NABOKV-L post 0018897, Wed, 2 Dec 2009 03:14:46 -0200

Re: "-lets" II

Siri Vane:Currently reading a seminal work about the history of Iraq, the authors' surname "Sluglett" triggered in me a memory of many diminuitive "-lets" in V.N.'s novels and I decided for myself that maybe "sluglet" was a word only waiting to be discovered and put to use by V.N. [ Siri Vane also remembered Ada's "goblets of light" ...]

JM: It is always worth our while to return to VN's writing to explore a particular word. In ADA we find not a literal "goblet of light" but Siri's mental image and mood seems to have been precise in connection to young Ada's game of light and shadow, a play with evanescence, dissolution (!) and, in its reference to Proust (the herbal infusion in which a madeleine was soaked), involuntary memory and epiphanies.

The shadows of leaves on the sand were variously interrupted by roundlets of live light. The player chose his roundlet - the best, the brightest he could find - and firmly outlined it with the point of his stick; whereupon the yellow round light would appear to grow convex like the brimming surface of some golden dye. Then the player delicately scooped out the earth with his stick or fingers within the roundlet. The level of that gleaming infusion de tilleul would magically sink in its goblet of earth and finally dwindle to one precious drop [...] As she dug a firm little circle around a particularly fine goldgout, Ada squatted [...] while her haunches and hands worked [...] A gentle breeze suddenly eclipsed her fleck. When that occurred, the player lost one point, even if the leaf or the cloud hastened to move aside[...] The other game[...]one had to wait for p.m. to provide longer shadows [...]You outline my shadow behind me on the sand. I move. You outline it again....

Anyway, the contour created by "goldgouts" or by shadows of one's body has a strong suggestive power. Almost like registering the motion of sun and moon with hints of Plato, or about nature as a heraclitean fire
(the first game deals with a fascination that brought to my mind GMHopkins's "dappled" things. GMH also writes of a "tilleul"(linden, elms) effect in "dazzling whitewash, ' wherever an elm arches, /Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ' lashes lace, lance, and pair. /.../ in pool and rut peel parches /Squandering ooze to squeezed ' dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches/ Squadroned masks and manmarks ' treadmire toil there..."

btw: initial hints about paternity and siblinghood, in Ada, confuse elms and oaks (chêne).
(a) "I think we are supposed to go and look at the grand chêne which is really an elm.' Did he like elms? Did he know Joyce's poem about the two washerwomen*? He did, indeed. Did he like it? He did. In fact he was beginning to like very much arbors and ardors and Adas. They rhymed. Should he mention it?"
(b) 'Good-bye, Ada. I guess it's your father under that oak, isn't it?'/ 'No, it's an elm,' said Ada.

* in short, the metamorphosis of stone, river, tree and humans, in FW. Long before VN was acquainted with Joyce he wrote about something similar in "Gods" "See those lindens lining the street? ... All the trees in the world arc journeying somewhere. Perpetual pilgrimage.... Remember the twelve poplars conferring about how to cross the river? Earlier, still, in the Crimea, I once saw a cypress bending over an almond tree in bloom. Once upon a time the cypress had been a big, tall chimney sweep with a brush on a wire and a ladder under his arm. Head over heels in love, poor fellow, with a little laundry maid, pink as almond petals."

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