Today’s GLP comic is a variation of Yost’s cover design for a Harcourt Brace Jovanovich edition (circa 1986) of The Death of the Moth, and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf. HBJ paid Yost for the commission but the publisher never used the art for a cover. A few years ago, there was some discussion in the GLP fan base about printing a limited edition book with Yost’s cover, with the content found at Project Gutenberg Australia, but there was not enough enthusiasm for Woolf to make the project viable.
This is the second in a series known as the Poppy Garden, or the Poppy Fields. Yost did not name the series, the title was adopted by an eventual consensus among GLP fans. Whether you call it fields or a garden is a matter for an argument that can only be resolved by tolerating each other’s personal preferences. I prefer to call it a garden.
After his disappearance, four of Yost’s journals were found (along with his collection of vintage printed table linens and handkerchiefs) in an antique Indestructo steamer trunk, which dominated the space in his tiny dining room. In the Paisley Notebook (the other three journals are known as the Black Oxford Notebook, the Peter Max Notebook, and the Green Vinyl Bound Sketchbook) is a section titled Four Labyrinths. The labyrinths are located in a landscape that was once domesticated but now has grown wild from years of neglect. The landscape becomes a maze in which Jack Loki and his companions wander for a time. Yost’s notes about this landscape include references to the Land of Oz, the Garden of Eden and Kunlun. The descriptions of the hallucinogenic features of the garden and its inhabitants are characteristic of Jack Loki’s dream-quests.
At the entrance to the Labyrinth of Suoja is a granite plinth engraved with a quote from the fifth chapter of The Conservation of Static by Kuoleman Vanderhau*:
“The proverb of the double-edged sword is very much misused. Most of the time, the perception is that if you reach for it, whatever “it” is–fame, love, security, power, truth–you will cut yourself grievously. Because a double-edged sword when used as a metaphor must cut “both ways”, thus you will cut yourself as you use it. This can only make a weapons master laugh, or weep, that so many idiots do not understand that you grasp the hilt, not the blade, when you wield a sword. Double-edged or single-edged, the blade will be sharp. It will be your own carelessness or stupidity, not the sword, that causes damage to yourself.”
The Conservation of Static is a novel that Yost first read when he was 15 years old. It is one of a limited number of books he read again and again, until he lost count of how many times he had read it. Today’s quote comes from a conversation between Ajay (the brother of the novel’s protagonist) and his girlfriend, Elinaika. We learn some basic facts about Ajay in the first paragraphs of the novel: he was born in Barcelona, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 8 years old, he was 23 years old and a student of history and political economy at Charles University in Prague when he disappeared. The mystery of his sudden disappearance at the Prague–Ruzyne Airport (now called the Václav Havel Airport Prague) is the central device of the novel, but the mystery is never solved and it serves as the pivot around which the story revolves. The novel is written in first-person from the point-of-view of five characters: Ajay’s brother, Ajay’s best friend, one of Ajay’s teachers, Elinaika’s sister, and a stranger. Except for the stranger, we never learn the names of our narrators, since they all refer to themselves as “I”. This makes the story confusing at first, but the reader learns to identify the narrators according to epithets used by other characters, and by their relationships to Elinaika. The stranger’s name is Dr. Michel.
*In an appendix to The Boy in the Yellow Leatherette Pormanteau, Gralie Bohe provides us with a bibliography of “significant books” in Yost’s life. The information about The Conservation of Static in today’s post comes from that bibliography and from Yost’s own notes about the four labyrinths of the poppy garden.
Ideally I should have shared this on May 20th, the holiday we call the Joy Revolt or Hugh Hugh Hugh Day, but I had injured my shoulder and the pain was at its height around the 20th, which made work at the computer keyboard impossible. I had badly strained my right shoulder muscle in a strenuous effort to create some order out of the neglected back garden.
It was the same shoulder muscle that had received my second Covid-19 shot, so I had to deal with a bunch of groundless fears that I had some kind of rare delayed side-effect of the vaccine. Browsing the internet for longer than 10 or 15 minutes resulted in a sore arm that kept me awake at night, but I was reasonably satisfied that I did not have an awful complication from the vaccine. After that, my internet time was mostly used for lining up documentaries about philosophy, history and science in my Youtube queue, which was a distraction that helped me get the rest I needed.
(Oddly enough, gentle exercise of my whole arm helped to relieve the pain. I could move my arms freely, but for a week there was no one position where my sore arm could rest in relative painlessness. That was my sleepless week.)
