NABOKV-L post 0020630, Sat, 28 Aug 2010 14:06:18 -0700

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] Botkin
I am always astounded by the number of people who think that as a tree grows, its branches go upwards instead of remaining where they started.  Anybody who has climbed the same tree for more than five years can testify that the branches always remain where they started,whether somebody hangs swings on them or not.
Chaz (who also knows more important things about that swing)

--- On Fri, 8/27/10, Jansy <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

From: Jansy <jansy@AETERN.US>
Subject: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] Botkin
Date: Friday, August 27, 2010, 9:36 PM

John Morris to Matt Roth: As usual, Matt has raised a deep point, one that goes to the heart of fiction and metafiction.  To answer it, we have to carry through in our imaginations the trajectory of "Pale Fire," a novel by John Shade. 

This book would be published in a counterfactual world in which Shade is a well-known poet, and in which the details of his life, including the tragic loss of Hazel, are also known.  Readers would come to it with a completely different set of preconceptions and questions than readers in our world bring to VN's PF/To begin with, it would be clear that the poem "Pale Fire" is a fairly straight autobiographical account of certain elements of Shade's life.  So far, so good.  Then the reader would be confronted by a clearly fictitious commentary by an invented Kinbote, during which "John Shade" appears as a character in his own novel.  The real Shade is of course alive -- probably on a book tour! -- and since the book is "a novel by John Shade," there is no Kinbote.  No reader would be in the least doubt about any of this. …  His readers will of course perceive that the real pathos here is his longing for Hazel's immortality as well./…/A final
thought: I admit, reluctantly, that VN probably didn't intend us to view Shade as the author of all the texts that comprise "Pale Fire."  In that sense, I am not a Shadean.  Rather, I believe that "Pale Fire" would be a better novel under that interpretation.  But in my world, authorial intention comes first, so I accept that we're left with wrestling with Botkin as VN meant him to be understood.  Now if only . . .
JM:.. If only Nabokov were a “post-modern” author? 

Bryson’s items on Halitosis, Psoriasis, Gillette, equivocal Edsel (I borrowed the book for a couple of minutes, only) suggest that Nabokov, in Montreux, chose a particular decade or two (twenties, thirties) for his “historical/actual” references. For a meticulous researcher as he, if this information proves to be correct, one might expect him to be pointing to something  related to Shade’s emotional world.  The poet’s love for Hazel always strikes me as false: if there’s any “pathos” it might be related to guilt feelings towards an event that would have happened long before the young woman committed suicide. Shade always returns to the sweet sentimental “swing” (a child’s plaything!), while he informs us that it hung from a tree which has grown considerably over the years. Were it not “a phantom swing” it would then be hanging from high up among the branches…  
This is why it has just occurred to me that Shade could be indicating a special period during his daughter’s infancy (describing dated adverts and returning over and over to a “phantom swing”).

Btw: I believe it was Kinbote who introduced the Gillette blade in PF, although he ignored “halitosis.” Shade mentions Hazel’s “psoriatic nails,” but I didn’t check this in the novel.

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.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: