NABOKV-L post 0006962, Wed, 23 Oct 2002 21:26:32 -0700

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Fw: Poor Hazel - reply to Mr Bolt
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Poor Hazel - reply to Mr Bolt
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 9:06 PM
Subject: Poor Hazel - reply to Mr Bolt


Dear Mr Bolt,

Yes, Hazel's suicide is at the center of Shade's poem, but that does not make it the center of the book. I don't think anyone has found that precise point yet.

Why assume that Hazel's friends are outcasts? that the Korean student is a loser? that the girl who becomes a nun is a virgin? that virgins are pathetic? Could Shade perhaps want to give his readers that impression? Why would he want to do that?

That "Korean boy" gets invited to that rather exclusive party to celebrate Shade's last birthday along with a celebrated American author and a senator. He must have something going for him. And there's nothing about a person who becomes a nun that in itself is necessarily pathetic. And you don't have to be a virgin to become a nun, either.

My own opinion, clever reading if you will, is that her father would like us to think that her friends are pathetic outcasts, but there really is no evidence that this is the case.

There are a number of ugly women who have been successful - in love among other things. Mrs Roosevelt comes to mind; the fictional giantess, Liesl, in Robertson Davies' "Fifth Business" comes to mind, and the non-fictional Pancho Barnes (read her biography "The Happy Bottom Riding Club" for a very good time). There are many others, I assure you.

An intelligent young woman with "great force of personality," who is greatly loved by her doting mother and father, does not commit suicide because she is ugly. No amount of empathy makes this believable.

Yes, Shade wishes the reader to accept it, but the more I read Pale Fire, the less I trust Mr Shade.

Carolyn Kunin


p.s. What's your objection to a clever reading or two? "I do not write for such dull elves as have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves." That's Jane Austen (another of those outcast virgins). So you continue to read with empathy, I have no objection, but Lo and I reserve the right to skate whenever and wherever we please.