NABOKV-L post 0020619, Fri, 27 Aug 2010 16:15:02 EDT

Re: PF's "little scissors", Botkin
In a message dated 8/27/2010 1:47:00 PM Central Daylight Time,
mroth@MESSIAH.EDU writes:
> Wonderful responses from Boyd, Friedman, and several others regarding my
> scissors question. RSG's response about the cuticle "moons" helped me to
> connect several passages I had not put together before. As Brian Boyd notes,
> the scissors scene prefigures the Shade shaving scene in Canto 4, where
> Shade complains that in places his skin has become "less secure" and
> "ridiculously thin." I have taken this statement as strongly related to his
> versipellous nature, his moment of transformation where he will, like the versipels
> of old, turn himself inside out and reveal the bearded (read Kinbote) beast
> "inveterate in [him]." RSG's comment about moons adds another connection.
> In the nail-pairing scene, Shade is also trimming away the "scarf-skin"
> around his cuticles. The scarf-skin is the very outer-most layer of skin,
> ridiculously thin, one might say. So Shade, with help of his conjoined,
> sun-star scissors, is literally trimming himself away to reveal the moons that lie
> beneath his skin. The moon, of course, is closely associated with Kinbote,
> who, in his own way, is trying to steal the pale fire of Shade's great
> poem for his own purposes. VN presumably knew well V.V. Rozanov's Liudi
> lunnogo sveta (People of the Moonlight), in which Rozanov shows, according to
> Eric Naiman, how the moon/moonlight "signifies homosexuality in the Russian
> philosophical tradition" (N,P 71). Moreover, any Sun/Moon transformation
> should bring to mind the shape-shifting werewolf, the versipel, who emerges
> when the moon is full, as it was on the last night of John Shade's existence.
> As for the Botkin question, I think John Morris asks some very important
> questions about the plausibility of Botkin-Kinbote in New Wye. On the other
> hand, I wonder why he thinks Botkin-Kinbote acceptable when John Shade is
> the author, but not when VN is the author. Would readers of Shade's book
> have lower standards than readers of VN's book? Wouldn't they expect the same
> sort of "realism" that we expect?
> Matt Roth
There was a poet named Karl Krollof (think that's the spelling) who was
once translated by either Wright or Bly in the 70s. He had a wonderful poem
that began (more or less), "Five nail-moons rising in the right hand." I
can't now find anything by this poet on my shelves (I once had a book of his,
lost in a fire, alas) or via Google, but perhaps I'm misspelling his name.
Not that that's any link to VN/JS, but it was the only time I'd ever seen
nail-moons used in a poem. Folk medicine says that they're a sign of poor
health; I have a total of four, the largest on my thumbs.

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