NABOKV-L post 0018255, Mon, 27 Apr 2009 19:15:58 -0300

Re: NEWS: Dr. John Rae's Arctic Explorations

A. Pitzer:There has been a good deal of talk in the past about the various inspirations for the name of Dr. John Ray, Jr. The well-known naturalist seems a good candidate, though others on the list in 2004 mentioned the explorer Dr. John Rae, Jr. What may be new to the Rae/Ray connection is a letter to the editor catalogued variously as "Arctic Explorations" or "Dr. John Rae's Arctic Explorations" from the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society of New York. What interests me particularly is that the "Arctic Explorations" title is the same as one of the journals in which Humbert says his research appears (p. 34).[...] If there are any intentional connections (if it is not too embarrassing to consider the idea of intention) between Rae and Ray, it's interesting to peruse the overt "madeness" signaled by VN, since Humbert's account predates details of the foreword that would be written after his death[...]
JM: An interesting array of observations, matching circumstances and historical registers. Doesn't it deserve to be turned into a published note, like those in the "The Nabokovian"?
Nabokov mentioned the Pole Star as the center of his novel (or something in its "compass", but I have not his afterword to quote it now).I wonder if this reference is in anyway related to Humbert's "artic" experiences, or if it adds a new twist to John Ray's "manuscript".

England's King Charles II's minister's initials formed the word "CABAL" (Clifford,Arlington, Buckingham,Ashley, Lauderdale).
They were a small group withing the Privy Council, a precursor to the modern Cabinet. Macaulay ("History of England") commented: "These ministers where emphatically called the Cabal, and they soon made the appellation so infamous that it has never since... been used except as a term of reproach" (Penguin book of Exotic Wrods, J.Whitcut,p.17)
In Pale Fire we find Jugde Goldsworth's "alphabetical family". Besides, VN stressed the initials of S,K and G., reversed Odon and Nodo, among other examples that I cannot recall at present.
Would VN have been cognizant with Charles II's "Cabal" cabinet and, if so, could we encounter any wordplay indicating this in PF?

[off-List exchanges]
Theme: what is an insect's "true face" from options pupa/nymph, caterpillar, butterfly? Victor Fet: In holometabolous insects (with true metamorphosis), juvenile stages...are 'philosophically' understood as an embryonic stage coming out of an egg for a while to feed, and going back to dormant stage to metamorphose into the adult.An adult in biology is defined as one capable for reproduction[...] Still, the quasi-embryos of holometabolous insects have an important identity on their own -- including adaptive features since they feed, move, fight their enemies, and often live much longer than adults.

Theme: Do biologists take "kinetic art" into consideration? VF: "All life exists in three dimensions...; wing beating by insects is adaptive (much of it is mating song); aquatic creatures live in 3-D patterns and so do birds in the air, communicating in their flocks much better than our airplanes... At molecular level, all our life IS kinetic art...For all I know, C.P. Snow's "two cultures" division is simplistic and artificial, and never really existed."

JM: Thank you, Victor. In a way these apparently tangential issues are important to understand Nabokov's metaphors and some of his puzzles. You showed how we may often attribute to the insect world aspects of our own (ie: when we distinguish embryos, nymphs and adults; what is "identity", when we proceed towards a classification of plants and animals...)
Nabokov, as an artist, rendered the "overall picture" of life, change, deceit and "reality", 3D motions in time, etc., by his writing - and he often considered, even his fiction, as having achieved a particular degree of "scientific" precision and enchanting "mimetism." When I asked about "kinetic art" I had planned to inquire into this Nabokovian blend bt. art and natural-science, but I didn't formulate my question correctly and, even now, I don't know how to express it.
Thanks for the observation on C.P.Snow's "simplistic and artificial division". Working both as an artist and as a scientist you are among those lucky few who can speak from experience.

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