Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026529, Wed, 14 Oct 2015 01:36:57 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Philomela and Pale Fire?
Carolyn Kunin: Dear Jansy, I guess I'm confused here (or herrrr). Philomel
(or Philomela) was raped by her brother-in-law, so not really incest [
]When her sister Procne "read" the truth in a tapestry Philomela had woven,
she serves up her and Tereus's (the rapist's) son to him. This I assume is
the "alimentary" incest of which Matt Roth writes./ Was the rape incestuous?
/If there is any evidence that Shade's relationship with his daughter was
unnatural, I have missed it. I have missed how Hazel is either a nightingale
(they don't exist on the American continent after all) or a pheasant. Shade
is not a waxwing, but the shadow of one, which is only his poetic way of
saying that he was watching [ ] Shade imagining himself a king is too
generic an idea to point to the Ovid story ... so Matt is going to have to
defend this idea - I just don't get it.

Jansy Mello: That's my point [I quote a few of my misgivings expressed in
another VN-L posting: "I also stopped to reconsider Matt Roth's ideas and
realized that his theories about incestuous relations, Hazel as a
nightingale and Shade as "King" ( come herr', "hombre", etc. ), didn't
convince me."]

Why did you address me instead of Matt?

Btw: I've been apologetic enough about my having jumped uncritically from
one association to another simply because things are basically connected in
one way or another and as if such convoluted links and "stepping stones"
were sufficient. *

There was a definite gain, though. I used to read C.K's commentaries to
Shade's Line 810: a web of sense, while adopting as an ideal project all
those little daedalian mazes produced by CK. Now I'm not as certain as I was
concerning the irony I found in Kinbote's defense of "one beautiful straight
line" that was conquered by a "master thumb," nor by his choice of future
interlocutions with Aristotle instead of ".talks/ With Socrates and Proust
in cypress walks" (223-23).**

And I got an added bonus in another image created by CK when he mentions
that which in his brain is similar to "the ball of his thumb" and its
labyrinthine twists (what to make out from this approximation? Aside from
the verbal dimension, what lies beyond its description in relation to
Shade's and CK's tin-toys and the circus?)***


* - Brian Boyd inquired at the time: "Why work so circuitously to make a
connection that the novel itself makes directly--unless you feel you need to
get, by stepping stones you have imported and moved into position, to the
story of Tereus and Philomel?," but without biting into the meat of Matt's

**-Cf. "Aristotle! - Ah, there would be a man to talk with! What
satisfaction to see him take, like reins from between his fingers, the long
ribbon of man's life and trace it through the mystifying maze of all the
wonderful adventure.... The crooked made straight. The Daedalian plan
simplified by a look from above - smeared out as it were by the splotch of
some master thumb that made the whole involuted, boggling thing one
beautiful straight line."

***- "What he particularly desired to rediscover now was an elaborate toy
circus contained in a box as big as a croquet case. He craved for it; his
eyes, his brain, and that in his brain which corresponded to the ball of his
thumb, vividly remembered the brown boy acrobats with spangled nates, an
elegant and melancholy clown with a ruff, and especially three pup-sized
elephants of polished wood with such versatile joints that you could make
the sleek jumbo stand upright on one foreleg or rear up solidly on the top
of a small white barrel ringed with red."

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