James Twiggs [to Darryl
Schade]: "I have no idea what may or may not have crossed VN's mind ...he was
hardly the first to use, let alone invent, most of the devices of metafiction.
For good, short, highly readable books on the subject, I would recommend Robert
Alter's Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre..., and Robert M.
Adams's Afterjoyce: Studies in Fiction after Ulysses...The comic index of Pale
Fire had at least one outstanding forerunner in The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of
Bad Verse, edited by D.B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee and published in
1930. Other examples of highly self-conscious writing, roughly
contemporaneous with VN's American period, are Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds
(1939) and--one of my all-time favorite books--Raymond Queneau's Exercises in
Style (1947).In addition, we should not forget Pirandello and the revolt against
realism that he represented in drama...Finally... almost from their very
beginnings, movies and comic strips were deeply invested in playing all manner
of tricks with space, time, consciousness, and narrative. Or think of Picasso
and Cubism . . . Or heck, forget the twentieth century. Isn't it obvious that
most of what we think of as metafiction is strikingly prefigured in Velazquez's
great painting, Las Meninas (1656)? " I was surprised (not being a thorough
reader of Dante's Divina Commedia) to learn that Dante was one of the first
writers to use a Kinbote-styled commentator's interferences.
is wonderful to start the New Year with the right book on the screen of one's
computer! [ ...Bentham is
mentioned not only in Pushkin's novel in verse, but also in Thomas Carlyle's On
Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History..., Napoleon is not mentioned
in Ada, but he is one of the heroes in Carlyle's book....ALBION = ALBINO
...Griffin, the unfortunate hero of Wells' The Invisible Man, is an albino.
Wells' novel is directly alluded to in Ada (1.32): "Van changed his course from
gravel path to velvet lawn (reversing the action of Dr Ero, pursued by the
Invisible Albino in one of the greatest novels of English
JM: Thanks Jim for the most
informative and fascinating ennumeration of authors who discoursed
on metafiction and their links with Nabokov, particularly the inclusion of
Velazquez's way of painting himself into the picture and his disquieting
composition with a mirror. Nabokov is an instigating guide into history, art,
philosophy, geography. He listed Queneau among the modern French
authors he admired (together with Robe-Grillet and Jean Genet) and, for a
fleeting moment, I discerned a bit of his Exercises in Style in TOoL as if, more
important than plot or content, style was all that mattered (the moment was
very fleeting, in fact. I couldn't recover it ). Thanks for a great
It is wonderful, like AS stated, to start the
New Year with the right List on the screen... Yesterday, while recovering
forgotten parts in ADA from Holabird's book on colors, I found a reference to an
albino doctor, too. No time to check into that now, Alexey, but it will add to
your list of associations. I think this albino was blind and the first name
related to synesthesia.
There's a lot about Wellington, Lavoisier,
guillotine and the French Revolution in ADA: no Napoleon, then?
There's a book on Carlyle that links his "hero-worship" theories directly
with dictators (Hitler, Stalin) which is worth checking into: Ernst Cassirer's
"Myth of the State." .