NABOKV-L post 0006221, Wed, 21 Nov 2001 11:21:07 -0800

Re: [Fwd: Re: Query: Humbert's Diary (fwd)] (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 14:11:08 -0500
From: "Johnson, Kurt" <>
To: 'Vladimir Nabokov Forum' <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
Subject: RE: [Fwd: Re: Query: Humbert's Diary (fwd)]

This may seem extraneous so I'll make it brief. It's simply a comment on
the note below-- "assuming fictional character's have lives of their own".

There was a documentary film recently illustrating an arena in which this
happens-- the entertainment business. The documentary was on "E" about
fictional characters that became so big (or well-known) they ended up
subsuming their actors and, occasionally, actors then changed their names
to, or were thereafter known as, that character. What is noteworthy is that
the film differentiated between characters like "The Lone Ranger", "Zorro",
etc. who the public realizes NEVER existed and characters the public
BELIEVES exist, but actually do not. [Perhaps there is also some relevance
here also re: how many times we are asked questions by people who think
Nabokov himself must have been something like the sick persona of Humbert].
The point of the documentary, which carried some surprises, was that the
public believes these "persons" are real, alghouth some research indicates
they are not, and never were.

There were several examples, but one I think we all can remember is the
so-called singer "Buster Poindexter". You will remember his [somewhat
Latino] hit song (since used in many commercials-- "[I'm feelin'] Hot, Hot,
Hot". Most people believe that a real Buster Poindexter exists. In fact,
there is/was no such person. Buster Poindexter started as a cameo-"goof"
done by a singer in a NY rock group "The New York Dolls". In the cameo, on
stage, the "Dolls" did Buster Poindexter singing "Hot, Hot, Hot", a Latino
song, although the singer himself, in the Dolls, was actually Jewish [part
of the joke]. The song was a hit, and as a nod to commercialism, the singer
than seemed to have little choice but to tour as "Buster Poindexter". You
may then remember him later as one of the three "Ghosts of Xmas Past" in the
movie "Scrooged" [he was the "taxi driver ghost"]. Eventually, this actor
took on the name and character Buster Poindexter and has maintained that
commercial persona to date. Other examples were "Pee Wee Herman" [well
known-- long story!] and [more obscure] Juan Azteca, "originator" of a
certain Latino hairdo popular in the 1990's. Reading the comment below
about these, "layers" of reality re: characters in Nabokov, I was instantly
reminded of that fascinating documentary film about how fantasy spawns
reality in some of these quite interesting cases.

Kurt Johnson

-----Original Message-----
From: D. Barton Johnson []
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2001 1:30 PM
Subject: [Fwd: Re: Query: Humbert's Diary (fwd)]


There's another hypothosis -- assuming fictional character's have lives
of their own, as VN's tend so often to do, perhaps at the time Humbert
was writing the diary he believed no one but himself could possibly
decipher it's maniacal curlicues, but by the time he is writing
_Lolita_ five years later in prison, he well knows that the scrutiny of
a loving and jealous wife can achive what he thought to be impossible.
Thus the loving wife comment is not an authentic line form the original
diary, but an afterthought inserted either satirically or unconsciously
by Humber the jailhouse litteratuer.

One might say that this is a lot of suposing to be doing, but on the
other hand, despite Humbert's photographic memory, he admits to
inserting a line or two into Lotte's lovelorn letter (I don't have my
copy of the text at the moment, but the line I'm thinking of, if I
rember correctly, is soemthing like "the vortex of the toilet, where it
eventually did go, might be my own matter of fact contribution. She
probably begged me to make a special fire to consume it.") If Humbert
is capable of inserting his own later thought into the text of the
letter without alerting the reader (or rather, only alerting him after
the reader's had their snicker at Lotte's expense), one must suppose
him capable of doing the same to the diary. Furhermore, I think this
would fit in with the stucture of the book as a whole --- I believe
it's meant to be read twice, the first time as a mystery and the second
time as a tragedy. For the first time reader, even if they manage to
figure out quite early on who Lo disappears with, _Lolita_ requires a
second reading to truly appreciate how early and how often he appaears,
and how ineveitable Lo's tragedy is. The "loving wife" comment in the
diary is only one example of VN's genius for inserting slight comments
and details likely to be passed over or regarded lightly by someone
reading _Lolita_ for the first time, but whose significance will strike
the second (or third or fourth or fifth) time reader like a pile of
bricks --- the list of minor characters and their outcomes in the
forward is a steller example, as is that half-heard conversation on the
Enchanted Hunter' porch, when it seems Humbert's paranoia overcomes his
auditory skills.
EDITOR's NOTE. Just to throw something extra into the pot...someone
might want to ponder the implications, if any, of Kinbote's insertions
into "Pale Fire" and how the narrator of Eugene Onegin translates
Tatyana's letter from French into Russian.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Donald B. Johnson" <>
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2001 1:58 pm
Subject: Re: Query: Humbert's Diary (fwd)

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 13:53:25 -0800
> From: Mark Bennett <>
> I think the most reasonable answer is that at the time HH kept the
> diary he
> could not foresee that CH would ever ransack his room looking for
> "locked up
> love letters." He had stopped keeping the diary approximately 5
> days before
> CH drove DH to Camp Q, leaving behind with Louise the letter to HH
> in which
> CH both confessed her love for him and presented him with the
> Hobson' choice
> (Humbson' choice?) of moving out of 342 Lawn Street or marrying
> her. Before
> these events occurred HH had no reason to believe that he would
> ever again
> have a "loving wife" who would find his diary and decipher its
> "microscopicscript," written in HH's "smallest, most satanic
> hand." I think the more
> important question is why HH didn't immediately remove or destroy
> the diary
> as soon CH's indicated to him that she believed the little
> mahogany table
> wherein it was hidden contained HH's old love letters. Knowing how
> "insanelyjealous" CH was of his past, HH should have easily
> foreseen that she would
> not rest until she confirmed her suspicion. Oh well, had HH acted
> prudentlyCH would not have found the diary, she would not have
> been run down by Fred
> Beale's Packard, HH would not have become DH's default dad, and so
> on . . .
> >Hello,
> I'm sorry if everyone apart from me knows the answer to this one
> already,but could someone explain to me why Humbert does not just
> write his diary in
> a language Charlotte Haze doesn't understand? 'Obvious
> abbreviations' at the
> beginning of I, 11 suggests in some obscure way that he is not too
> concernedabout being found out...
> --