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Mike M writes:
When I posted about Pale Fire's "worms, ginger and zhiletka blades"
last week I forgot to mention that in Ada, gingerbread itself is
mentioned, with direct reference to Shakespeare (p. 73), in a passage
"Night of course always remained an ordeal .... -- for genius is not
all gingerbread even for Billionaire Bill with his pointed beardlet and
stylized bald dome, or crusty Proust who liked to decapitate rats when
he did not feel like sleeping, or THIS brilliant or obscure V. V.
(depending on the eyesight of readers, also poor people despite our
jibes and their jobs); .."
I can't claim to understand all of this, since the Billionaire segment
has no connection with sleep, unless it alludes perhaps to the To be or
not to be speech in Hamlet, "to die, to sleep -- / No more -- and by a
sleep to say we end / The heartache ...... To sleep, perchance to dream
...... For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...". Perhaps in
this context gingerbread means hard cash.
There are a few additional points of interest. Nabokov was quite happy
to name Proust, but not to name Shakespeare directly, even though the
allusion wasn't terribly opaque. The word THIS (italicized in the text)
compares Van Veen with another V.V.; early quartos of Shakespeare had
the W of his name like this
Two barely separated Vs. Maybe that is what is contingent on the
eyesight of readers. The final part: "also poor people despite our
jibes and their jobs" perhaps suggests poor Yorick, the late clown, to
whose skull Hamlet says "Where be your gibes now?"