Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0014045, Mon, 13 Nov 2006 11:32:48 -0500

Dieter Zimmer on date palms, Tribune quote, and A Modest Proposal
To Jerry Friedman and the others

I am pleased to say that I wholly agree with Jerry.

It probably is futile to ask whether the date palm really belongs in
that Appalachian Shakespeare Alley, potted or not, for whether Kinbote
"invented" it outright or based it on his "memories" or on some "notes"
in his pocket diary, it certainly comes straight out of Shakespeare,
without any detour to the Wordsmith campus. It is unlikely Kinbote ever
went to look at the famous trees himself (unless there were young
gardeners around), and if he did, he wouldn't have recognized many of
them. Which highlights a more general problem with him. He has a most
discontinuous mind. Psychologically, he is a versipel. He is a man of
incoherent transactions (though there is a bottom line). One moment he
is keen, observant, and as lucidly sane as anybody, with obviously
reliable and even enviable powers of memory, the next moment he misses
what everybody else gets, is shamelessly forgetful or distorts all his
experiences frightfully. And you never know if or when he is just
pretending. His notes on the shagbark hickory seem to be more or less
objectively correct, and so are his remarks about American waxwings and
European silktails or about the Red Admira(b)l(e), though these are too
paltry to refute his professed ignorance of butterflies. But whenever he
gets something right that he is ignorant of or doesn't understand or
care for, there is plenty of room for the reader to assume he had some
subtle help from the world of spirits. Or perhaps not.

The full coordinates of the 'Herald Tribune' piece are:
Maurice Dolbier: "Books and Authors: Nabokov's Plums." 'The New York
Herald Tribune', June 17, 1962, p.5. The article was not in the
International but only in the American edition (at that time, the
'Herald Tribune' was still a New York newspaper, with an abridged
international edition).
Btw, the omission dots in the quote were not mine. It is a pity the NYHT
thought it fit to abridge Nabokov's sparse comments.

I second the modest proposal that we should try to limit our postings to
one a day. I do not second the proposal that we limit their length. If
somebody has something substantial to say, it cannot be long enough.
Instead, I immodestly propose that as a matter of routine we wait an
hour or two before pushing the send button.

Dieter Zimmer, Berlin

November 13, 2006 -- 5pm

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