly and suddenly vanish away?


Thank you, Adam, for your very kind words about my ever-so ‘umble Snark.

As you say, the light touch is critical in all the arts and Carroll’s Snark is a good example of the benefits of restraint.

I find your remarks on the Boojum very interesting! I think your thesis of Carroll as a cow-hugging crypto-Hindu will make our fellow snarkologists take notice indeed!

Onwards, with forks and hope!

By mahendra singh on 05/19/08 at 09:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Carrol also repeated, that the Snark was a Boojum. Here is a possible state diagram: http://www.snarkdown.de/SnarkBoojumStates.pdf

As for illustrations, presently I am working on substantiating the assuption, that Henry Holiday’s illustration (1876) for the last chapter in “The Hunting of the Snark” is based on an etching (1567) from Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. Anybody interested in helping? Details are in the Snark section of a CLD Forum:

With my best wishes to all of you for 2009,

By Goetz Kluge on 01/03/09 at 08:12 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Much-appreciated tip! The beastly Internet redeems itself in beauties like these.

By Steven Augustine on 01/04/09 at 12:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I am not as sure as in case of the “Allegory of Iconoclasm” of Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. But I think, *Henry* Holiday gave the face of Sir *Henry* Lee to the Bellman: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lewiscarroll/message/14839


By Goetz Kluge on 01/06/09 at 04:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Some time passed.

My http://www.snarkdown.de/SnarkBoojumStates.pdf is not too interesting compared to what I found out by now.

My Bellman guess is not entirely right. But there are surprises with regard to the Bonnet Maker and the Billiard Marker.

Now there is a picture collection available:

By Goetz Kluge on 03/24/09 at 04:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

One year passed by.

I tried to add more beauty to the beastly internet: http://holiday.snrk.de/

Happy new year (http://holiday.snrk.de/PigBand.htm)

By Goetz Kluge on 12/31/09 at 07:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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