NABOKV-L post 0015642, Fri, 2 Nov 2007 12:26:46 -0400

Re: QUERY: Hodge
Dear N-List,

Sorry about the incomprehensible second-to-last paragraph of my note on
Hodge, the para beginning "So an affectionate..." and ending with the
insufferable "Which is why" It would be nice if I could complete that
suspenseful last sentence, but I can¹t. This is a new day. I¹ve got other
stuff to do and, frankly, I can¹t remember what I was going to say. Reading
it over this morning, though, I like the effect. Irritatingly overconfident,
careless, and ‹ capped by my closing para¹s Kinbotean flourish about the
supposed "goofiness" of others ‹ a fair punishment for the writer ... which
makes it, here, a neat transition to another matter discussed earlier this
week in N-List: that of Botkinbote's margin instruction to the printer being
mistakenly set in type within the very sentences in which the vigilant
scholar claims full responsibility for ³any mistakes² in his commentary.
Followers of the N-List undoubtedly know ‹ many at brutal first-hand ‹ that
the final final reading of any text set in type is the responsibility of the
writer. Catching typos, by the way, is usually not as necessary as simply
having a last chance to expunge the style-annihilating grammaticisms that
some people misuse to attack a writer¹s brilliant albeit unorthodox, perhaps
even eccentric prose.

But the vast and eternal judgment of the universe weighs fearfully against
the PF commentator, the editor of Shade¹s final poem. By permitting himself
to obliterate the hideous anxiety of his life through the definitively
terminal prerogative of suicide, a life which, had it been endured, might in
course of time have made him a better man (kind of speculative, that ‹ in
fact, forget it) before seeing through the entire publication process, our
tormented commentator demolishes his own heinous scheme
(to deliberate mess up another writer, for any reason, is a sin that, like
the sin against the Holy Ghost (whatever that was or is or might have been)
is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness) to exploit the product of
a better writer¹s (Shade the better writer? Infinitely arguable proposition.
In fact, a major major point in the book. A point often lost to those who
miss love-of-literature¹s narrow gate and choose instead the wide road to
damnation aka lit criticism) mind. The justice here is elemental and

By the way, the Foreword is called a foreword by the joint agreement of VN
and his obedient character. And this choice, I believe, is correct because
that¹s what it is. And where does a foreword appear in a book? If the book
has been published by a company with intelligence, taste and sense (there
are a few such), the foreword comes before the word. Since the foreword
prefaces the actual matter, it can correctly be referred to as a preface by
the writer, speaking of its function or placement. Again, a unilateral
decision of VN¹s, obeyed by BK/KB. This isn¹t some big clue to greater

So, sorry about the goofy mistake and, hell, about joking about anyone
else¹s goofiness ‹ joking I¹m clearly unqualified to make (but which I
brazenly allude to since my implicit claim of nongoofiness parallels the
claims of accuracy and integrity made by an obscure, paranoid,
brilliantly-delusional, star-stalking, bible-thumping, manuscript-snatching
scholar quickly headed toward the big Exit sign ... where the parallel ends,
since the Hodge at this keyboard has got at least 4.5 lives to go and maybe

Andrew Brown

On 11/1/07 10:27 PM, "NABOKV-L" <NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU> wrote:

> Dear List,
> The relationship between Johnson and Hodge is analogous to the
> relationship between author and character or, more to the point, the
> relationship between Nabokov and Shade AND/OR the relationship between
> Shade¹s fictional creator, Botkinbote,* and Shade.
> In Johnson's day (so like our own, granting differences in technology,
> technique and style) a young fool goes about town shooting cats. "But
> Hodge shall not be shot." Of course Johnson cannot guarantee this. And,
> in any case, Hodge cannot understand much less be either comforted or
> resentful of his friend¹s fatuous assurance.
> The analogy lies in Shade¹s creator ‹ as unknowable to Shade as Johnson
> is to Hodge ‹ offering or implying a similarly empty assurance against a
> meaningless, arbitrary, therefore usual sort of death. A death that will
> give the lie to the last lines the old poet has just jotted.
> Shade is shot. Johnson had no power to protect Hodge, who may still be
> prowling the Great Wen for all we know. Could Shade¹s creator have
> protected Shade? We know that Nabokov claimed (Strong Opinions) that his
> characters ³worked like galley slaves,² with neither free will nor any
> direction other than that provided by their taskmaster author. No
> conscientious author can, in my opinion (my way of saying the matter is
> beyond dispute) recast the fate of characters whose destiny¹s have a
> structural logic that literary integrity, the fundamental reconciliation
> or juxtaposition of perception and imagination the author has
> established with readers, must observe.
> Despite Hazel¹s flutterby of warning, Shade walks into the path of a
> deranged criminal who had once been sentenced to hard time by the
> vacationing Judge whose home Botkin* is currently renting. Shade has to
> die. VN didn¹t give Shade a resemblance to the judge for no reason. It
> wasn¹t an accident or a case of VN running out of ways to depict the
> appearance of his characters. Besides, Shade¹s work as a living
> character is finished. It¹s time for his equally important role as a
> dead guy, to begin.
> So, Johnson, Hodge¹s affectionate but powerless friend, makes Hodge an
> offhand promise.
> So, an affectionate but ultimately powerless creator makes his creation
> an offhand promise. creator, Kinbote (aka Botkin) is most certainly
> Botkin¹s creation. Which is why
> Best wishes and many thanks for
> such erudition, such penetration and,
> gratifyingly often,
> such chortle-inducing goofiness,
> Andrew Brown
> *As a Botkinite (but strongly in favor of B. Boyd¹s recent responses in
> this List ‹ I mean, VN was a very humorous writer, the sure sign of a
> higher intelligence, and not a scribbler of puzzles or brain teasers. In
> short, a writer of novels, not a mere maker of novelties) I believe that
> Charles Kinbote is Botkin¹s delusionary alter identity.
> Search the archive:
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