NABOKV-L post 0020624, Fri, 27 Aug 2010 22:36:51 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Botkin
John Morris to Matt Roth: As usual, Matt has raised a deep point, one that
goes to the heart of fiction and metafiction. To answer it, we have to
carry through in our imaginations the trajectory of "Pale Fire," a novel by
John Shade.

This book would be published in a counterfactual world in which Shade is a
well-known poet, and in which the details of his life, including the tragic
loss of Hazel, are also known. Readers would come to it with a completely
different set of preconceptions and questions than readers in our world
bring to VN's PF/To begin with, it would be clear that the poem "Pale Fire"
is a fairly straight autobiographical account of certain elements of Shade's
life. So far, so good. Then the reader would be confronted by a clearly
fictitious commentary by an invented Kinbote, during which "John Shade"
appears as a character in his own novel. The real Shade is of course alive
-- probably on a book tour! -- and since the book is "a novel by John
Shade," there is no Kinbote. No reader would be in the least doubt about
any of this. . His readers will of course perceive that the real pathos
here is his longing for Hazel's immortality as well././A final thought: I
admit, reluctantly, that VN probably didn't intend us to view Shade as the
author of all the texts that comprise "Pale Fire." In that sense, I am not
a Shadean. Rather, I believe that "Pale Fire" would be a better novel under
that interpretation. But in my world, authorial intention comes first, so I
accept that we're left with wrestling with Botkin as VN meant him to be
understood. Now if only . . .

JM:.. If only Nabokov were a "post-modern" author?

Bryson's items on Halitosis, Psoriasis, Gillette, equivocal Edsel (I
borrowed the book for a couple of minutes, only) suggest that Nabokov, in
Montreux, chose a particular decade or two (twenties, thirties) for his
"historical/actual" references. For a meticulous researcher as he, if this
information proves to be correct, one might expect him to be pointing to
something related to Shade's emotional world. The poet's love for Hazel
always strikes me as false: if there's any "pathos" it might be related to
guilt feelings towards an event that would have happened long before the
young woman committed suicide. Shade always returns to the sweet sentimental
"swing" (a child's plaything!), while he informs us that it hung from a tree
which has grown considerably over the years. Were it not "a phantom swing"
it would then be hanging from high up among the branches.

This is why it has just occurred to me that Shade could be indicating a
special period during his daughter's infancy (describing dated adverts and
returning over and over to a "phantom swing").

Btw: I believe it was Kinbote who introduced the Gillette blade in PF,
although he ignored "halitosis." Shade mentions Hazel's "psoriatic nails,"
but I didn't check this in the novel.

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