NABOKV-L post 0014110, Sun, 19 Nov 2006 20:45:48 +0100

Subject
Re: Mary McCarthy's review of PALE FIRE
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Date
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Re: [NABOKV-L] Botkin(e). Modest ProposalMany years ago I read Mary
McCarthy's review of PALE FIRE which had appeared in NEW REPUBLIC on June
4th 1962. Years later when I came across a Penguin PALE FIRE with her review
as an introduction to the novel it struck me as having been reworked.
In order to answer the question whether McCarthy had identified the source
of VN's title in her original review, and knowing that I, at that time, had
xeroxed her review, searched two attics, and finally found it as reprinted
in Norman Page, NABOKOV: THE CRITICAL HERITAGE (Routledge & Kegan Paul
1982),pp. 124-136, where she admits:

"I have not been able to find, in Shakespeare or anywhere else, the source
of 'pale fire.' In the commentary there is an account of the poet burning
his rejected drafts in 'the pale fire of the incinerator.' " p. 136


A. Bouazza.
-----Original Message-----
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU]On Behalf
Of Stan Kelly-Bootle
Sent: 17 November 2006 23:11
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Botkin(e). Modest Proposal


VN is quoted as saying:

“And even Mary McCarthy, who has discovered more of the books* than most
of its critics, had some difficulty in locating the source of its title,
and made the mistake of searching for it in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest.' It
is from 'Timon of Athens.' “

* Is ‘books’ a typo for ‘book’ or did VN say something like ‘more of the
book’s symboliism/allusions?’



Yet in her 1962 (note the date) Introductory Essay to PF (added to the
1991 Penguin edition) McCarthy DOES identify the title’s source and, after
quoting the FAMOUS five lines from Timon of Athens (Act IV sc 3), she
expands on the CENTRALITY to PF of this Shakespearean mirror-as-thief theme.
She writes:

“Pale Fire itself circles like a moth, or a moon, around Shakespeare’s
mighty flame.”

VN may have missed or misread MM’s ref to The Tempest?

“... Prospero of The Tempest pops in and out of the commentary, like a
Fata Morgana, to MISLEAD THE READER INTO LOOKING FOR ‘PALE FIRE’ IN
SHAKESPEARE’S SWAN SONG. [my caps, of course] It’s NOT there, but the
Tempest is in Pale Fire.”

I’ve not yet checked on any earlier versions of MM’s essay. Could she have
modified them as a result of VN’s criticism? We would need some reliable
dates. I’VE JUST SEEN A POSTING SUGGESTING THAT MM DID INDEED REVISE CIRCA
1971.
If so, it’s rather shoddy scholarship since she maintains © 1962 against
her revised version in the Penguin 1991 ed.


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