Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000718, Sun, 17 Sep 1995 14:26:57 -0700

EDITOR'S NOTE: Last week I sent out "a dog daze" VN quiz. With thanks to
those of you who answered (particularly to Joseph Piercy who got the
obscure second item), I offer the answers below. DBJ
Forwarded message ---------- Date: Wed, 13 Sep 1995 10:00:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: Donald Barton Johnson <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu>

Two possible VN associations caught my eye yesterday. As a dog days
exercise, see if you make the same associations:

1) In a story by Allan Gurganus "Toward a More Precise Identification of
the Newer Angels" (New Yorker, Sept. 5), a rep of Welcome Wagon to Heaven
details some of the benefits for newcomers--among them, availing oneself
of missed opportunities. In this case a home-made lemon-meringue pie that
didn't get eaten. The pie "cooling on a Kansas windowsill....A confection
made twenty minutes back by your mom, who'll be dead (drunk driver,
laundry truck) before suppertime--her final creation and gift, steam
rising, set on a tea towel, your back yard's blooming fruit trees in view.
You wander home from school."
The combination of content and parentheses here are strongly reminiscent of
Humbert's account of his own family history in chapter 2 of LOLITA: "My
very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I
was three...." The passage more faintly echoes Charlotte's demise as well.

2) In actor Ray Milland's rather dull autobiography (_Wide-Eyed in
Babylon_ 1974), he describes a visit to William Randoph Hearsts' fabled
castle "San Simeon" near Cambria CA--a strange mixture of down-home
parsimony (catsup bottles on the table and paper napkins) and Richelieu's
bed. The visitor are invited on a picnic: "Throughout the castle grounds
and far into the distances of the ranch were telephones, usually in
Tree-mounted telephones on Baronial estates can't be too common in life
or literature, but they are found both on the grounds of San Simeon and
Ardis Hall. At the first Ada birthday picnic Marina shows Van and Lucette
"...the exact pine and the exact spot on its rugged red trunk where in
old, very old days a magnetic telephone nested....." (Chapter 13, p. 83).
It is referred again on p. 273 (Chapter 39) where Marina points it out to
Percy de Prey during Ada's second, far less happy birthday picnic.

One wonders whether Nabokov might have visited San Simeon in his travels?
Or read of its tree phones? Or perhaps they existed at Vyra?