NABOKV-L post 0015596, Thu, 18 Oct 2007 19:24:46 EDT

Subject
Re: She lived to hear the next babe cry
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Date
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In a message dated 10/18/2007 9:39:09 AM Central Daylight Time,
b.boyd@AUCKLAND.AC.NZ writes:
> Despite hardly knowing her, he invites the “stunning blonde in the black
> leotards who haunts Lit. 202” (a piece of standard male joshing that would be
> extremely unlikely were there in fact an amatory relationship between Shade
> and the student). . . .

Of course Shade has noticed this girl (who wouldn't have, except CK, whose
attention is called to her by Hurley?), and she very well may have found her way
into the poem as a sexy model for the second wife the dead man is reunited
with in the afterlife (Shade does have an imagination, after all) along with the
first wife and dead child. Surely Shade can be permitted a passing sexual
fantasy, "a mental and visceral picture." Obviously other members of the
faculty have noticed her too. "Standard male joshing" is the correct phrase here:
"Shade, all his wrinkles beaming, benignly tapped Hurley on the wrist to make
him stop." What does this mean? "So, it's not only I who've noticed her!
Now let's change the topic." It's not like he starts squirming in his chair,
muttering (in Peter Lorre tones), "I'm eennocent. I'm eennocent." None of
Shade's colleagues, I think, would consciously want to embarrass him in front of a
new acquaintance (CK) unless they realy had it out for him, which obviously
isn't supported by the rest of the text.

For another statement supporting the identification (which can be verified on
a careful reading of 569-88) of the "girl in ballerina black" as the second
wife in Shade's imagined reunions of a two-time widower in the afterlife, also
see John Mella, "The Difference of a Sibilant: A Note on Pale Fire, Canto
Three," Nabokov Studies 10 (2006).

Of course, it's likely that Sybil has heard of pesky co-eds before (what
faculty wife hasn't?) and cuts short the ten-minute "confrontation" at Kinbote's,
drawing the lines and taking John to "safety." Still, I think Boyd's
explanation is most logical. She was very late, after all. If there's something nasty
about it, why doesn't the girl leave as well or why doesn't Kinbote mention
that she was upset? If he dislikes Sybil as much as he claims, surely he would
have been cognizant of strong tension and would have reported a "scene." He
claims that he has arranged this dinner to deflate the rumors. It all sounds
innocent enough to me. She gets her meal and listens to his records until
something better occurs to her. She seems to be a ditz, totally unaware of any
subtext in the arrangement.

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