Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0018270, Wed, 29 Apr 2009 12:00:02 -0400

Re: RESPONSE to Aisenberg on Pale Fire's epigraph etc.
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:
http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/socher.htm. 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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