NABOKV-L post 0007123, Wed, 20 Nov 2002 13:08:35 -0800

Fw: JF's Answers to Some of CK's Questions for Shadeans
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry Friedman" <>
To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 12:20 PM
Subject: JF's Answers to Some of CK's Questions for Shadeans

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> ...
> > Dear Anthony Stadlen,
> >
> > Eminently reasonable as it may be, Hazel does not have a roommate in
> > Pale Fire. You and Mr Friedman and Jennifer are re-writing the novel.
> > There is no indication in the novel that Hazel has a roommate, she lives
> > at home. She lives at home during the school year. Might she have had a
> > roommate? Of course. Does she? No.
> This seems like a problem of burden of proof. There *is* one
> indication that Hazel had a roommate: Shade mentions her. (And
> "that roommate" seems totally natural to me--as well as necessary
> instead of "her roommate" if she had more than one, and the text
> provides no evidence that she had only one.) To me, if you're
> arguing that either Nabokov made a mistake, Shade made a mistake, or
> Shade was dissembling, the burden of proof is on you. You have to
> show that she *couldn't* have had a roommate, or at least that it's
> extremely unlikely. And of course she could have. I had forgotten,
> so I appreciate your pointing out, that we know of two occasions
> while Hazel was in college that she's living at home. However,
> Tom Bolt has mentioned one way that could have happened that he knows
> has occurred, and Hazel might have lived at home for some part of her
> (presumably four) college years and in a dorm or rented housing for
> another part. Nothing is impossible or even unreasonable about that.
> As for rewriting the novel, if Hazel never had a roommate, how did
> that mention get past Sybil without being corrected? I think you
> would have to do the same level of "rewriting" to explain that.
> [Snip Shade's affair--I may get a chance later to respond to your
> post on that subject.]
> > To those who see John Shade as he portrays himself in the poem, I would
> > like to know how you explain his bizarre muse: "And that odd muse of
> > mine, My versipel[,] is with me everywhere." What does he mean?
> I wish I knew. Why Shade would say his muse is the comb or shoehorn
> that turns into the spoon (941-4) I've never understood. Because
> he whimsically sees it as supernatural, and it's always with him
> while he's writing poetry? I don't recall any mention of it in the
> limited number of secondary sources I've read (_Nabokov's Pale Fire_,
> _Worlds in Regression_, and some of the discussions on this list).
> Does anyone have any suggestions?
> Of course, none of this rebuts your contention that this shapechanger
> has important demonic overtones.
> > How do you explain that self-effacing modest man declaring in Canto IV :
> >
> > "Now I shall spy on beauty as none has
> > Spied on it yet. Now I shall cry out as
> > None has cried out. Now I shall try what none
> > Has tried. Now I shall do what none has done." ...
> As Kinbote notes, this is really strange.
> > "Now I shall speak of evil and despair
> > As none has spoken. Five, six, seven eight,
> > Nine strokes are not enough." ...
> Works for me as humorous bathos.
> > "Now I shall speak .... Better than any soap
> > Is the sensation for which poets hope" ...
> Seems fine.
> > "Now I shall speak of evil as none has
> > Spoken before. I loathe such things as jazz;"
> For Nabokov and presumably Shade, I think the word "evil" is no
> exaggeration for at least some of the items on the list. "As none
> has spoken before" is, however, an exaggeration. I believe other
> people had, previously in the history of speech, listed their
> antipathies.
> > What do you think is going on here? I see a man disintegrating,
> > probably, from evidence in the commentary, suffering a stroke. This is
> > not the John Shade you have grown to know and love.
> > Who is it?
> First of all, the beautiful writing that follows some of those
> passages strikes me as evidence against disintegration. Even if he
> did have a stroke, though, that wouldn't make me think less of him.
> (And I don't see him as a saint or myself as any kind of Shadean.)
> Jerry Friedman
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