NABOKV-L post 0015734, Sat, 1 Dec 2007 13:49:16 -0200

Re: [ Polychrome THOUGHTS] Kunin to Twiggs,
J.Mello to KJunin and Brown
Jim Twiggs: Some wench's abject thirst to quench...And yet the major critics,at least the ones I've read--from Field and Stegnerand right up to Boyd--have passed over the lines in silence.

Carolyn Kunin:... It is clear that something sexual (at least) is very wrong with Shade. It never has ceased to amaze me that those who know this novel so well can continue to ignore the obvious discrepancy of these and other lines. In another day and age sexual prudery could have been blamed for the ashamed reluctance. But no one here seems to quake before the hyper-sexuality of Ada, so why such ignorance persistante when it comes to John Shade? It's really been very difficult for me to understand the refusal by some of our more illustrious members to deal with this really rather obvious dissonance. Hell, no one on the list has been willing to deal with it!

Jansy Mello: After setting down Proust's tea with auntie and a wetted madeleine, I was puzzled by the word "surfeit" in relation to remembering things past and a sticky paste of delight.
After all, "surfeit" means a cloying excess so, if we think about Shade and the lines J.Twiggs pointed out ( and R.S.Gwynn replaced in their poetic context, thanks) we might suppose the small boy was not only seduced but he enjoyed it until sated and made ill. I gave up wondering if Aunt Maud could have been a transposition of VN's boyhood cum uncle.

An interesting question was raised by C.Kunin: why do researchers deal with apparent ease with VN's other sexual references, including Kinbote's I imagine, but insist on sparing the old poet Shade?
There is some discussion about aunts and girls and boys at the list ( google Centerwall, Sept.12, for example). A sample:
JM: Does it matter if a boy becomes a girl in a novel, or when the seduction by a rich relative becomes the story of an old sweet lady haunted by ghosts when we only exchange the images of one into the other ? This is to trivial to engage Nabokov´s genius and his reader´s talents, as I see it. The importance lies in the mechanisms through which these transformations took place. The tactics of a "Word Golf" in the transposition from lame into lass or Lady.(Jansy)
C.Kunin: I find this question to be of great interest. I do not know if Centerwall's theory is correct, but if it is, it goes a long way to explain one of the riddles Nabokov's work poses: how is it that the idyllic childhood painted by VN morphs into the sexually perverse literature of his adulthood? A very interesting metamorphosis indeed. It appears that Jo Morgan is riding on Centerwall's back, and her faults are muddying the waters of this question.

A.Brown: I'm grateful to Jansy for a forehead-smacking insight that made me realize I'll have to seriously reread the novel Pale Fire. I missed the significance of its being an APPLE on that plate. ...But it's no accident that we later learn how greatly Shade dislikes attacking the fortress of an apple, whereas vegetarian Kinbote knows no fruit he cannot love.

Jansy Mello: I was also "struck" by the apple when I saw it at long last. Your comment made me remember the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. The first one, actually the murderer, was sedentary and a vegetarian like Kinbote: his vegetable offers to his God were refused. Abel was a hunter, unlike Shade, and sacrificed animals which, apparently Shade ate with no particular qualms.

Search the archive:
Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies: