NABOKV-L post 0018447, Sun, 12 Jul 2009 15:08:33 -0700

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Re: Fw: [NABOKOV-L] On plums and Bend Sinister,PS
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--- (a) That's an excellent point about V.Darkbloom's "My Cue" and the substitution of "real" names in the novel.
As I said, it's not exactly a cheat on N's part. Maybe Quilty's name did start with a Q and John Ray forgot to tell us, as he did not forget to mention that the last name of Haze only rhymes with Lolita's real last name. 


 
(b) Would J.Ray be qualified to judge HH's book from the point of view of an art critic?
 
I'm not sure that Ray has any literary qualifications to judge the book as art, but he does so anyway: "This commentator may be excused for repeating what he has stressed in his own books and lectures, namely that "offensive" is frequently but a synonym for "unusual"; and a great work of art is of course always original, and thus by its very nature should come as a more or less shocking surprise. " "But how magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhoring its author!" Surely these quotes strongly imply that for Ray the book is a great work of art.
 
(c) "Confessions of a White Widowed Male", even with J.Ray's introduction, doesn't represent a "case study". Case studies demand the study of a case: J.Ray Jr had very little to say about HH. 
I'm not saying that I disagree with you, I'm saying that John Ray thinks of it as "a case history", to use his words, which will become "a classic in psychiatric circles."  Whether or not it actually is one is, I suppose, up for debate. Certainly Ray confuses his terms. He sees Lolita as a novel, a case study, and a fable about modern mores that didactly tends "unswervinglyly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis." Most striking to me is the paragraph that begins: "For the benefit of old-fashioned readers who wish to follow the destines of the "real" people beyond the "true" story, a few details may be given as received from Mr. "Windmuller," of "Ramsdale"..." Here Ray has neatly collapsed the idea of disguising reality by strongly implying that nothing in the story is real at all, and that there's something a little quaint in wanting to know what happened to these "characters" after the close of the confession, or "beyond the "true" story"
as Ray has it.
(d) I agree with you that it is possible that Humbert began his text as part of his defense for Quilty's murder and then it became an "arty confession". John Rays' role in transforming HH's "confessions" into "Lolita" remains mysterious to me.
It's really only mysterious if you try to figure out Ray in terms of a realistic editor who relly edited an actual manuscript. But if you keep him in focus as a comic device that funs the mindset behind Truman Capote's concept of "True Fiction" and smuggles narrative exposition into a parody of the very need for more knowledge about people who never existed, then Ray makes a good deal of sense. He allows us to have an outside of Humbert within the story; allows us to discover the full tragic implications of what Humbert did to Lolita without her being forced to expire under Humbert's gloating self-serving eye. Which reminds me of another funny problem with Ray's intro. Why does he hide Lolita's death under her married name? Why should a solid citizen who refers to Humbert's "moral Leprous"ness play hide and seek games with the reader, who shouldn't have to read the whole book and then turn back to the begining to find out Lolita's fate. It's very
affecting the first time you make this discovery, but with subsequent readings it seems slightly winking and cruel, and completely out of keeping with what Ray is supposed to represent. Nabokov tries to have Lolita work everywhich way at once, and succeeds brilliantly.
 

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