Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015718, Thu, 29 Nov 2007 11:46:18 -0500

Re: Brian Boyd on Apples in PF; more tumblings
MR responding to Jerry and Sadie:

Jerry: "What is childish, though, is identifying himself with the
waxwing. I think children are said not to see clear
boundaries between themselves and external things..."

Sadie: " think this reflection (no pun intended) is indicative of a wisdom
that comes with experience, a wisdom that is echoed at the end of
Canto 4: "...As I am reasonably sure that I/Shall wake at six
tomorrow, on July/The twenty-second, nineteen fifty-nine..." Shade,
though "reasonably sure" of his continued existence, does not take it
for granted. He is not so foolish to think that because the sky
appears to be there, it is."
MR: I agree with Sadie that the philosophical perspective in the first four lines is quite mature. But this misses the point. Shade is writing about his childhood; he is not writing from the perspective of himself as a child. When Shade writes about his fits at the end of Canto One, he compares them to an act of molestation and says he felt "corrupted, terrified, allured." This is a mature perspective that the eleven-year-old Shade could not have articulated at the time, yet Shade is clearly talking about his childhood in this section. To suggest otherwise is to fall prey to the mimetic fallacy--that in order to write about childhood one must write like a child. Frankly, I think we're overthinking this. If Shade were speaking of the present, why would he not write "I am the shadow of the waxwing slain ... And I live on, fly on..."? The only way to account for the past tense is to admit that Shade is talking about the past in the first 12 lines. The recycling of the lines--in the obvious context of Shade's childhood--in lines 131-132 only underlines the point.


Re: Tumblings, Jansy said that Hazel's swollen feet alone do not lead us to an oedipal interpretation. I agree. I regard that clue as one among many, some of which are far more important. Since my last email I have located several more uses of "tumbled." In each case, notice, the adjectival use of the word has clear sexual connotations.

Bend Sinister: (Ch. 9):
"*and there would kiss your wet eyes, and hot neck and tumbled hair*"

p. 419: Van's topographical leer at Lucette:
"The top sheet and quilt are tumbled at the footboardless south of the island where the newly landed eye starts on its northern trip, up the younger Miss Veen's pried-open legs."

p. 362: Van, Ada and Lucette in bed:
"...their tongues meeting in flicks of fire and curling back again, their tumbled hair, red-bronze and black-bronze, delightfully commingling ..."

p. 415: Description of Lucette, from Van's perspective:
"...of the exquisite twin dimples that only very perfect young bodies have above the buttocks in the sacral belt of beauty. Oh, they were even more perfect than Ada's! Fortunately, she turned around, smoothing her tumbled red curls while her hem dropped to knee level."

Would it be too incautious to say that for Nabokov the adjective "tumbled" was a marker of sensuality?

Matt Roth

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