After following the Aisenberg/Twiggs debate on the quality of Pale Fire's poem, I have often wondered if the poem is not supposed to be deliberately good or bad as much as both: a piece composed in character to be the poem written by the man that (I think) Nabokov imagined Shade to be: admirable, flawed, and striving as an artist to transcend the limits that mortality and his experience have placed on him.
I very much like the idea that he comes across to some people as a callous, lousy parent, and to others as the artist triumphant. The complexity of VN's portrait of Shade feels to me miles beyond that of Krug in Bend Sinister, and I think it's possible to empathize with him or laugh at him and have both reactions be reasonable.
Since Nabokov created Shade as a sort of second-to-Frost poet, it would not surprise me that he might leave unresolved moments of struggle that don't necessarily function in the poem. Which may not be the same thing as making it deliberately bad--it might be more a matter of leaving some pieces unpolished or un-reworked on purpose. If Nabokov truly believed himself part of a trinity with Pushkin and Shakespeare, why would he make the poem as well as he could possibly write? I don't believe he intends Shade to be a poet on that level. [Someone told me just last month that the orignal title and refrain for the Willie Nelson/Pasty Cline song "Crazy" was "Stupid"--good thing Nelson believed in revision.]
My impressions may have been spurred by this piece in Zembla on Frost and Nabokov from Abraham Socher that first appeared in the TLS: I don't buy Socher's idea about the Frost poem Nabokov is referencing, but I do think it a fascinating bunch of research, and the links between Nabokov and the archetypical American poet who seems to have inspired the idea of Shade are engaging.
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