NABOKV-L post 0018615, Mon, 28 Sep 2009 18:22:47 -0300

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Re: Minor McFate sighting
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Andrea Pitzer brings a McFate sighting in "Mary Gaitskill's "Lost Cat" essay from Granta--a hard but irresistable read that touches on the name "McFate." [...] As everyone on this list likely knows, Gaitskill has long expressed admiration for the works of VN (e.g. http://www.salon.com/12nov1995/feature/nabokov.html:)

JM: A remarkable sighting, also the delightful additional link to Gaitskill on Nabokov as "Sorcerer of Cruelty"*. I remember that Stephen Blackwell developed fascinating connections bt. McFate and Aubrey Beardsley ( we know that one of Lolita's classmates is "Aubrey McFate" before we discover, on ch.12, that her name was invented, and added by HH.) that take us to VN's childhood and his father's library.

In SB's words, Aubrey McFate is HH's "imagined arch-nemesis" and "his surname (the artist's) graces the town where Hum and Lo settle down after their first auto-tour of the United States: it is in Beardsley, Pennsylvania that Lolita meets Clare Quilty... The presence of Aubrey Beardsley in the novel is noted briefly by Carl Proffer in Keys to Lolita and at slightly greater length by Alfred Appel in his annotations..".
And new "Mcfate" event now linked me to another Aubrey misnomer! In Nabokov's letter to E.Wilson ( a misplaced one, dated June 9, 1944 ), Nabokov describes how, in his sudden illness, he was stranded at "the Mt. Aubrey hospital (where Vera had been last year, with pneumonia) in a semi-private ward."
Simon Karlinski's notes corrects it for "Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge" (N-W Letters, no. 100, pages 146-151).

An additional curious element, also present in this fateful letter, mentions once again a poem about "Sherlock Holmes and snow" (referred before in Letter 95, in connection to Kenneth Fearing's "Sherlock Spends a Day in the Country," published in the same issue as Wilson's article on magic, following SK's note 5, on page 143). I couldn't avoid picturing Pale Fire's lines ("Whose spurred feet have crossed/ From left to right the blank page of the road?Reading from left to right in winter’s code:...Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose/ Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?")

QUERY: Can anyone bring here K.Fearing's poem? I was puzzled by VN's insistent description of it as "SH and snow"...

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*- excerpts: " In his supercilious dismissal of this whimsical idea, Nabokov described his characters as "galley slaves" -- a comment exuding the playful, haughty spirit that drove (and still drives) some critics nuts. Such critics condemn Nabokov's authorial voice as elitist, inhuman and finally cruel. And that is an assessment his "slaves" might well agree with, subjected as they were to excruciating and ridiculous fates delineated in exquisite language and sparkling, albeit twisted, comic narratives...To a reader with a defensive turn of mind who is waiting to be told how to live or to be shown the Truth in a piece of fiction, the ruthless and rigorous complexity of Nabokov's work may seem cruel simply because it does not offer either of these services. Some readers apparently interpret the very beauty of his prose as cruel ... Through this Apollonian oeuvre there frolic countless tiny nymphets -- most famously, Lolita Haze...And therein also stump Mrs. Haze and her 30-ish sisters, with their gross emotional needs...the unbeautiful human personified with a fastidious shudder.What such critics forget is that a certain kind of detachment permits the most intense feeling, and that intense feeling is not always moral..."

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