NABOKV-L post 0017355, Thu, 20 Nov 2008 00:48:02 -0800

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Re: Poetry: Language and Love ...
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It's interesting you should bring up Mckewan's book which in English is known as Atonement. I had never thought to associate the character Briony's "novel", which atones for the wrong she did the colorless young lovers, as having much relationship to Nabokov's classic. English writers such as Mckewan and Julian Barnes seem to have absorbed the nineteen-seventies fad for metafiction but drained the devices of such writing of their comic heart and soul so that their works just wind up seeming like the usual solemn and serious quality lit that makes one nod off. Atonement had some wonderful warfront details in it, and some deft economic dramatic ironies juggled between characters, but the melodramatic set up was both bland and unbelievably stagy. Of course in the end, since the whole thing turns out to be a wishfulfilment fantasy of the main character, any implausiblities are not supposed to matter. The revelation that the "atonement" of
the novel never actually took place and was just a feminine writer's fantasy derived in my opinion from a drearily dubious dichotomy arising from an aesthetic ambivalence I'm not sure the author had fully undertood: namely that grand epics made up of great characters with huge morally charged motivations are sentimental, romantic, i.e. the product of fiction; whereas "reality" is just disappointed hopes and frustrated intentions. Whether or not this is philosophically sound is debatable, but because of the way Mckewan has structured his book it doesn't really matter; a smarmy sort of ambivalence has slipped into things. The novelist seems to yearn after a fictional grandeur that he can't really believe in and so out of a guilty conscience tries, after treating himself to a silly fullscale denoument, to undercut the whole thing with the net result that the book seems rather weak kneed and wishy washy, trying to have things both ways
without acheiving either, mostly due to the bleached out characters and cardboard stage dramatics, which keep the ironic undercutting from having any impact. The reason I'm glad you brought the book up is because even though it's mediocre by comparison to masterpieces like Lolita or In Search of Lost Time, the differences are instructive. Oddly, McKewan's book is actually more logically consistent than either N.'s or P.'s. As I pointed out before, what's strange to me about both Proust and N. is that the narrators claim they're redeeming their stories, but instead structure them as vicious circles of loss and disillusionment; Mckewan on the other hand does have Briony change things to have them come out as she would have liked them too, even if outside the frame of the drama's "ending" we learn what really happened, really reaching from a kind of redemption the reader can make actual heads or tails of. In other words when Atonement has been
consumed, it's over, without the vertiginous spiraling into a presumable endless void of echoing despair, Shakespeare's sound and fury; Nabokov's laughter in the dark.

--- On Wed, 11/19/08, jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

From: jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US>
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Poetry: Language and Love ...
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Date: Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 10:09 AM







J.Aisenberg [responds to By  "linguistic proxy" do you mean a fetish? ]  "I suppose in a strict, non-Freudian sense I do mean "fetish". Meaning that his words are a magical kind of stand in. I meant this two ways: One Dolores Haze herself is used to by Humbert to regain Annabel; and then when he loses Lolita he uses his memoir to bring her back, to stick her to his aura forever"
Stan K-Bootle [quotes“There is a[...] tradition of writers who work within self-imposed formal or linguistic constraints. It includes Samuel Beckett, Italo Calvino and Vladimir Nabokov..." and adds ” I see little relevance to VN’s creative word-play." and, in another posting: "I’m away from my books, but recall VN in Lolita[...] mentions the fact that Beatrice was 9 years old when Dante was “smitten”[...]Wiki says she was 8 and Dante 9, so we don’t have either the HH/Lo or HH/Annabelle syndrome."........................................................................................................................................................................
 

JM: Bereft of Freudian sense or not, JA's contribution on "linguistic proxy" comes close to what I think, as regards VN's prose in general and not only HH's. I was reminded of N.Tharne's views on Dante and Beatrice "...indeed he may have dreamed the whole poem, Borges suggests, in order to engineer a  re-encounter:..He receives her smile at the end of Paradiso only to see her turn away from him forever. But Dante has gained the poem... " * With a malevolent turn this also happens in Ian McEwan's  "Reparation" by Briony in relation to the pair of lovers she'd forced apart. The writer power over past and future events can be, fetichistically, extreme.
 
