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.
There is Thingumbob shouting! Mahendra Singh’s beautiful new illustrated version of The Hunting of the Snark is being released tomorrow, Tuesday, November 2nd (and we refuse to make any Election Day analogies) from Melville House Publishing. You can still pre-order it today for $10.08 on Amazon with free shipping (where it’s listed as a “graphic novel,” although where is the line between a graphic novel and a book with many, many pictures and conversations?) Singh, an LCSNA member and an editor of the Knight Letter, has been blogging about the creative process of this book for years with tons of sneak-peaks of the art at justtheplaceforasnark.
In 1879, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson–a.k.a. Lewis Carroll–published the classic “nonsense” poem, The Hunting of the Snark. Though often outshined by Carroll’s prose works like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Snark is beloved by Carroll fans and has been adapted in numerous iterations since it was originally published.
In November, Melville House is publishing the latest iteration, a lovely new graphic novel edition of The Hunting of the Snark, illustrated by the artist Mahendra Singh. (Singh has been blogging about the process of adapting this famous work over at justtheplaceforasnark–I encourage anyone who considers themselves aficionados of Carroll or graphic novels to check it out. His commentary about the process is incredibly fun and often brilliant.)
When you’re publishing something that’s already so well known, there’s no shortage of adaptations and interpretations out there. Each tends to say something not just about the original work, but about the time and place it was adapted. Yesterday I found this wonderful audio clip of Boris Karloff doing a reading of Snark. It’s lovely to hear Karloff’s eloquent rendering, to let it take you back to his time as he ruminates on Carroll’s playful language, and get wrapped up in all the “nonsense”…
If you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll, Alice, the Snark, and you’re anywhere near the NYC area, you should check out the Eventspage of the LCSNA’s web site to see the full agenda for our fall meeting, to be held in Manhattan on Saturday, November 6th. The impressive roster of speakers includes noted author and critic Adam Gopnik, who will be discussing whether recent adaptations do or do not honor Lewis Carroll’s original works, as well as Carroll biographer Jenny Woolf, who is traveling over from England specifically for this event. Many of the speakers will be signing copies of their latest book(s), available in limited quantity at the meeting for a special 20% discount. There will be a three-course dinner at Josephina’s after the meeting, for the Carrollian cost of $42 per person.
In addition to the wonderful agenda posted on our site, we’ve just learned that member Mahendra Singh will also be on hand to sell and sign copies of his new edition of The Hunting of the Snark. This is a don’t miss meeting. It occurs on the weekend of the NY Marathan, however, so if you need accommodations, you should check with hotels (or local friends!) right away.
Please remember to let Secretary Clare Imholtz know if you plan to attend so that we can keep track of the headcount, as we expect a big turnout and seating is limited. You don’t need to be a member to attend our free meetings. We hope to see you there!
There’s a casting call up right now at Playbill.com for The Hunting of the Snark, a stage adaptation for the Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Fall Fest. The full listing gives a good feel for what the play might be like, so I’ll quote it at length:
Frontispiece to Fit the Second, from Mahendra Singh's illustrations
“The Hunting of the Snark” is a theatrical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s poem of the same name. This production is a part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Fall Fest. This is a wonderful whirlwind opportunity to collaborate with several emerging artists at a theater in mid-town!
Rehearsals begin August 16th. Performances are September 16, 17, and 19. Times TBA.
Looking for 12 actors of either gender and any ethnicity from ages 25-30. A plus if you play any unique instruments, can perform simple magic tricks, are great with sound effects, or have experience with simple dance/movement.
The Bellman – Crazy for hunting the Snark
Bonnets – A shy, clingy individual
Barrister – Victim to Snark hallucination
Broker – Fast-paced individual
Butcher – Acts like a dunce, but it is revealed he knows everything about natural history
Beaver – The Bellman’s sidekick. Knows what’s what before everyone else
Baker – The person behind the proper method of hunting the Snark
Banker – Brought on board at enormous expense
Billiards-Maker – Sly, only wants to have fun, but quickly discovers how dangerous this is. **Simple magic tricks are a plus**
Snark – Thinks that it’s in control of the show
Creatures (3) – One of the creatures on the island. They set the mood and scene for much that happens on the island. **Seeking movers/dancers, individuals who can play unique instruments, and vocalists**
Adapted by Katie Dickinson
Directed by Nathan Gregorski
Choreographed by Shannon McPhee
Thanks Mahendra Singh for the tip, and he adds: “maybe this will be our long-awaited Summer of Snark … have you gone down to Snark Island with some Boojums in your hair, etc etc.” There are also moviesand new editions in the works. (Singh’s beautiful new illustrations for the Snark are being published by Melville House this November – pre-order it on Amazon here, and see examples on his blog here!)
