Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026027, Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:19:52 -0200

[SIGHTING] "Deep Chess", Ferlinghetti.
One of the nicest experiences of being a “foreigner” to the American world
results from occasional discoveries that are only a stimulating novelty for
those who are in a situation that’s similar to mine. While I was visiting a
bookstore yesterday I came across a pocket book with the title “Um parque de
diversões na cabeça” (“An amusement park in the mind”, literally). I’d never
before heard of the author, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and, thinking about
Kinbote’s mental carousels, I decided to check into the book to find some
kind of reference to Pale Fire in it. I came to realize that the collection
of poems I had in my hands is simply wonderful! A great find - but I’d never
have opened it had the translators chosen another way to render the original
title: “A Coney Island of the Mind”.

When I got home I discovered various links between V.Nabokov and
L.Ferlinghetti, initially because of an editor they shared: James Laughlin [
who founded New Directions in 1936 while still a sophomore at Harvard
tml ]. As you may all know, Lawrence Ferlinghetti still runs his own
publishing house, launched in 1955: “The City Lights.”
Their names are sometimes mentioned in proximity * and Ferlinghetti, at
least once, included something Nabokovian in his verses, as in “Deep Chess”
(Cf. “These are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993”) where, or so it
seems to me, Nabokov’s moves might open a way to vanquish “Him” (Time,
mortality, God?).


Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Life itself like championship chess

dark players jousting

on a checkered field

where you have only

so much time

to complete your moves

And your clock running

all the time

and if you take

too much time

for one move

you have that much less

for the rest

of your life

And your opponent

dark or fair

(which may or may not be

life itself)

bugging you with his deep eyes

or obscenely wiggling his crazy eyebrows

or blowing smoke in your face

or crossing and recrossing his legs

or her legs

or otherwise screwing around

and acting like some insolent invulnerable

unbeatable god

who can read your mind & heart

And one hasty move

may ruin you

for you must play

deep chess

(like the one deep game Spassky won from Fischer)

And if your unstudied opening

was not too brilliant

you must play to win not draw

and suddenly come up with

a new Nabokov variation

And then lay Him out at last

with some super end-game

no one has ever even dreamed of

And there's still time-

Your move



* - “The 1950s …In different contexts, Kerouac and Nabokov describe
long-distance, continental driving around America, Kerouac "on the road" in
the western states, Nabokov's Humbert Humbert from motel to motel in an
elaborate pattern to avoid his pursuers. Selby, by contrast, presents the
complex culture of socially isolated young men in Brooklyn where sex,
violence, and the local economy depend on cars. Hawkes shows various
symbolic and material roles that the car plays in one family's life, while
O'Connor's preacher in Wise Blood turns an old Essex into his pulpit.
Roethke presents a drive on washed out roads as a symbol for the speaker's
unconscious mind. Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark" juxtaposes a dead
deer on the road with his car's animation. Warren shows the decline of the
Appalachian region partly in terms of its collapsing infrastructure. Bellow
charts an elderly woman's struggle to keep her aging car in working
condition so she can get to her remote home in rural California. A scheme to
steal an antique Ford from a woman through fraudulent marriage to her
daughter is the subject of O'Connor's "The Life You Save…." In another of
her stories, a grandmother's misremembered and confusing road directions
lead a family to its death. Chase highlights car models as a way to identify
gangsters and their police pursuers on Kansas highways. McMurtry shows the
importance of the car culture in Texas with special emphasis on the car's
role in teenagers' sexual encounters. Stafford in "The Trip" gives images of
the drive-in restaurant, while Booth characterizes the rural Maine economy
partly by the way people repair and recycle old cars. In Albee's play,
segregated Southern hospitals are shown to cause blues singer Bessie Smith's
death following an auto accident, while Wilson dramatizes the effects of
segregation in the Pittsburgh local trucking industry. Cushman creates a
plot around a man's gradually selling off parts of his prized Buick as an
allegory about the general decline of Native Americans in the face of
whites' technology. Nabokov's Professor Pnin, after struggling with
unreliable railway and bus schedules finally joins the automobile age in his
eccentric and bumbling way.Cheever's "Country Husband" depicts the survivor
of an airplane crash whose near-tragedy cannot be communicated to his family
or neighbors, as he deals with routine problems commuting by train to the
suburbs. Nemerov's poem gives images of the airplane as a symbol of the
Eisenhower administration. Lensky shows the Mississippi River valley, with
its tugboats and lock system, while Bissell deals with technical problems of
towing barges during a flood on the River, as well as competition from the
railroads. Baldwin describes an African-American expatriate's voyage from
France to the United States on an ocean liner, and then his wonder at the
new highway system. Ferlinghetti links the multi-lane highway to images from
Goya's drawings of war, while Lowell associates the building of a parking
garage and cars with tail fins with a general indifference to the pain of
wars in this century. O'Connor uses a train trip to Atlanta to describe a
young white Georgia boy's first contact with blacks, where the train station
becomes the symbol of his ability to escape back to his home. Stafford's
"West of Your City" has word plays which echo the sound of a moving train,
while Wrightbuilds on the sexual symbolism of the train's masculine imagery.
The commuter train in Cheever's story is the site for a sexually exploited
secretary to stalk her former boss for revenge, while Carver's companion
piece focuses on how other passengers react to the woman. Bellow describes
how subway travellers try to guess each others' thoughts and character.) .

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