Dear list,
I was pondering the line John Shade uses while making a bloody mess of himself shaving in Pale Fire (lines 899-900):
"...some day I must set free/The Newport Frill inveterate in me..."
And I noticed that in a prior post, someone had referenced frill-necked lizards (I think there are frill-necked snakes, too). But that didn't seem to fit the scene to me (though I'm sure Nabokov loved his reptilian reference). I started hunting, and "frill" is also defined a number of places as
"A decorative, fluted paper "sock" that is slipped over a protruding meat bone, such as in a crown roast."
[This from The New Food Lover's Companion, 3rd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst, published by Barron's Educational Series, Inc., though I found it in many cookbooks.] The frill is also sometimes called a papillote, which is lovely, not only because of the relationship between papillote and papillon (French for butterfly, which the online Webster's--I am in transit and dictionary-less at present--gives as etymology for papillote), but also because to bake something en papillote is to cook food prepared by wrapping it inside paper, which steams it. From the same book: "At the table, the paper is slit and peeled back to reveal the food."
So in cooking, as well as Shade Shaving, slitting the paper/skin releases something--a meal, a poem--but for Shade, at the risk of life and limb, if we take seriously the "gory mess." Shaving as a dangerous path to the muse, perhaps, with a hint of self-butchery and suicide lurking. More literally, the nicks and slices can be seen as creating a frilled collar, as worn by meat AND lizards.
Why the Newport? Newport is a common name for a cut of steak, the tri-tip or bottom sirloin. For beef enthusiasts, here's a web discussion of what qualifies as a Newport steak, how much it should cost, and how to cook it:
For me, the butcher-block image of a cut of meat dressed up with frill keeps the image disturbing yet somehow funny, and lines it up tonally with what comes before and after.
Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.