NABOKV-L post 0018387, Wed, 17 Jun 2009 13:31:04 -0300

Re: Happy Bloomsday with a VN Sighting in NY Times OpEd
Frances Assa: In todays commemoration of Bloomsday, an author turns to Nabokov when explaining why Ulysses personally affected him:
"Vladimir Nabokov once said that the purpose of storytelling is “to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right..."

JM: Nabokov's optimism, inspite of adversity, always strikes me by its generous vein. Would VN's cruel and sick characters function, under this light, as a kind of exorcism of evil?
Personally, I could never figure out why, after closing a VN novel, the overall sensation was always of luminosity and enchantment, independently of Demon and Van Veen's actions and dreams, HH's, Hermann's, aso (even when the latter do not fall under the pressures of evasive denial and uncritical analysis).

Stan K-B (off List): Still in connection to former postings on Chamberlain's proposition ( the evaluation of Shade's art as a priority, as signalled under "insufficient scholarship"?), and other matters, SK-B wrote: " the first question is “How good a poet is John Shade?” The second question is “Does the first question make any sense?”
Using his habitually clear logic, he detailed his inquiry: "You judge REAL poets (dead or alive) from their entire corpora; you see the poems develop; you get to know the poet and his/her milieu; you read of his/her impact, compare your views with the critics’ ... An FP (fictional poet) appearing within a novel or play offers fewer clues for a mature, meaningful evaluation. The “works” of the FP, by definition, cannot be greater than those of the FP’s creator. In particular, John Shade’s poetry must be “less-than or equal to” VN’s “best.” But Shade’s poem has a non-poetic, narrative role to play in the PF plot. VN is constrained by this. PF, the poem, is not like any of VN’s serious poetry, except in occasional inspired stanzas. Much of it is exactly the brilliant, cruel parody of a small-time academic required by plot."

Perhaps related to my puzzlement concerning the different levels of parody in both Shade's poem and VN's entire novel, Stan explains:
"The final leap is entirely SUBJECTIVE. I can honestly see how difficult it might be for non-Anglophones (and esp. those of us fed huge doses of Milton, Dryden, Pope, Goldsmith, Hood! MacGonnigal! Ogden Nash!! from schoolhood) to see Shade’s hilariously bad rhymes through our ears. The relentless couplet is a huge giggle....[...] Re-read the Play-within-the-Play in Hamlet. This is the Bard parodying inferior rivals. But taking the piss out of Elizabethan drama’s foibles including his own. I see the same situation with VN mocking JS."

For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.

Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?

‘Tis brief my lord.

As woman’s love.

Full thirty times hath Phoebus’ cart gone round
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbed ground
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen [HEE HEE! 30 x 12 = 360 Pale Fires!]
About the world have times twelve thirties been, ... [THUMPS ON DE-DUM DE-DUM, quite Shadean!]

Compare this doggerel with Barnado’s speech in Act I sc i: A similar astronomic trope but in NOBLE BLANK VERSE!

When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course t’illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns ...

JM: A treat for my non-anglophone ears. It confirms my feeling about the alternation bt. serious intention, lyrical moments, gorgeous verbal imagery and rythm, with the use of parody, in Shade's poem. Stan's demonstration (he stressed its "entirely subjective" aspect) led me to reconsider the interdependence bt. Shade's "Pale Fire" and the novel as a whole.

Date: Mon, 15 Jun 2009 05:28:36 -0400
From: gs33@CORNELL.EDU

Gavriel Shapiro, The Sublime Artist's Studio: Nabokov and Painting (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2009).
ISBN: 978-0-8101-2559-9.

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