NABOKV-L post 0005793, Sun, 4 Mar 2001 16:46:01 -0800

Subject
VN & Sherlock; Haze/Blaze (fwd)
Date
Body
From: Mark Bennett <mab@straussandasher.com>

Since the group has been investigating, with Sherlock-like zeal,
those ripples and echoes of A.C. Doyle's stories that may be found in VN's
fiction, perhaps it is appropriate to examine what effect, if any, the
stories of another eccentric English sleuth may have had on VN"s work and
thought. I refer, of course, to C.K. Chesterton and his umbrella-toting,
crime-solving cleric, Father Brown. I recently came across this passage in
an early Father Brown story, "The Blue Cross":

The most incredible thing about miracles is that they
happen. A few clouds in heaven do come together into the staring shape of
one human eye. A tree does stand up in the landscape of a doubtful journey
in the exact and elaborate shape of a note of interrogation. I have seen
both these things myself within the last few days. Nelson does die in the
instant of victory; and a man named Williams does quite accidentally murder
a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide. In short,
there is in life an element of elfin coincidence which people reckoning on
the prosaic may perpetually miss. As it has been well expressed in the
paradox of Poe, wisdom should reckon on the unforeseen.

This passage is not only a nice statement of one aspect of VN's
metaphysics, but the prose itself, except for the last sentence, has a near
Nabokovian cadence. I believe VN is on record as stating that in his youth
he avidly read a great deal of popular British fiction, including Doyle and
Chesterton; however, I don't recall reading any public statement of VN's
opinion regarding Chesterton's work. Of course this confession will
probably prompt several replies directing me to sources in which VN
discusses Chesterton's work in general, and the Father Brown stories in
particular, contemptuously and at great length; but, after all, that is why
one subscribes to such a list. In any event, speaking of elfin coincidence,
a thread from last week discussed the possibility that Dolores Haze's true
last name was Blaze (along with other possibilities). I haven't looked into
the matter, but I do hope the Blaze conjecture is correct, because we can
then savor the delightful coincidence (?) that the actress Lolita Davidovich
played the title role in the 1989 movie "Blaze".