NABOKV-L post 0006959, Wed, 23 Oct 2002 16:47:01 -0700

Subject
Fw: Fw: ==- On Hazel's Suicide -= Response to Tom Bol
Date
Body
----- Original Message -----
From: "Phil Howerton" <phil@carolina.rr.com>
> Albert Camus, I believe, once wrote that a man might throw himself off a
> bridge because you failed... he was a stranger... to say "Good morning" to
> him when you passed him on the street.
>
> Phil
>
> Judge Philip F. Howerton, Jr.
> 2812 Sunset Drive
> Charlotte, NC 28209
> (704 339-0241
>
> "To be proud, to be brave, to be free"
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "D. Barton Johnson" <chtodel@cox.net>
> To: <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 3:17 PM
> Subject: Fw: ==- On Hazel's Suicide -==
>
>
> > EDNOTE. Tom Bolt is a man who has thought long about and creatively
about
> > Nabokov and PALE FIRE. I strongly recommend his long poem DARK ICE at
> > ZEMBLA. See
> > http://www.libraries.psu.edu/iasweb/nabokov/foriles.htm
> > ---------------------------
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Thomas Bolt -- b0sh0tmalt" <bolt@tbolt.com>
> > To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> > >
> > > ======================
> > >
> > > ON HAZEL'S SUICIDE
> > >
> > > There is a straw woman argument that
> > > goes like this: "In PALE FIRE, Hazel
> > > Shade kills herself because of a
> > > humiliating blind date. No one would
> > > kill herself or himself because of one
> > > bad experience, or because one is
> > > unattractive physically. Therefore,
> > > Hazel's death is less than believable."
> > >
> > > Whether PALE FIRE is written by John
> > > Shade and Charles Kinbote, Professor
> > > Botkin alone, Shade alone, Kinbote
> > > alone, Hazel's shade, or the gardener
> > > with the wheelbarrow, it is still the
> > > reader's duty to imagine, from the
> > > evidence given, Hazel's real situation
> > > and fate. As so often with Nabokov,
> > > the most important thing is not an
> > > exercise in ingenuity, trying on
> > > clever readings one after another like
> > > Lolita with her new skates and swooners,
> > > but an exercise in empathy.
> > >
> > > As with Lucette in ADA and Lolita in
> > > LOLITA, we need to pay serious attention
> > > to Hazel; her life and death are at the
> > > center of the book.
> > >
> > > The first sentence of the Straw Woman
> > > argument (as I've stated it), "Hazel
> > > kills herself because of a humiliating
> > > blind date," contains a word that makes
> > > the proposition a fallacy (begging the
> > > question): "because of." She does not
> > > kill herself "because of" a date, but
> > > AFTER a date.
> > >
> > > There are many reasons on record (often
> > > survivors' guesses, unless a truthful
> > > communication has been left behind) why
> > > people take their lives--these stated
> > > or surmised reasons range from business
> > > failure to breakup of a relationship
> > > to unknown, unknown, unknown. Most people
> > > are able to deal with serious misfortunes
> > > without killing themselves; some are not,
> > > or do not choose to go on and recover.
> > >
> > > It may be--it almost certainly is, in
> > > some cases--that however much some
> > > suicides or their surviving friends and
> > > family might think so, it is not any one
> > > event that explains the choice of suicide,
> > > but a history of inescapable emotional pain,
> > > with no relief in view. Alternatively, a
> > > person who ordinary has the resources to
> > > survive a difficult event might be caught
> > > at a low point, or by too many such events
> > > at once, and find his or her resources
> > > temporarily overwhelmed.
> > >
> > > Mine is a Last Straw argument: Hazel is
> > > miserable. She has long been miserable,
> > > and is extremely sensitive to her
> > > "defeats." She has a history of embarking
> > > hopefully on new projects, and on having
> > > those hopes cruelly dashed. She is
> > > emotionally and physically tormented.
> > > She is no ordinary college girl of the
> > > late 1950s, and does not expect (I would
> > > guess) to "fit in," but she does nurse
> > > "a small mad hope." Her only friends are
> > > others who are excluded from the college
> > > social world, especially the realm of
> > > dating: another virgin (who becomes a
> > > nun) and a Korean boy (good luck to
> > > this young man, who may be a war orphan,
> > > at finding a date. He is also the Irving
> > > Flashman of PALE FIRE).
> > >
> > > On top of her physical, emotional, and
> > > social difficulties, Hazel Shade is not
> > > just less than pretty: she is, like her
> > > father, ugly. She is also coming into
> > > her own as a young woman. Insofar as she
> > > resembles "a fleshy Hogarthian tippler
> > > of indeterminate sex," she does not
> > > expect finding love to be easy; but
> > > expectation and desire are seldom one
> > > thing.
> > >
> > > Hazel is intelligent enough to be, not
> > > just aware, but hyperaware of the
> > > unlikelihood of her ever taking part
> > > in romantic love (from her perspective--
> > > we need not endorse her view, only
> > > understand it). She might well have
> > > been precociously cynical about such
> > > things--yet how could she not long to
> > > express this part of herself?
> > >
> > > On that windy spring night, after the
> > > absurdity of one more failed attempt
> > > at life--Hazel decides to die.
> > >
> > > People have suffered worse and lived
> > > on, and had rewarding lives, but we
> > > are concerned with Hazel. We are
> > > concerned not only with that evening,
> > > not only with one botched date, but
> > > with the feeling of not EVER being
> > > socially or sexually viable, at least
> > > not in the world in which she finds
> > > herself--and this is nothing to be
> > > taken lightly.
> > >
> > > The Dean/Provost humiliation might
> > > seem minor to us, but in the context
> > > of Hazel's life up to that evening,
> > > could be taken as a confirmation of
> > > her own worst fears about her future.
> > >
> > > Does she kill herself only because of
> > > how she looks? Merely because of the
> > > latest item in a series of defeats and
> > > humiliations, or because of the series?
> > > And because, that night, she saw or
> > > thought she saw the series of defeats
> > > repeating without relief, on and on?
> > >
> > > As with Lucette and Lolita, Hazel's
> > > own point of view, never explicitly
> > > given, is ours to imagine. We must
> > > imagine it, or she will not exist;
> > > but it is all there. The book demands
> > > that we imagine it. As Lolita's own
> > > story and inner life is ours to tease
> > > from LOLITA, Hazel's point of view is
> > > the book behind the book.
> > >
> > > Nabokov does play games with us, but
> > > they are always serious games.
> > >
> > >
> > > --Thomas Bolt
> > > http://www.tbolt.com
> > >
> > >
> > >
>
>