Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017088, Mon, 22 Sep 2008 23:11:40 -0400

Newport Frills
Dear list,

I was pondering the line John Shade uses while making a bloody mess of
himself shaving in *Pale Fire* (lines 899-900):

"...some day I must set free/The Newport Frill inveterate in me..."

And I noticed that in a prior post, someone had referenced frill-necked
lizards (I think there are frill-necked snakes, too). But that didn't seem
to fit the scene to me (though I'm sure Nabokov loved his reptilian
reference). I started hunting, and "frill" is also defined a number of
places as

"A decorative, fluted paper "sock" that is slipped over a protruding meat
bone, such as in a crown roast."

[This from *The New Food Lover's Companion, 3rd edition, by Sharon Tyler
Herbst, published by Barron's Educational Series, Inc., *though I found it
in many cookbooks.] The frill is also sometimes called a *papillote*, which
is lovely, not only because of the relationship between *papillote* and *
papillon* (French for butterfly, which the online Webster's--I am in transit
and dictionary-less at present--gives as etymology for *papillote*), but
also because to bake something *en papillote* is to cook food prepared by
wrapping it inside paper, which steams it. From the same book: "At the
table, the paper is slit and peeled back to reveal the food."

So in cooking, as well as Shade Shaving, slitting the paper/skin releases
something--a meal, a poem--but for Shade, at the risk of life and limb, if
we take seriously the "gory mess." Shaving as a dangerous path to the muse,
perhaps, with a hint of self-butchery and suicide lurking. More literally,
the nicks and slices can be seen as creating a frilled collar, as worn by
meat AND lizards.

Why the Newport? Newport is a common name for a cut of steak, the tri-tip or
bottom sirloin. For beef enthusiasts, here's a web discussion of what
qualifies as a Newport steak, how much it should cost, and how to cook it:


For me, the butcher-block image of a cut of meat dressed up with frill keeps
the image disturbing yet somehow funny, and lines it up tonally with what
comes before and after.


Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/