NABOKV-L post 0020551, Tue, 17 Aug 2010 10:33:23 -0400

Subject
Re: RR & BB on PF
Date
Body
Dear list,
I have had only sporadic access to the internet over the past few weeks, so I am just catching up on everything. Excuse me if I missed a post or three. A few comments:

While I think we all should be grateful for Ron Rosenbaum's enthusiasm--his Observer article first led me to Brian Boyd's criticism on PF--I can't understand his point about the Botkin-Kinbote relationship. He seems to assert that Brian Boyd denies that Kinbote is Botkin, but this is not the case; he clearly states that they are the same person. So RR and BB have indentical views on the matter, as far as I can tell. RR would do better to aim that dart at the Shadeans/secondary personality theorists (ouch!).

RR also overstates the degree to which BB's theory posits Hazel as an authorial presence. There is a big difference between inspiring material and "ghost-writing" it. It is unfortunate that RR botched this point, since I believe there are stronger grounds on which to object to BB's theory of inspiration.

Jerry Friedman's thoughtful post on Brian's "Pippa Passes" was excellent; it is certainly true that Pippa's influence is physically witnessed, yet unintentional--really the opposite of what Hazel does in BB's theory. (Though we know that VN loved to reverse and recombine elements from fairy tales and earlier works of literature, so the opposition here does not necessarily mean that BB's theory is debunked). The Pippa-Dulwich connection is a nice find, but I don't see how it connects to Hazel--even though it occurs in the haunted barn note. More likely, VN simply loved the pun (papa pisses) and included the Dulwich reference as a little confirming plum for adept readers.

BB makes much of the haunted barn scene, in part because it does reconfirm VN's interest in life after death and communication with spirits. But in an odd way, the barn spirit works against his Hazel theory. The spirit in the barn (Kinbote suggests Aunt Maud, but wouldn't Hentzner be a likelier choice?) is only able to communicate through a very rough pattern of blinking lights--an arduous and, as we see, ineffective means of delivering a simple sentence. This is the reality in VN's New Wye: a world where spirits can communicate with the living, but only through poltergeist-like mechanical means. Yet BB asserts that Hazel, who must live in the same eternity as the barn spirit, is easily able to eloquently influence and guide the thoughts of both her father and a complete stranger--a level of communication and influence that appears unavailable to the barn spirit. It seems that VN goes to some pains in the barn scene to show the difficulty of communication between the living and the dead; why would he then negate that difficulty by giving Hazel such unfettered ability? BB brilliantly shows Hazel becoming the Red Admirable (and I have posited her presence in the mockingbird, too) but these appearances are much more in line with the barn spirit's efforts--physical, external attempts at communication, rather than unimpeded mental influence. (If Hazel could influence her father and Kinbote, why not just inspire them to stay on Shade's porch instead of crossing the lane??)

Anyway, none of that criticism negates the very great value of PFMAD. It is a startling, even beautiful, work of scholarship, even if I don't prefer the ultimate thesis that binds its brilliant pieces together. And really that's all we have (preferences) since every theory of PF has its weaknesses. I love Jansy's Murakami quote ("To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write") which seems to me such an apt description of PF, and is also very close, as I recall, to what VN said about Lolita--that the problem and solution were one and the same.

Best,
Matt Roth




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