NABOKV-L post 0015583, Mon, 15 Oct 2007 10:35:14 -0400

Subject
Re: She lived to hear the next babe cry
Date
Body
MR responding to BB.

BB: Shade mentions his parents’ deaths (“I was an infant when my parents died”) then 19 lines later notes that, unlike them, Maud “lived to hear the next babe cry.” That she lived another 16 years is not the point; the point is simply the contrast with his parents. When they died, John Shade was still a crying infant. Maud lived to hear the NEXT generation cry. Nabokov’s and Shade’s text is clear...

MR: I don't deny that Brian's interpretation here is entirely plausible. I can't agree, however, that the "text is clear." Kinbote's confusion is rooted in the ambiguity of Shade's wording. To be more precise, when we say that someone "lived to see [---]," we often use that [---] as a marker of the last milestone passed before the person died. If we say, for instance, that "she lived to see Kennedy's inauguration," there is an implication that she died soon after. This is the source of Kinbote's confusion. Moreover, as I pointed out before, the phrase "lived to see [---]" is often used in an entirely figurative way, meaning, in the example above, "Kennedy's inauguration was her reason for living."

BB: there is no need to invent a hidden melodrama...

MR: I'm not sure I understand how Brian is using "melodrama" here. As I have always understood the term, melodrama is a matter of style rather than of subject. A dramatic situation lapses into melodrama not because of the situation itself but because the writer presents it in a sensational, ridiculously emotional manner. It seems to me that "hidden melodrama" is a contradiction in terms. In any case, why would incest in Pale Fire count as melodrama, while incest in Lolita and Ada do not?

BB: ...that would destroy the design of the novel.

MR: This is, I think, a very important and truly interesting point. Several people (off-list) have raised this issue in response to my theory, usually by asking what my hypothesis would do to the novel as a whole. I am grateful for the question. VN surely had a design for his novel, and Brian believes he knows what it is. Other critics who disagree with Brian's theory have their own notion of what the true design of the novel might be. Though most of VN's critics are respectful of authorial intentions, we can see that in the end critics must choose which patterns in the novel to highlight and which to leave alone. If a pattern is ambiguous--that is, if its existence is open to question--then we must appeal to this larger question of what the purpose of the pattern might be and whether or not it seems consistent with what we know about VN and his work. I need to think about this question some more, but I will say in a preliminary way that I believe a scenario such as I have suggested could be seen as bringing Pale Fire into greater harmony with VN's other novels, particulary Lolita and Ada. As for the internal design of Pale Fire, I may argue that a more complex notion of John Shade's character would enhance and balance the design of the novel.

In any case, I think the more general question of how critics discern VN's designs might be a productive discussion for this list. Toker's introduction to The Mystery of Literary Structures might be a good place to start.

Best,
Matt Roth




>>> On 10/11/2007 at 6:37 AM, in message <E8AE94D7F1C5C4448B0084C86D5E6EF23A326A@ARTSMAIL1.ARTSNET.AUCKLAND.AC.NZ>, <b.boyd@AUCKLAND.AC.NZ> wrote:

Actually what Kinbote writes is that “At her [Maud’s] death, Hazel (born 1934) was not exactly a ‘babe’ as implied in line 90.” True, at Maud’s death Hazel is not a babe, but the point of “She lived to hear the next babe cry” is only that Maud is still alive, and still in the house where she was already living when her nephew John was born, when Hazel is born. By the standards of Shade’s parents, who died more than 30 years before this next generation, Maud’s lasting this long is quite an achievement.
Shade mentions his parents’ deaths (“I was an infant when my parents died”) then 19 lines later notes that, unlike them, Maud “lived to hear the next babe cry.” That she lived another 16 years is not the point; the point is simply the contrast with his parents. When they died, John Shade was still a crying infant. Maud lived to hear the NEXT generation cry.
Nabokov’s and Shade’s text is clear, and there is no need to invent a hidden melodrama that would destroy the design of the novel.

Brian Boyd

-----Original Message-----
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum on behalf of Matthew Roth
Sent: Wed 10/10/2007 5:00 AM
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] reply to one of Matt Roth's query & a counter-query

MR responding to CK's comments:

CK: I don't quite understand your interpretation here - - who are you
saying Kinbote thinks is "one and the same" as whom?

MR: I was trying to say that the wife in ballerina black is, as Kinbote
suggests, based on the girl in the black leotard who "haunts Lit. 202."

CK: Shade tells us that "Aunt Maud lived to hear the next babe cry."
Kinbote correctly points out that this can hardly refer to Hazel but by
implication this "next babe," born in her later years, must be a blood
relative of Maud's. The only people capable of engendering a child who would
be related to the elderly Maud are Shade and Hazel. Since there is no
apparent (sorry) child who fits this description in Shade's poem, he or she
seemingly no longer exists or has moved out of Shade's orbit and certainly
has not been recognized as a legitimate child or, in the unlikely event that
Hazel is the parent, grandchild.

MR: I agree with all of this, except I don't dismiss Hazel as the possible
mother-in-question. Also, I take the statement about Aunt Maud ("lived to
hear") to mean that Aunt Maud's reason for living was to see a great-nephew
(essentially a grandchild) born. Unfortunately, I don't think she quite made
it.


Search the Nabokv-L archive with Google ( http://www.google.com/advanced_search?q=site:listserv.ucsb.edu&amp;HL=en )
Contact the Editors ( mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu )
All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.
Visit Zembla ( http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm )
View Nabokv-L Policies ( http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm )

Search the archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html
Search archive with Google:
http://www.google.com/advanced_search?q=site:listserv.ucsb.edu&HL=en

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm