-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Pale Fire: Boyd/Alexander/Kunin Thread]
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 12:43:07 -0800
From: Thomas Nguyen <thomasnguyen25@HOTMAIL.COM>
CC: Thomas Nguyen <thomasnguyen25@HOTMAIL.COM>

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Dear Ms. Kunin,

The main argument of my paper is not that there has to be a "simple" answer to the
novel.  On the contrary, it is that the source of the problem inherent to Pale Fire
criticism is the assumption that some single answer or truth can be found, whether it
be simple or complex, scholarly or non-scholarly (these terms themselves being
irrelevant as the strength of an interpretation of any literary text is independent of
such qualifications).   This assumption has compelled many to read the text in a
certain manner, one which seeks desperately to be the first person to discover the
exhaustive, definitive answer and thus win the prize.  Some have gone to great
lengths to become the victor, forwarding theories of questionable authorship, ghostly
influence, and the one you recently brought to our attention characterizing Shade as
a drunken sexual predator.  Scholar or non-scholar, it is not difficult to see that these
"theories" provide no more comfort with the difficulties of the novel than existed

Instead, what I have tried to show is a way to read the novel that is not delimited by
the necessity of finding an answer.  How is this possible?  If there are no answers,
what might the point/value of such a complex and strange fiction be?  My thesis is
that Nabokov stages this quandary for us with the characters John Shade and
Charles Kinbote.  Kinbote sees only himself in his reading of the poem "Pale Fire";
he has predetermined its meaning even before he is able to obtain a copy of it.
John Shade  approach his life in the same manner, searching constantly
for the elusive "white fountain", the big transcendental prize.  It takes an embarrasing
revelation of the mountain-fountain misprint for him to recognize the folly of his entire
approach.   Kinbote never experiences a similar revelation, and is left at the end of
the story in constant fear of the next Gradus.

Have we not suffered enough embarrassment and wasted enough time searching
"beyond the veil" of the novel "Pale Fire"?  Shade mentions briefly that he has the
intuition to grope for some "faint hope".   We as readers ought to do likewise, and the
first step is to discontinue reading the novel the way Kinbote reads the poem.  I offer
a discussion of what I have determined this faint hope to be in my thesis, and, of
course, I make no claims for it being the final one.  Indeed, I would certainly hope to
hear what others have made of this faint hope.

Thomas Nguyen