NABOKV-L post 0026098, Wed, 1 Apr 2015 18:27:31 -0300

ED SES: “… Although here in Massachusetts, USA, spring is still a tenuous concept (the very possibility of whose arrival is a matter for debate), it's nonetheless time for me to exchange mouse and keyboard with my stalwart co-editor...Do be mindful of NABOKV-L policies (see link below)… Also, please remember that we have hundreds of subscribers and want to hear from everyone, not just a few.” Susan Elizabeth Sweeney/ Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

JM: “...not just a few!” Right. Welcome back, Beth and a world of thanks to Steve and his dedication and patience with my postings.

I just got my hands onto a bundle of old American magazines (of the early fifties), including the “Saturday Evening Post” with covers by Norman Rockwell. There's a sentence, from "Pnin," that often pops up among a long list of favorite "Nabokov quotations": "Dali is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnapped by gipsies in babyhood."* It is quoted out of context and innocent of the narrator’s (actually Lake’s) irony. The comparison is, in fact, quite intriguing. The lines that antecede it are equally curious: “there is nothing more banal and more bourgeois than paranoia” and I wonder if (discounting their contiguity) they are related to each other.

There’s Dali’s “Paranoiac Village” <> Dali invented what he called “the paranoiac-critical method” : The Paranoiac-critical method was the invention of Salvador Dali and is an extension of the method of Simulation into the field of visual play, based on the idea of the 'double- image'. / According to Dali by simulating paranoia one can systematically undermine one's rational view of the world, which becomes continually subjected to associative transformations, "For instance, one can see, or persuade others to see, all sorts of shapes in a cloud: a horse, a human body, a dragon, a face, a palace, and so on. Any prospect or object of the Physical world can be treated in this manner, from which the proposed conclusion is that it is impossible to concede any value whatsoever to immediate reality, since it may represent or mean anything at all" (Marcel Jean). The point is to persuade oneself or others of the authenticity of these transformations in such a way that the 'real' world from which they arise loses its validity. The mad logic of Dali's method leads to a world seen in continuous flux, as in his paintings of the 1930s, in which objects dissolve from one state into another, solid things become transparent, and things of no substance assume form. Cf. <> This might suggest a link between the two sentences but it’s Norman Rockwell who fits more smugly into the “bourgeois” category mysteriously appended to the word “paranoia.”

Anyway, both lines (read in sequence or in isolation), illustrate art-teacher Lake’s peculiar turn of mind (and Nabokov’s, of course, as the critical sting seems to be rather gratuitous). Thoughts, anyone?


* “He had been born in Ohio, had studied in Paris and Rome, had taught in Ecuador and Japan. He was a recognized art expert, and it puzzled people why, during the past ten winters, Lake chose to bury himself at St Bart's….. His profound knowledge of innumerable techniques, his indifference to 'schools' and 'trends', his detestation of quacks, his conviction that there was no difference whatever between a genteel aquarelle of yesterday and, say, conventional neoplasticism or banal non-objectivism of today, and that nothing but individual talent mattered — these views made of him an unusual teacher... Among the many exhilarating things Lake taught was that the order of the solar spectrum is not a closed circle but a spiral of tints from cadmium red and oranges through a strontian yellow and a pale paradisal green to cobalt blues and violets, at which point the sequence does not grade into red again but passes into another spiral…. He taught that there is no such thing as the Ashcan School or the Cache Cache School or the Cancan School. That the work of art created with string, stamps, a Leftist newspaper, and the droppings of doves is based on a series of dreary platitudes. That there is nothing more banal and more bourgeois than paranoia. That Dali is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnapped by gipsies in babyhood. That Van Gogh is second-rate and Picasso supreme, despite his commercial foibles; and that if Degas could immortalize a calèche, why could not Victor Wind do the same to a motor car?” (VN,Pnin)

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