NABOKV-L post 0020186, Wed, 9 Jun 2010 12:50:27 -0400

[THOUGHT} the ironizing effects of Shade's madness
Reading Shade's Litany of Loathes with a degree of manic fervor
creates a pleasing, classical, climax to the overall poem. It also
helps to establish its general mode as one of irony and humor.

The same approach applied to the preceding stanza, with the crescendo
at Our Cream:

...Better than any soap
Is the sensation for which poets hope
When inspiration and its icy blaze,
The sudden image, the immediate phrase
Over the skin a triple ripple send
Making the little hairs all stand on end
As in the enlarged animated scheme
Of whiskers mowed when held up by Our Cream.

pushes its affective sense from odd to ridiculous; marking the passage
as probably the strangest depiction of divine, poetic, inspiration
ever rendered; really a cartoon.

Similarly Shade's Litany of Loathes, wildly performed, dangerously
sharpens the safety blade of the following line, suggesting that Shade
perhaps ought not be trusted to shave himself.

Now I shall speak of evil as none has
Spoken before. I loathe such things as jazz;
The white-hosed moron torturing a black
Bull, rayed with red; abstractist bric-a-brac;
Primitivist folk masks; progressive schools;
Music in supermarkets; swimming pools;
Brutes, bores, class-conscious Philistines, Freud, Marx,
Fake thinkers, puffed-up poets, frauds and sharks.

And while the safety blade with scrape and screak
Travels across the country of my cheek,

Similarly the line that begins Shade's Envoy is also ironized:

Gently the day has passed in a sustained
Low hum of harmony.

For now the day is seen as anything but tranquil. Indeed Shade's
recounting of Hazel's death also argues against a straight, non-
ironic, reading of this line. That too can hardly be termed harmonious.

These alterations of sense and affect, of course, result from how the
passages are read, and how Shade's state of mind is interpreted. Just
as a manic reading of these passages improves the overall aesthetic
architecture of the poem itself, so too does it improve the sense and
affect of these various lines.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: