NABOKV-L post 0020029, Wed, 12 May 2010 19:27:33 -0700

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Re: Fw: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: the need for climax in Canto 4
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I haven't followed this discussion very attentively but I offer one thought (perhaps already mentioned). Does it not seem apropos, that the missing final line (1000) is intended to mark the ultimate indeterminacy of the afterlife issue? It seems a fitting conclusion, no? Don Johnson
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From: Jansy
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:38 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Fw: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: the need for climax in Canto 4


Jerry Friedman [to Matt, Lipon,Gwynn): "...according to Kinbote in the Foreword, the last cards show evidence of "cataclysmic" revision, but Shade didn't have the chance to make a "Fair Copy", so he may have revised that part less...To be pedantic, it's possible to be 95% certain that there's a 60% chance of fine weather. [The word "probably" is a significant hedge.] His God died young. He would have liked some kind of certainty, but what he found instead was a faint hope, described as such in a very deliberate anticlimax...Reaching a reasonable certainty would feel tremendous. He doesn't want to finish in the grand manner...He doesn't have that certainty that we might worry will turn into a rant. In general Shade is a putter-inner, partly because he needs to hit 1,000 lines...But I think his content goes with his contentment. For a moment he doesn't need to strive for his incessant wit or even to select images (so it's fine that his brain is drained). In the low hum of harmony, he's content with everything. Thanks to Jansy for quoting ...from "Sounds", which I'd forgotten [...]I think that's a more excited version of the mood Shade is in. Everything is beautiful. This is the mood I see in William Carlos Williams's poem "The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923). Could Shade or Nabokov have mentioned the wheelbarrow to allude to that poem? To join the discussion of the last line...Presumably he wants to go back to the waxwing slain...Then after he dies but survives, the original line makes sense it couldn't have in any other sequence of events: he became the part that lived on, flew on. Shade might always have intended the poem to have 999 lines, as Sam Gwynn suggested. (That would make a little more sense of Shade's mention of an "abstruse/ Unfinished poem". )"

JM: Shade, acording to JF, doesn't want to finish in the grand manner. Isn't that something that echoes T.S.Eliot?*

Shade's lines (940/2) "Man’s life as commentary to abstruse/ Unfinished poem..." doesn't point to Shade's 999-line poem with total certainty for the Fates might have written it. Kinbote, (note to 810) brings up, subreptitiosly, "man's life" while citing a fragment by Lane ...on the eve of his death: "And if I had passed into that other land, whom would I have sought? ...Aristotle!" — Ah, there would be a man to talk with! What satisfaction to see him take, like reins from between his fingers, the long ribbon of man’s life and trace it through the mystifying maze of all the wonderful adventure.... The crooked made straight. The Daedalian plan simplified by a look from above — smeared out as it were by the splotch of some master thumb that made the whole involuted, boggling thing one beautiful straight line." A web of sense, indeed - but I prefer the popular vision that holds "if" to lie in the middle of "L if E," neatly buried, like a potato.

When Kinbote mentions this line again (commentary to lines 939-40), he distorts "abstruse" into "masterpiece" (not necessarily a poem): "If I correctly understand the sense of this succinct observation, our poet suggests here that human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece." If self-centered Kinbote were indicating that the masterpiece is his own version of PF, then, why "unfinished"? Strangely enough Kinbote here appears to be really considering Shade's poetic intent, not butting in with his fancies. I agree with Friedman's feeling that Shade is in a contented mood. What does he mean with Shade "dies but survives"??? The "hereafter" is not equal to "the transcendental" (the latter is a dimension that is accessible while the poet is still living and starting his first line of PF)

btw: I loved the lapsus ("a significant hedge") setting the mood for "probably" cum gardener.

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* The Hollow Men.
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