The only cure was rest and time, and maximum doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, plus alternating applications of cold and heat. I’ve had four weeks of diminishing pain, and my arm still aches, but I can get a full night’s sleep finally, so I am fairly ecstatic and newly appreciative of states of painlessness. In a belated celebration, I made an animated gif from May 20th’s Geranium Lake Properties comic and its splendidly purple misprint from Newark’s Star-Ledger.
I have two slides for today’s GLP comic, each is a representation of a subtle color variation. I don’t know which variation was submitted for publication, and Ha Kim Ngoc was surprised to learn that a second color variation exists. She thinks the color happened in the processing of the slide, but she can’t say which variation is more true to the original artwork, so I am posting both images.
I think this misprint from Newark’s Star-Ledger is a lovely tone poem of sepia, chestnut and ivory, but Ha Kim Ngoc is sure Yost hated it:
“A large part of Yost’s comic was drawn in a conventional style with traditional comic strip narratives, easily recognized as a “funny animal” comic…”
Yost’s influences were Krazy Kat by George Herriman, Pogo by Walt Kelly, comics in the New Yorker drawn by Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, the animations of Chuck Jones, especially the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, and The Far Side by Gary Larson (although Larson, one of Yost’s contemporaries, occupied a somewhat adversarial relationship to Yost). If you can imagine a pastiche of all these disparate sources, you can probably envision Yost’s drawings for the earliest Geranium Lake Properties comics, with a jackalope named Jack Loki as the main protagonist. Yost developed his own distinctive style (and his creative purpose irrevocably departed from his influences) at the beginning of the second year of GLP’s run, when the artist began experimenting with abstract comics and asemic writing for dream sequences, which mostly occurred when Jack Loki embarked on vision quests under the influence of hallucinogenic substances.
I was not perfectly honest in the description for the Bellingham Review when I said I pay no mind to that part of GLP rendered by Yost as conventional funny animal comics. I don’t feature that work here in this blog, but certainly I, and my panel of experts, Ha Kim Ngoc, Michael Veerduer, Benedict Thorarinsson, Algernon and Agatha Dawe-Saffery, have scrutinized every frame of Geranium Lake Properties, attempting to make our understanding of the GLP universe as complete as it can be. I have to say, I find the more traditional narrative of Yost’s epic rather ordinary, maybe even a little boring, but that’s really the fault of my own personal taste, and not a criticism of whatever literary merit it might deserve.
(For insight into Yost’s creative process, I prefer the more piquant information gleaned from Gralie Bohe’s novel, The Boy in the Yellow Leatherette Portmanteau, a roman à clef about Yost’s life after his mysterious disappearance.)
Christopher Patton is the person who invited me to submit my work, and he picked the four GLP comics out of the eight I sent him. He also did me the great favor of editing a much-too-long essay about GLP into the brief paragraph needed for the piece in the Bellingham Review. I am very grateful he let me take advantage of his editorial skills. He demonstrated an extraordinary eye for what is essential. (Please don’t miss viewing his own work featured in the Bellingham Review, an animated short film with a keen asemic perspective.)
Two of the four GLP comics at the Bellingham Review might be familiar to you: “The Conjoined Numina of Valfad Niam and yre-Ovna” from the Cephalopod Jamboree, and “Iron Earth, Stone Water, Separate Stars” from a post during this past winter.
“Paska Potkaisan Paska” is an illustration of an odd creature from Jackalopian culture who is not a native character of their myths. He is sometimes called “Potkia Paskaa”, and also called “The Shitkicker” in English. He is a personification of their view of an entity that is peculiar to human culture, an entity humans call “popular media” or “the media” or “the news”.
The offerings from Yost for Scarabaeus Day in both 1993 and 1995 have a tricky connection with the Enochian language, the language of angels revealed to John Dee and Edward Kelley in 16th century England. In each panel, you might be able to discern fragments of the letters Gal, Pa, Mals, Gon, Pal and Gon (with point) arranged in this pattern:
These represent the letters D, B, P, I, X and Y from the English alphabet. According to a theory from Benedict Thorarinsson, these letters spell out the names Galpa Malsgonpalgon and D. B. Pixy, which are code names for David Banner, the protagonist from the old television series (1978 – 1982) about The Hulk, a character from Marvel Comics. I don’t know if I am convinced of Thorarinsson’s theory, although I probably should be. Thorarinsson is an enthusiastic GLP fan with an earnest parasocial relationship with Wm. Yost. He has expressed some amazing insights into Yost’s character, plus he is a well-respected paleographer in his professional life. The character of David Banner, as depicted by the actor Bill Bixby, deeply influenced Yost as a teenager. Along with Hawkeye Pierce (played by Alan Alda in the series M*A*S*H, 1972 – 1983) and Kwai Chang Caine (a Shaolin monk played by David Carradine in the series Kung Fu, 1972 – 1975), David Banner helped to form Yost’s ideals of manhood, pacifism and the questing life.
Aka, “How the Blue Jay Remembers Where He Buried His Acorn”.
I surmise that this method is not 100% effective, since I have several oak trees in my yard that are the results of jays burying acorns.
Pink is such a treacherous color, it is the color of wishful thinking, of rose-colored glasses, the pink cloud is what recovering alcoholics call their brand-new sobriety (an all-too-brief phenomenon). Pink in the language of flowers symbolizes happiness, that most fickle and slippery state of emotions. Jackalopes regard pink with the liveliest suspicion, and they have all sorts of adverse reactions to it, ranging from annoyance to disgust to terror. The most fearsome monsters in their legends are pink. They would use the color to catch people’s attention–if jackalopes made warning labels, crime scene tape, stop signs and crosswalks, they would all be pink. (Jackalopes usually ignore warning labels, crime scene tape, stop signs and crosswalks, which they consider superfluous to their own senses and intelligence.)
The date on this GLP panel was Easter Sunday in 1996, but the comic was published on March 26th. That was the first day of Fool’s Week in 1996. This year, the first day of Fool’s Week is tomorrow, March 29th. If you share your household with a jackalope, or have friends who are jackalopes, I’m sure you are aware that a prank war will begin tomorrow. You also know that you need not fear the arrival of mail exploding with glitter, soap disguised as candy, Saran-wrapped toilet bowls, or googly eyes stuck to any and all surfaces. When you crack your eggs for your breakfast scramble, you will not discover rainbow Jello instead of the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that make an egg a neat little package of high-quality nutrition.
According to the Jackalopian tradition for the All Fools holiday, a prank is a ridiculously lavish gift, something extravagant and useless. It can be a book for someone who already owns a library of books they have not read yet, or a bar of dark sinful chocolate from Lithuania flavored with wild Porcini mushrooms.
Or you could buy one-of-a-kind ceramics made by local potters (Jean Shinn, Charles Varni) and fill them with dirt, rocks and plants, even though you have stacks of mass produced clay pots:
It’s a bit of foolishness that you would never buy for yourself, but then you do, and then you give it to yourself. That is the Jackalopian ideal of a prank war during Fool’s Week.
Are you saying to yourself, “Wait, what kind of war is that? That’s not a war.” A jackalope will say to you, “Au contraire!” (Because speaking with a bad French accent is also one of the many traditions practiced during Fool’s Week.) “Nobody engages in a war unless it is for their own benefit. We just remove all the middlemen–and all the toil and suffering–and get right to the benefit. It is war with efficiency. It is delightful, as war should be.”
Actually, now that I think of it, Jello eggs are delightful, and making them requires patience and a peculiar set of skills. Especially if you want to make the multi-colored stripey ones, which would necessitate the purchase of at least six Jello packets of different colors. That’s fairly extravagant, and the whole thing involves a ridiculous amount of effort.
The Winding Coil Dance of Uryandifa is a Jackalopian myth that roughly corresponds to the Greek story of Ariadne and the Labyrinth, but without Theseus, who may have been important to the Athenians, but he is a nobody to jackalopes. A far more noteworthy character is the Minotaur, who is cherished as a hero in Jackalopian culture. His part in the story remains as tragic as it is in the Greek myth, but in the Jackalopian story he is an intelligent creature with a complicated nature, who has managed to acquire some hard-earned wisdom. Uryandifa is the name of his sister (Ariadne in the Greek myth), a goddess who gives the Minotaur sanctuary in the lands consecrated to her. The boundaries of her territory are configured by the path of the Winding Coil Dance, an intricate labyrinth shaped by the feet, paws, hooves, and bodies of Uryandifa’s votaries, as they dance in worship and celebration.
As a general rule, jackalopes find Greek myths annoying, even offensive. Tales of human heroes with physiques of Hollywood perfection slaying unfortunate beasts who were cursed because of the wounded vanity of overprivileged gods will be naturally unpopular with people who revere jackals and antelopes as their ancestors. Jackalopes are happy to count themselves as members of the animal kingdom without needing to be its princely overlords.