NABOKV-L post 0002311, Thu, 28 Aug 1997 15:55:26 -0700

Re: VN & jazz (fwd)
"Now I shall speak of evil as none has
Spoken yet. I loathe such things as jazz..."
--Pale Fire

That's pretty strong, though it comes from the mouth of fictional poet
John Shade, but I think Shade's tastes are meant to be univerally
correct. Never seen anything else in Nabokov to call that into question,
nor any indication that he cares much for any music, even
classic music.

> From: Kelvin H Lu <>
> >From reading Strong Opinions, I get the impression that Nabokov totally
> hates jazz. Does anybody know of a source where he talks precisely about
> his jazz dislike, reasoning, etc.,? I would like to know whether he
> explains this antagonism precisely or if he's just somehow prejudiced for
> no good reason (seems unlikely). I'm also interested in other V.N.
> opinions on music besides Strong Opinions (where he admits that music
> isn't something he appreciates as well as visual art (or something like
> that with the stuff about different modes of perception for
> visual/auditory/reading art)). > Thanks.

/ Tim Henderson Online Editor \
/ Westchester Today \
/ Gannett Suburban Newspapers White Plains, NY 10604 \
>From Thu Aug 28 15:48:50 1997

You may want to look at Pale Fire. Shade somewhere declares "I hate such
things as jazz...." There is also a moment in the poem where he
describes his distaste for a jazzman on television (sounds like Louis

Incidentally, I have never felt these were intended as a careful
condemnation of jazz in particular. Jazz seems to be just one of the
things which (like Kinbote) cannot be allowed to intrude into the
special quiet of the Shades' intensely personal world.

Gene Liebel

> _Strong Opinions_ left me with pretty much the same opinion, but Nabokov
> has cheerfully confessed to having a tin ear as far as music is
> concerned (certainly not for prose!). It is my understanding that he
> never gave jazz or pop music much thought---though he does play around
> with a Cole Porter song somewhere in _S.O._ ("It's All Right With Me" I
> think).
> Humbert Humbert dismisses Lolita's taste in tunes ("sweet jazz") early
> on in the second part, I think---whether author and character share the
> same disdain is open to debate. Then there was that line in _S.O._
> about abhorring "cruelty, stupidity, and soft music".
> Juan Martinez

From Thu Aug 28 15:53:42 1997
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 1997 13:23:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Re: VN & jazz (fwd)

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----------------- Message requiring your approval (13 lines) ------------------
"I hate such things as jazz ... "
John Shade in PALE FIRE
"Jazz, jazz, they must always have their jazz, these youngsters ... "
Pnin in PNIN

I have always wondered how VN's admitted tin ear accommodated having a son
who was an opera singer. Did he walk around with cotton in his ears during
DN's voice lessons or practice? Did he learn to love the medium eventually
-- despite operas often being melodramatic, slushy, Dostoevskiian things?
I don't suppose he ever watched Elvis on Ed Sullivan. Our loss.

Sylvia Weiser Wendel