NABOKV-L post 0015586, Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:47:29 +1300

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

________________________________

From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On
Behalf Of Matthew Roth
Sent: Tuesday, 16 October 2007 3:35 a.m.
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] She lived to hear the next babe cry


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."

BUT IF ONE SENSE IS ADEQUATE, WE DON'T NEED TO LOOK FOR ANOTHER, UNLESS
SOMETHING SPECIFIC POINTS US TO THE INADEQUACY OF THE SURFACE SENSE. IF
WE READ "TIME FLIES LIKE AN ARROW" WE CAN CONSTRUE THE OBVIOUS SENSE
WITHOUT WORRYING THAT IT COULD ALSO MEAN THAT A SPECIAL KIND OF FLIES,
TIME FLIES, HAVE A PENCHANT FOR ARROWS.

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?

MELODRAMA CAN REFER TO SURPRISING EVENTS AS WELL AS SENSATIONAL MANNER.
IT WOULD BE HARD TO MAKE A MELODRAMA OUT OF PNIN AND HARD NOT TO SEE
SOMETHING LIKE MELODRAMA IN LAUGHTER IN THE DARK.

HIDDEN MELODRAMA ISN'T A CONTRADICTION. iNDEED THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT
OCCURS IN MARINA'S SUBSTITUTION OF VAN FOR AQUA'S ABORTED CHILD.

THERE ARE SCORES OF REFERENCES TO INCEST IN ADA AND MANY IN LOLITA WHERE
SEXUAL SHENANIGANS ARE A PRIMARY SUBJECT. THOSE TWO NOVELS ARE SOMEWHAT
MELODRAMATIC , WITH THE HIGHLY STYLIZED MURDER IN LOLITA AND THE
BETRAYALS AND ENTANGLEMENTS AND DUELS AND SUICIDES IN ADA. INCEST OR A
"PARODY OF INCEST' IN TWO DIFFERENT WILDLY DISRUPTED FAMILIES ARE
CENTRAL TO THESE NOVELS. THE STABILITY OF THE SHADE HOUSEHOLD, APART
FROM AND EVEN DESPITE HAZEL'S SUICIDE, IS ESSENTIAL TO THAT NOVEL.

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.

MY COMMENT DOES NOT DEPEND ON MY PARTICULAR READING (THE "SYNTHETIC"
RE-READING AS I CALLED IT). IT SIMPLY DEPENDS ON THE OBVIOUS ELEMENTS OF
THE PLOT. SHADE LOVES HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND FEELS DESPAIR THAT HIS
PHYSICALLY AND EVEN EMOTIONALLY UNATTRACTIVE DAUGHTER HAD SUCH AN
UNHAPPY AND UNPARTENERED LIFE THAT SHE COMMITS SUICIDE. THE VALUE OF
SHADE'S POEM, HIS FEELINGS, SYBIL'S FEELINGS, AND HAZEL'S FEELINGS
BECOMES DISASTROUSLY MUDDIED.

WHY ON EARTH WOULD NABOKOV WANT TO MAKE PALE FIRE MORE LIKE LOLITA AND
ADA? WHY WOULD A WRITER WITH AN INTENSE IMAGINATION WANT TO REPEAT
HIMSELF? HELEN VENDLER WRITES THAT IN SONNET AFTER SONNET SHAKESPEARE
INVENTS "SOME GAME OR OTHER AND PLAY[S] IT OUT TO ITS CONCLUSION IN DEFT
AND SURPRISING WAYS. . . . RARELY AMUS[ING] HIMSELF THE SAME WAY TWICE."
SURELY THAT HAS BEEN TRUE OF NABOKOV SINCE HE WROTE MARY, KING, QUEEN
KNAVE, THE DEFENCE, THE EYE ETC ETC

Best,
Brian

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.



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