NABOKV-L post 0018515, Sat, 15 Aug 2009 00:26:25 -0700

2002] Driving in the Snow: Ithaca and New Wye
Not quite that: wives are often seen to be the bosses of their husbands. I'm speaking here about the division of duties between the sexes. Men are not supposed make women change the tires on cars, or carry "heavy" loads. Even in our day, one still discovers jokes on these themes in popular culture. On the show "The Office" there was a joke about the feminine receptionist Pam was able to change a flat on the car, while her male boss was utterly hopeless. It was presented as a triumph. Nabokov, a great literary rhetorician, wants us to see through Kinbote's biased portrayal a distracted, man lovably and lovingly corralled by his genius's wife.

Respondent said: and I wonder why he said "chemical reagent,"
since a fall would only entail mechanical, not
chemical, consequences. Unless...?

I wondered about this myself. I looked up "reagent" in my dictionary: "A substance that, because of the changes it causes, is used in analysis and synthesis (...RE(ACT) + AGENT, of, ACT). If I had to guess what precisely is meant, I would say that the "mechanical" act of the fall, in Kinbote's magical thinking, somehow shook, the car, the gas, which is the chemical, making it churn, causing the car to come alive, which would be a synthetic reaction begun by his fall, a kind of "butt-erfly effect".

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