Thanks to Mahendra Singh for reminding us that 136 years ago today Lewis Carroll began his composition of The Hunting of the Snark, “and thus, in a semiotic and hypermetaphysical manner, began decomposing the non-existence of The Hunting of the Snark.” Read more at his excellent blog.
In celebration of Snark Day, here is the full text the first edition, published by Macmillan and Co. in 1876.
In lieu of a rendition of “Happy Birthday To You,” we suggest listening to Billy Connolly as the Bellman in the 1987 April Fool’s Day performance of Mike Batt’s Snark musical. When the musical was originally released as a concept album in 1986, the part of the Bellman was sung by Cliff Richard, possibly the only time Billy Connolly and Cliff Richard have proved substitutable in popular culture.
Finally, Mr. Singh (an LCSNA member and Knight Letter editor) is publishing his own beautiful Snark illustrations, coming out November 2nd, 2010, from Melville House, and it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon.com here. Only $10.08! (Don’t be fooled by Amazon’s “look inside,” it links to another edition.) Previews of many of Singh’s illustrations can be seen on his blog, and I’ve reprinted one below.
From Mahendra Singh's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark
[...] The world doesn’t need a fifth Indiana Jones movie, or any more big-screen retreads of ’80s cartoons that weren’t that great to begin with. And it especially doesn’t need yet another weak reconceptualization of Romeo And Juliet, or yet another stuffy screen version of Pride And Prejudice to join the wave of them that started back in 1938. In fact, here’s a list of just a few of the literary works that have officially been done to death—and some recommendations for where to find newer, fresher stories just waiting on the page.
Book: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass
Adaptations to date: More than three dozen, notably including the 1951 animated Disney musical version and big-event 1985 and 1999 TV miniseries. Other countries have released their own versions as well; there’s a 24-episode Japanese animated adaptation, an Argentinean mime version, and nationalist versions like 1966’s Alice Of Wonderland In Paris and 1979’sAlice In Spanish Wonderland. Plus, of course, the upcoming Tim Burton sequel to Carroll’s original stories.
Definitive version: The Disney version is probably best known. While it has its own charms, though, it liberally diverges from Carroll’s text, like most Disney adaptations.
Why steer clear? The Alice books are simultaneously two of the most-adapted novels in history, and among the most habitually worst-adapted. Film and TV versions necessarily tend to elide over the original books’ densely packed puns and references, and instead concentrate on spectacle or on drearily plodding through a series of events that should be sprightly and disorienting, yet somehow not manic. It’s a difficult balance, and one that directors rarely seem to get right. What’s left behind is a bunch of creative, fun ideas that have had the creativity and fun leached out through repetition. How many times can we watch Alice grow, shrink, and boggle at it all?
What to adapt instead? Other Carroll works, including his novel Sylvie And Bruno and his poem “The Hunting Of The Snark,” bring in as much clever nonsense, wordplay, and episodic adventure, but are less line-by-line familiar.
Sylvie & Bruno!! How about that? The list continues with A Christmas Carol, The Bible, and other books that will by no means stop inspiring filmmakers in our lifetimes.
Wondering exactly how many times the mysterious word “Boojum” appears in The Hunting of the Snark? (3). There’s a pretty user-friendly and accessible concordance of seven of Lewis Carroll’s most important works – Both Alices + “Under Ground”, Snark, Slyvie & Bruno, The Game of Logic, and Phantasmagoria and Other Poems – at the Victorian Literary Studies Archive (in addition to searchable texts of dozens of other authors.) Thank you to the VLSA for making a useful website, and thanks to LCSNA member Lester Dickey for the tip.
Strange creepy creatures come out of your dens, and go to the world premier of The Hunting of the Snark at the Queens International Film Festival on Saturday, November 14th, 2009. The 30-minute student film is the directorial debut of Peter Pavlakis, a Brooklynite. The synopsis sounds like the plot sticks close to the Carroll poem, and the film trailer has an actor reading verbatim one of the rhymed speeches – so, we can expect a bit of fidelity, not a psycho-sexual re-imagining of the Bellman returning to sea a decade later to confront his nightmarish inner demons (ending in a car chase).
This will be at noon tomorrow at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Charter Room, 35-12 35th Avenue, Queens, NY 11106.
Also coming out this week with the same title, the transatlantic “cosmopolitan post-bop” group NYNDK released “The Hunting of the Snark” on the label Jazzheads. The album includes hip versions of Charles Ives, Edward Grieg, and Carl Nielsen. The titular track (which can be heard online here) begins with some snarky outgribations on trombone, but I couldn’t find any explanation for the use of the Carroll poem’s title beyond catchy inspiration.