NABOKV-L post 0018613, Mon, 28 Sep 2009 15:18:20 -0300

Re: from Ron Rosenbaum re: an encounter with <Laura>]
Matt Roth [ to Jansy: "I wonder if you could explain your comments below; I don't think I understand the nature of your objections. Are you concerned that RR thinks too much of VN's writing? Is it distasteful in any way to compare VN and Shakespeare? As for RR's point about revisions, I have felt something very similar when looking at the Pale Fire manuscript. While I respect the author-ity of the final, published versions of VN's books, I do think that his manuscripts offer a window onto his creative process and, by extension, his humanity. /// jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:Although I have felt something that gets close to Rosenbaum's enthusiastic & wonderful descriptions of VN magic ("the equivalent of the secret of lightining...akin to the secret code of higher human consciousness..."), his comparison bt. saints and their miracles ("it made them the palest of pale fire in comparison...) or the pairing of Nabokov and Shakespeare, strike me as being in very bad taste. As was his praise of scrawls, revisions and corrections that would turn these geniuses' efforts into a work "more perfect" because they reveal "their humanity".]

JM: Matt, part of my feeling about Rosenbaum's review derives from something similar to what I learned about Ivan Krylov's fable in "The cuckoo praises the rooster."*. By the way, the Nabokov-Wilson's letters, which I'm greatly enjoying now, carry smudges, corrections or foot-notes warning about scrawls. As I see it they are as good a window into Nabokov's, and his friend's, "humanity" ( whatever that means) as those in the mysterious TOoL cards. Or, as those you encountered during your privileged viewing of PF's manuscripts and which moved you into a realistic appraisal of the dilemmas and indecisions that often overwhelm a writer. I may have misread R.R's very frank admission ( I quote: "I think Dmitri appreciated my genuine empathy for his Hamlet-like dilemma. I think the claim could be made that Slate saved Laura...But what of my reservations? My late-breaking fealty to Nabokov's wishes? Could they be wiped out by this generous gesture? In a word, yes... What may have tipped my thinking on the subject was the sight of Nabokov's scrawl-outs... ") but I still must wonder why was he moved only after seeing these specific scrawl-outs and not those found in other VN revisions, second thoughts, strong opinions?

I'm happy that Rosenbaum encouraged Dmitri to save and publish the manuscripts, I'm ever so thankful to him but, even so, I must confess that I resent the tone he used to dismiss other writers in order to elevate VN's already obvious,and independent, lofty brilliance (now I'm the one to apply romantic hyperboles) or dismantled diverging critical perspectives to be able to pair VN and Shakespeare. "Chacun a son gout" and, as tastes go, I found RR's comparison distasteful to my standards.I'm happy to have been able to speak about my personal tastes in public, and to have stimulated you to show some of yours.

And I don't believe in X-Men** so, for me, who reads VN with love, awesome respect and enjoyment, it was rather embarassing to find Rosenbaum's fantastic admission that: "even these writers shouldn't be considered godlike figures from whom the muse poured forth perfection on the first try..." I'm still hoping that he was, indeed, applying the "seven ambiguities" in his review and, who knows, playing Kinbote here and there...


* Nabokov and Wilson Letters, page 100-101

** - RR Quotes: " The Dead Sea Scrawls, you might say, of the Nabokov canon...They were evidence of the drama inherent in the creative process, a process whose heart is revision. I devoted a substantial portion of The Shakespeare Wars to the scholarly controversy over whether Shakespeare revised his play scripts. Ben Jonson famously said that Shakespeare never "blotted out a line," but a substantial case has been made in recent years that he did rewrite on occasion, sometimes altering single words or phrases, sometimes making more substantial edits. Shakespeare's revisions (and Nabokov's) matter for two reasons. Revision indicated that even these writers shouldn't be considered godlike figures from whom the muse poured forth perfection on the first try, but writers who are-in some ways-like other writers, in at least this respect: They were subject to second thoughts. And distinguishing what those second thoughts might have been and why they focused on rethinking this or that word or phrase or scene offers a window into the meaning of the work. But-and this is the second but not secondary meaning of the blottings out-revisions also offer a window into the humanity of the author. That even the greatest of geniuses (and yes, I believe the term is valid for these two) were not superhuman; they live in the same world of error and doubt that the rest of us inhabit. The fact that they think they've made "mistakes" makes their work even more perfect than it would be if they never blotted a line or scratched out a word."

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