NABOKV-L post 0019143, Mon, 18 Jan 2010 23:48:08 -0800

Re: STANG--response to Lipon et al.
I don't know if this has already been mentioned or not, but the word "stang" was, I believe used in The Gift as well. I think it was in the second chapter, whichever one it was in which Alexander Chernyshevski's (homosexual?) son's suicide was constructed Fyodor. On the day of the suicide, Alexander, and his two friends, a young German man and a morose Russian woman, take a tram to the Grunewald forest. I'm fairly certain I remember that one of the group was holding onto a "stang", which I had to look up on my first reading of the book. Unfortunately I can't recall pages. Perhaps Yuri Leving, creator of the wonderful The Gift Project can either confirm or deny my memory here. If I'm right it seems very interesting that N should have used the same word in two novels about in almost exactly the same dramatic contexts: characters on grim journeys to commit suicide!

--- On Mon, 1/18/10, James Twiggs <jtwigzz@YAHOO.COM> wrote:

From: James Twiggs <jtwigzz@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] STANG--response to Lipon et al.
Date: Monday, January 18, 2010, 12:33 PM

Gary Lipon wrote:
> did VN come to find stang...
> >From his goalkeeping youth.

I think this pretty much puts the issue to rest.
For Gary, perhaps, but certainly not for me. I would not take up more space over what may seem a trivial matter if I didn't think it involves a larger principle. Here are the lines in question:

               "I think," she said,

"I'll get off here." "It's only Lochanhead."

"Yes, that's okay." Gripping the stang, she peered

At ghostly trees. Bus stopped. Bus disappeared.460 

Shade is here putting himself in the place of Hazel, imagining her last moments alive. The word needed where “stang” appears is one that would come naturally to Shade and, for fullest effect, to Hazel as well. “Stang” itself, I hope we’re all agreed, is not such a word. Seldom if ever in this country, I’d wager, has a natural-born, apple-pie American, in the course of his/her ordinary conversation, referred to a pole in a bus as a stang. It is therefore out of character for Shade to use the word in this way. I would expect VN to be as careful about this--about being true to his characters--as he was in writing dialogue for Lolita. For this reason I’m not convinced by A. Bouzza’s argument or by the argument about the goal post. A goal post is not a pole (or a handrail) in an American bus, period. As for
defamiliarization, even that all-too-handy concept requires, if it’s to be effective, some staging, something in the way of a suitable context. 

SKB’s view is more interesting. According to him, VN uses the word as part of showing what a lousy poet Shade is. Although I’m sympathetic to that view, I consider “stang” to be so outrageously inappropriate as to be unconvincing even as an example of Shade’s frequent mediocrity. It’s a clunker of a word, all right, but a clunker that VN, not Shade, must claim the credit for.
Incidentally, Stan, it's good to have you back after such a long absence.
Jim Twiggs

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