Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004457, Thu, 7 Oct 1999 19:22:48 -0700

Edmund Morris as Charles Kinbote (fwd)

Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>

>From Hendrik Hertzberg's review of _Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan_,
_The New Yorker_, Oct. 11, 1999:

"One feels for Morris. Presented with unexampled access, a colossal
advance, and the subject of a lifetime, he kept drilling holes and, he
thought, coming up empty... In due course, his desperation drove him to
madness. It happens to be a madness that much of the best modern fiction
consciously strives for: the 'unreliable narrator,' whose skewed vision
becomes the engine of the story. It's the madness of Nabokov's Charles
Kinbote, the academic critic who annotates a long poem by the Frostian
poet John Shade -- a poem called 'Pale Fire.' The novel, in the shape of
the poem and Kinbote's increasingly unhinged _explication de texte_, is a
dizzying portrait of the critic's growing frustration, his obsessive
pursuit of his subject, and his spiral into despair; and it is very funny.
But one needn't be a harrumphing traditionalist to suggest that the
conversion of frustration into deception is quite another matter in
biography. Fiction relies on the suspension of disbelief. What _Dutch: A
Memoir of Ronald Reagan_ induces in the reader is a suspension of belief."