Mahendra Singh’s beautiful new graphic novel version of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark got a Christmasy plug in The New Yorker’s blog Book Bench, in a post called “Holiday Gift Guide: For the Precocious Child.” “…Illustrated with delightfully surreal (and somewhat macabre) drawings,” writes Eileen Reynolds. “The language isn’t easy, of course, so save this book for the brightest and most adventurous young word-worms on your holiday shopping list.”
Over at Melville House’s blog MobyLives, Singh wrote a short essay about his creative process when approaching the illustration of the Bellman’s blank map. The original post is here, and I’ll quote in full:
A panel from Singh’s adaptation
The infamous Blank Map of the Bellman is proof positive that there was no Bellwoman forcing the Bellman to stop and ask for directions. It’s also a classic example of Carroll’s subversive sense of fun in the entire Snark.
The original illustrator of the poem, Henry Holiday, simply drew a blank map for this scene, a zen-like decision which really complicated my life when I set about drawing this panel.
Outsmarting Holiday would not be easy, but I had two advantages working for me in my quest to draw that celebrated blankness. First, this was going to be the world’s first, genuinely full-scale Surrealist Snark. Second, I am a shameless borrower of things which don’t belong to me.
Both the Snark and Surrealism involve a lot horsing around with the exact meanings of words and pictures, with interchanging them, combining them, sometimes even making their entire meaning softly and silently vanish away.
Henry Holiday’s Map of the Bellman
The Belgian Surrealist, Rene Magritte, was obsessed with this sort of game and his painting, “The Lover”, makes a perfect comment upon the Bellman’s Map. So, I just took it. Shameless on my part, yes, but there’s even more of that to come.
The map’s legend, “you are here” is literally true but what’s really shameless is my insistence that French is the language of the lost and confused when everyone knows that it’s really English. This is easily verified. Stand on a street corner in any big francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while carefully pronouncing every word at the utmost decibel level. I think you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Words, words, words! If only they had the decency to cover themselves up, like the Bellman & Company. They have no loyalty, they can’t be bothered to mean anything anymore, they’re shameless!
Rene Magritte’s “The Lovers”
Singh’s Snark is for sale on Amazon here, and more on The Hunting of the Snark around our website here.
Over at the blog Booktryst: A Nest for Book Letters, Stephen J. Gertz has posted most of the text of Carroll’s pamphlet “Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing,” with some commentary about its relevance 120 years later. The original pamphlet “was very popular, going into five editions 1890-1897.” Mr Gertz says:
The Net has been compromised; it’s lights out for email. Time to get out a piece of stationary, a pen, and write an old-fashioned letter. But how? What’s a 21st century citizen to do? Ask Mr. Dodgson!
We’re tempted to chalk this one up to a bad case of Engrish mistranslation from our friends across the Pacific. It’s easy to see how “Wonderland” could have been misread as “Waterland,” and the “Mad Hatter” may have been literally interpreted as “Angry Hat.”
In any case, how we are supposed to believe that they’re pouring a cup of tea underwater? How the hell are you going to drink it? Could they have made a more disturbing Alice in Wonderland cover?
I think all LCSNA members will know the answer to that last question.
There will of course be reviews of the new Tim Burton Disney Movie (knocked down by titans, dragons, and Tyler Perry, but still 5 in the box office in its fifth week, and having made already $300 million dollars!) in the forthcoming Knight Letter. Meantime, several LCSNA members have been forwarding this video around, seconding this reviewer’s sage insight:
Attention Portuguese-speaking Lewis Carroll readers! The Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil has several colorful blogs and websites with a bottomless rabbithole of books, links, art, tudo Alice. Look at all of these edições Brasileiras deAlice no país das Maravilhalisted on the dizzying alicenations.blogspot.com. (The groovy cover to the left is from a 1974 edition with ilustrações by Brazilian artist Oswaldo Storni.)
Their second blog, for “deeper research with more articles and images”, is at brasillewiscarroll.blogspot.com. This one is also expansive, and both sites have some English (always demarcated by stylish italic pink text). I’ve long been a fan of reading websites in translation using the various cyborg cyberspace interpreters at our disposal, and the Sociedade has provided an occasional easy link to do so. For instance, if you desired to read Myriam Ávila’s Alice e Macunaíma, you could feed it thru Google Translate like so. This occasionally creates interesting sentences like: “Such people, the girl significantly calls ‘obnoxious’ (meaning ‘antipodal’), are Anglophones, even though they walk ‘upside down’.” (Both websites, unfortunately, include all or most of their posts on their homepage, so they can take a long time to load on slower computers.) There is also an impressive cache of art and illustrations on these two blogs, like the large one that I’m putting at the foot of this post, which comes with the following pink italicized explanation:
Marina Peliano once was my little sister. But she ate any strange cookie and so suddenly she grew turning trapeze artist, sweet maker and art student, artist growing too. I asked her to do some drawings inspired on Alice and she followed the adventure. I found really beautiful her Alices who look like her. I remember now the letter of the writer Paulo Mendes Campos to his daughter when she was fifteen: “This book is crazy. The meaning is in you.”