Stan K-B noted that since Dante and Beatrice were 8 and 9 when they first met "there is no HH/Lo or HH/Annabelle syndrome." And yet,  both HH/Annabel met as children (just like VN's "first love", Colette , in SM.  Poe, as we know, was in his late twenties when he married his cousin Virginia Clemm, then 13 and in a different direction, in Lolita, we read:"The only definite sexual events that I can remember as having occurred before my thirteenth birthday (that is, before I first saw my little Annabel)" whereas in Poe's Annabel poem we find: I was a child and she was a child,/In this kingdom by the sea;/But we loved with a love that was more than love-I and my Annabel Lee, returning to the theme related to courtly idealized love like Dante's.)
 
S K-B also criticized the comparison bt. Nabokov and those romance autors who pursue inspiration by submitting to literary constraints, with which I agree!  I know that John Shade labored under the strictures of rhyme and cadence almost successfuly **, but this exceptional example remains the only clear example I can now bring to mind.
 
In old classic movies there were often scenes in which the hero, in the verge of falling in love, quoted lines by famous poets and his heart fell head over heels ( a Borgian "wink of the metaphor" ) when the beloved quoted back without resorting to Google. I always had the impression that to be truly English, or to fall in love, you needed a quick memory for the "iambic motors" of a thousand lines by Keats, Marvel, Pope and Shakespeare.
As if, when falling in love, it was Mnemosyne who strived to find a mirror to kiss herself...(naughty Mnemosyne)
 
Fortunately these are mere movie ploys, since I only know very few famous lines to recite. And yet, whenever I read one or two lines by Shade there is an insistent mumble at the back of my mind. As if another poet was trying to fall in step or finger the windowpane. I could never get rid of this troubling rumble. I Finally managed to spot one of these murmuring moans in Shakespeare's sonnet XXX.
(I'd been trying to discover it through Eliot's references *** but it didn't work. It had to do with feet and jambes) 
 
Shade wrote:(line 865/6) Now I shall spy on beauty as none has/ Spied on it yet. Now I shall cry out as";(line 924/5)Now I shall speak of evil as none has/Spoken before....)"
The crazy not really matching rythm I heard was: "Then can I grieve at grievances foregone..." [...]
Query: Has anyone experienced something similar, this hidden noise, adding a familiar but forgotten depth to Shade's lines? I wonder what poets would make their ghostly appearance that way in some of the readers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
.........................................
* - Wikipedia extracts: Beatrice Portinari, real name Bice di Folco Portinari [1] (1266–1290) was a woman from Florence, Italy, who was the principal inspiration for Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova. She also appears as his guide in Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) in the last book, Paradise, and in the last four canti of Purgatory. There Beatrice takes over as guide from the Latin poet Virgil because, as a pagan, Virgil cannot enter Paradise and because, being the incarnation of beatific love, as her name implies, it is she who leads into the Beatific vision [...] According to the autobiographic La Vita Nuova, Beatrice and Dante met only twice during their lives. This statement, however, is highly questionable[...] Even less credible is the numerology behind these encounters; marking out Dante's life in periods of nine years. This amount of time falls in line with Dante's repeated use of the number three or multiples of, derived from the Holy
Trinity[...] It is more likely that [...]Beatrice, like Petrarch's Laura, seem to blur the line between an actual love interest and a means employed by the poet in his creations[...].Dante first met Beatrice in Florence, his home city, when he was nine years old and she was eight, around 1274. He... wrote in La Vita Nuova: Ecce Deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi ("Behold, a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me.") he made great efforts to ensure his thoughts of Beatrice remained private, even writing poetry for another lady, so as to use her as a "screen for the truth" Dante's courtly love for Beatrice continued for nine years...In one of Dante's dreams God made Beatrice eat his flaming heart:"he made her to eat that thing which flamed in his hand; and she ate as one fearing."[...]The manner in which Dante chose to express his love for Beatrice often agreed with the Middle Ages concept of courtly love. Courtly love was a
secret, unrequited and highly respectful form of admiration for another person.[...Dante's idea of] her being a force for good that he fell in love with, a force which he believed made him a better person. This is certainly viable, since he does not seem concerned with her appearance - at least not in his writings.
 
T.S.Eliot: Four Quartets, East Cocker: 
**[...]A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
 


***- John Shade (line 167/178): "There was a time in my demented youth"..."There was the day when...","there was the sleepless night " & line 993:         (Leaning against its lamppost like a drunk.)
T.S. Eliot: [...]... there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
[...] In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
[...]Where you lean against a bank while a van passes...
John Shade( line 368): "Mother, what's grimpen" ..(line 499/500)"a blurry shape stepped off the reedy bank/ Into a crackling, gulping swamp, and sank. ."[...] T.S.Eliot:In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
but all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment [...]

 
 
 



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