NABOKV-L post 0020154, Mon, 31 May 2010 22:01:45 -0600

Re: THOUGHTS: Up the Lane in PF and Kinbote's lies
On Sun, May 30, 2010 at 3:40 PM, Jansy Mello wrote:

> Nabokov wrote in *Strong Opinions* (V.22) about "the effort of drawing on
> the blackboard a map of James Joyce's Dublin or the arrangement of the
> semi-sleeping car of the St.Petersburg-Moscow express in the early 1870s -
> without understanding of which neither *Ulysses* nor *Anna Karenin*,
> respectively, makes sense."

A more astute person than me might think that Kinbote's disclaimer about
being unable to reconstruct the architecture of Shade's house (n. 47-48) was
a warning to the reader against trying to reconstruct anything.

Shade's last lines have already been discussed to exhaustion,

Though I hope to return to Gary Lipon's comments on some earlier lines.

> but I'm still in the dark about one item. Perhaps someone with a good head
> for topography and maps might be able to clarify my fuzziness. I was
> examining Kinbote's early reference to the gardener (lines 47/48),
> whom Shade will mention in lines 998/99 as "trundling an empty barrow up the
> lane."
> If Balthazar is going "up the lane", can we find out whereto he was going?

Away from the road, toward the back yard It seems pretty clear that the
Goldsworth house faces downhill toward the road. We can imagine that the
gardener had wheeled something to the road and was taking the wheelbarrow
back empty to the back yard, either to put it away or to get another load.
Maybe he had transplanted some young plants or had left tree trimmings to be
hauled away.

> And how was it possible for him to spy on the pair (JS and CK) from behind
> a shrubbery and whack Gradus/Grey on the pat with a spade*?

He may not have been spying on them. Another possibility is that he heard
the shots, bravely grabbed a spade and ran to help, and as soon as he saw
Gradus/Grey, whacked him.

> I'm disoriented by CK's mapping instructions: about how he met Sybil in
> the drive
and then quickly moved towards Shade, in his "nest",

I think Kinbote means he was driving home and saw her driving toward town.
He parked his car in his garage and, with or without going inside for a
moment, looked at Shade's house and saw Shade in his "Nest", at which point
he cautiously walked toward Shade's house.

> nor their route across the lawn towards CK's porch. The lines in the poem
> and CK's use of them are "scrambled"

Yes. The best way I can make sense of CK's description is that he doesn't
narrate it sequentially. He backs up a little in time and starts again.
Thus in n. 991 he says, "we crossed the road," in n. 998 he says, "as we
were crossing between his demesne and mine", and in n. 1000 he says, "we had
reached the Goldsworth side of the lane". Already! Unless there's a road *
and* a lane between the two houses, all this is describing the same few
steps. (Not to mention his digressions.) Kinbote brings the story to a
halt to build suspense--I'm reminded of something cinematic, maybe the train
running over the same track again and again, each time with the shot ending
as the train has gotten a little closer to the bound heroine.

Also, either S. and K. spend a long time looking at the Red Admiral, or
darkness comes very quickly in New Wye, as "the tide of shade reached the
laurels" and covered them while the two watch.

By the way, not to harp on horticulture (how did Dorothy Parker get into
this?), but I feel sure New Wye is too cold for true laurels, the ones
laureates are crowned with. Hardy strains can grow in the U.S. Department
of Agriculture Zone 7, but Harrisonburg, Virginia (which as Matt Roth has
pointed out is at the same latitude and almost the same altitude as New Wye)
seems to be in Zone 6, which is colder. Kinbote makes much of the cold
winter. Shade's ornamental shrubs are probably mountain laurels, *Kalmia
latifolia*, a beautiful plant native to the eastern United States and
particularly common in the real Appalachia, I think.

( in a different sense of its employ by CK, meaning "the flagged walk that
> scrambled along a side lawn"** - a very unusual, anthropomorphic sense of
> a "scrambling" route?

Interesting question. Apparently it wasn't that unusual at the time. A
search of Google Books for "path scrambled" turns up several relevant hits
on the first page.

> After all, why does Kinbote insist to say that Shade has been writing his
> last lines just then, when the indications in its lines imply that Shade was
> in his study, on the second floor, looking at Dr.Sutton's windows and down
> to the garden where Sybil had been standing?***

I think we can imagine that in the white space before the last verse
paragraph, Shade decides to work on his last few lines down in his Nest.
The comments about seeing Sybil and the windowpanes seem consistent with his
being outside. (Of course, poets aren't on oath, either.)

Jerry Friedman once offered a map from the neighborhood in New Wye ( I
> cannot retrieve it now).

I'm attaching it in a revised version that has benefited from your comments
now and earlier--thanks! I've hypothesized that "had begun working up
between the junipers and the ornamental shrubs" is a ridiculously
long-seeming way of saying they were crossing the lane and the lawn, which
are between Shade's laurels and a juniper hedge on Goldsworth's property.
I've made the south end of this juniper hedge what the gardener hits Grey
over, and the north end Kinbote's "bodyguard" (n. 47-48).

So here's a possibility. After three notes, K. and S. finally cross the
lane, and S. sees G. S. and K. walk along the flagstone path to K.'s porch,
K. taking the lead. G. starts shooting. K. and S. back up toward S.'s
laurels, but haven't gotten far when S. is hit and B. nails G. with the
spade. (Little racial joke? "Spade" was slang for a black person, "black
as the ace of spades".) G. sits on the porch steps; S.'s body lies close
by. Any takers?

We need no great effort to learn that the teacher's houses (with Prof.
> Hurley's at the top) were lined on a small hill, whereas the
> other neighboring houses were cluttered below. Nevertheless I cannot picture
> all their motions at the time of the murder, namely up?down? Did their
> porches stand front to front? (I don't think so).

Neither do I.

> Why is Kinbote lying about how he took possession of Shade's notecards (the
> entire set)?

How do you know he's lying?

> .........................................................................................................................................
> * "You will chide me, my modest man... you saved my life. You and I were
> the last people who saw John Shade alive, and you admitted afterwards to a
> strange premonition which made you interrupt your work as you noticed us
> from the shrubbery walking toward the porch where stood — (Superstitiously I
> cannot write out the odd dark word you employed.)" What odd dark word
> would that be?

I've often wondered.

Speaking of wondering, Simon Rowberry asked back in April about "the place
of Nabokov in this fictional narrative". That made me wonder about the
boxer dog--Nabokov boxed. The horseshoe players in the same cluster of
houses are probably Vladimir and Véra, as Brian Boyd's biography tells us
they played horseshoes in Ithaca and connects it with these scenes. I
suspect seeing the boxer dog as an emissary from the author fits with Matt
Roth's reading--but I still don't believe that reading.

Another possibility is whoever put the ribbon on Kinbote's cat. I still
think that ribbon is a lemniscate, which comes from the Latin word for
"ribbon" and means a bow shape.

Jerry Friedman

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