W.D.F. Shnooker is the foremost name among Gri'x musical composers. A prodigy almost from infancy, he was desperate to achieve the greatness he knew he deserved, and terminally vexed by the obvious lack of it in others.
Shnooker is almost as famous for his eccentric behavior as he is for his music. The tales of his myriad exploits are favorites of documentary-makers.
At age 3, when his nurse insisted that he leave his percussion blocks in the playroom during lunch, he gnawed through her ankle. It took three strong men 45 minutes to extricate the woman from young Willis's jaw.
At 7, he assembled his stuffed toys and dolls in an orchestra formation in the drawing room of his family's modest Wezzyde
home. There they remained for the better part of the summer, for he wouldn't allow them to be moved until the horn section “stopped fucking about and played a proper fortissimo.”
At 13, hoping to move to the Kingdom of Blintz
to study and write music full-time, Shnooker obtained employment as a clerk in the South Belt Filth Works
in order to save enough money.
Office life did not agree with him. The foreman's records show that Shnooker accrued excessive absences and his work was of generally poor quality.
“What do you expect?!” is Shnooker's response, written in his own hand, in the “Employee Comments” section on one of the disciplinary forms in his personnel file (now on display in the Shnooker Room at the Gri’x Museum of History
). “It's a Filth Works, not the bloody Symbolencie Block
. This is pointless busy-work. Give us something meaningful to do, pay us a decent wage, and quit treating us like halfwit children and maybe...” the rest of his comments are obscured by filth stains.
At 19, he finally arrived in Blintz. While he found that the streets were, in fact, paved with gold in some places, the dispositions of many of the inhabitants grated on his nerves. Shnooker found employment as a musical director at Douggie's House of Opera
on Nert Street
, in return for two small rooms above the box office and one hot meal per day.
He was content to remain at Douggie's for many years. He would sit for hours at his desk by the large front window, enjoying the view of the Promenade, alternately writing furiously or staring out the window so intently that he sometimes spooked passing horses.
“How I love to watch the people flowing by!” he wrote in a letter to his sister Nasturtia. “Their colorful outfits, their graceful movements, the stories you can almost see, flitting across each face like shadows of lore. Society as a whole is an artform, a masterpiece of its own. Of course, taken as individuals, they disgust me to no end.”
Despite his chronic misanthropy, Shnooker did manage to connect with a few kindred souls. He was part of a loose-knit group of regular patrons of The Rusty Chisel
, a small tavern on the seamier side of town. This group is known to have included Weyndolynne Herman
, Singh Sou
, Dartmouth Qrell
, Virgonia Heckabillah
, and Gimpy the Mad
According to his letters, this was Shnooker's first encounter with others who valued excellence as much as he did. The comraderie, encouragement, and occasional competition provided by his first real peers inspired and enlivened the young composer, and from this point forward, he hit his stride, producing an astonishing portfolio of music, including his wildly successful hit, There's a Lumpy Fellow
Still, Shnooker retained and nursed his distaste for the general public. Legend has it that during an early performance at Douggie's, he became annoyed with a member of the audience who kept chatting to her companion throughout the first act. He stopped the performance, ordered her onto the stage, and insisted that she “share the very interesting news with the rest of the audience.” She demurred at first, but when urged on by the jeering of the crowd, she did finally begin a story about her husband's infidelity with the milk-maid, the mail woman, and a pile of well-oiled bread dough. During her speech, Shnooker lead the orchestra in a light-hearted improvised musical accompaniment. Ironically, the tune later became the theme music to his beloved opera, Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up, O You Lady
He reserved his deepest ire for the rampant apathy of those in the customer service industry.
At the age of 38, Shnooker saw his popularity begin to wane. On the advice of his contemporaries, he committed suicide by leaping into the Bay of Ulm
in front of a passing cruise ship. It was the best career move he could have made—he regained his place on the front pages of the weekly reviews, and his work was once again in high demand. He produced no fewer than 34 commissioned pieces in the first two years after his death.
Shnooker disappeared from public arenas several decades ago, leaving no explanation or forwarding address. Whether or not he finally succumbed to finality is a matter of great debate in musical circles.