Recently received: Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings (New York Review Comics, 2016), a collection of absurdist cartoons by the artist Glen Baxter. There will be more drawings from the volume; today, one (p. 30) about smouldering:


From NOAD on the verb smolder / smoulder:

[no object] [a] burn slowly with smoke but no flame: the bonfire still smoldered, the smoke drifting over the paddock. [b] show or feel barely suppressed anger, hatred, or another powerful emotion [AZ: notably including sexual desire and sexual invitation]: Anna smoldered with indignation | (as adjective smoldering): he met her smoldering eyes. …

Clearly, #1 illustrates sense a, but some might see the burning as also an eruption of a powerful emotion (sense b) — and, since Hank is a handsome young man putting on this display for an assortment of cowboys, rough older men, you might see that emotion as sexual (and some commenters on the cartoon have seen it as camp humor).

Earlier on this blog. From my 3/31/20 posting “The smoulder” (on the facial expression conveying sexual content), talking about an image there:

“Kevin Smith as the studly Ares” (the Greek god of war, in tv’s Xena: Warrior Princess), as I put it in my 6/23/17 posting “Typo time”: the smouldering look [directed at women], plus (among other things)  a masculine plunging neckline, muscular arms, a confrontational stance, a huge phallic dagger, and a well-filled crotch dramatically displayed in leather:


…  It seems that there’s no widely used term, so I’ll follow [a Facebook] commenter [on Kevin Smith’s facial expression] and call it the Smoulder (using her spelling, which is also the one I prefer).

That posting then quoted the NOAD entry, about which I wrote:

Note the lack of specificity in “anger, hatred, or another powerful emotion”  (including sexual desire, but also intense attention, dominance, disdain, and more). There’s discussion of this indeterminacy in my 3/28/20 posting “Reading faces”, on how facial expressions in isolation aren’t usually reliable guides to how people feel: people do judge emotional states (though imperfectly) from facial expressions, but from these expressions  plus other non-verbal cues (posture, hand gestures, and so on) and aspects of the context in which the facial expressions occur (including, very significantly, knowledge of the person exhibiting the facial expressions and how they customarily behave, though I didn’t treat this in the posting).

And it’s not just emotional states that are (so imperfectly) conveyed and judged: also people’s personas and identities, as when observers identify gay faces (or, more contentiously, faggy faces) and aspects of facial expressions that are identified as gay or faggy: gay eyes and gay smiles, in particular. (More to come on these topics in later postings, I hope.)

The artist. I’ve enjoyed his absurdist cartoons for some years and used some of them as bases for collages, but I have, apparently, never posted about his work. A very brief intro, from Wikipedia (I suspect Baxter had a hand in the text):

Glen Baxter (born 4 March 1944), nicknamed Colonel Baxter, is an English draughtsman and artist, noted for his absurdist drawings and an overall effect often resembling literary nonsense.

… His images and their corresponding captions employ art and language inspired by pulp fiction and adventure comics with intellectual jokes and references. His simple line-drawings often feature cowboys, gangsters, explorers and schoolchildren, who utter incongruous intellectual statements regarding art and philosophy.


One Response to “smouldering”

  1. Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Previously on this blog, my 4/11 posting “Smouldering”, on Glen Baxter and the collection Almost Completely Baxter, and […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: