NABOKV-L post 0006854, Sat, 28 Sep 2002 13:59:31 -0700

Subject
Fw: reply to Mr L Pale Fire
Date
Body
reply to Mr L
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Saturday, September 28, 2002 12:33 PM
Subject: reply to Mr L


Dear Al,

Thanks for taking the time to answer.

Allow me to say first, that I approach Pale Fire, not as a scholar of Nabokov Studies, but as a member of the reading public who happens to enjoy some, but not all Nabokov. I am afraid I didn't realize how radical my reading would appear, since it stays within the realm of known psychological phenomena and doesn't require acceptance, within the novel at least, of mystical beliefs in the survival of consciousness in the hereafter. Not to mention the ability of such consciousnesses to mess with the minds of the living. As you can tell, "The Vane Sisters" isn't on my preferred Nabokovian reading list.

Also, since we're on this theme, and it is a theme in Pale Fire, Nabokov may be referring to the battle of the spirits that took place between Conan Doyle and Houdini (who I think I recognized in the index somewhere). I do not know which side Nabokov was on. I happen to be on Houdini's, but that doesn't preclude my accepting the otherworldly interpretation.

Rather than defend my position, since I am still working on it, and have much work to do, let me just pose some of the questions that bothered me while reading the novel and that I don't find answered it the other interpretations of which I am aware:

Who are those five persons Shade sees in the fingers of his hand?

What is that near pornographic line (quench, wench) doing in the poem?

Who is the baby whose cry Aunt Maud lives to hear?

Would an ugly but brilliant young woman really commit suicide because of a
disasterous blind date?

Why is Shade's name an obvious anagram of Hades?

Why is his muse a versipel?

Why does he speak of shame and remorse in his poem?

Why doesn't Shade know what his parents looked like?

Why does Kinbote inform us that his idol, John Shade, is a complete mask?

Why is the murder scene so clownish?

How could a nut like Kinbote teach anything to anybody? [I know, I know, D, still don't buy it]

Why does Shade tolerate his intolerable neighbor?

Why does Sybil put up with a husband who allows a maniac into the house?

Why does the King of Zembla wear Shade's slippers?

I do not buy Shade as kindly neighbor. Kinbote's activities, by his own description of them, amount to stalking the Shades. Now Mr Shade may be a saint (he isn't, however), but he is putting his family in danger by letting a vindictive maniac in the house. Sybil is clearly upset, but if I were her, I would leave such a husband tout de suite.

If Shade had been murdered, his body would be in police custody for some time. If Kinbote hadn't been invited to the funeral, we would have heard about it. I think there was no funeral and that strikes me as very odd. The poet was clearly a beloved institution in New Wye so why no funeral? Perhaps Nabokov forgot? Maybe. Not important? Maybe.

I will admit to needing help with much of the English Lit references in Pale Fire (I studied Russian and French in school) but I do recognize a reference to the Sherlock Holmes when I see it, and I say there are a lot of very quiet dogs in Pale Fire (and one noisy one).

Carolyn