NABOKV-L post 0020826, Sun, 3 Oct 2010 14:04:52 -0700

Re: Poltergeists and DJ West

Matt Roth writes:

>> James Twiggs: Furthermore, the quotations from the front and back of VN's
card, taken together, suggest a deeper significance than I, at least, had
previously considered for Botkin/Kinbote's comment that "Hazel Shade resembled
me in certain respects."

MR: Jim, could you say a bit more about this? Are you referring to a similarity
in hysterical symptoms or to something more/else?

To Matt (and others who might be interested)--

I did originally write a few more paragraphs, but, intimidated slightly by the
presence of at least two practicing psychiatrists on the List, I deleted them
from yesterday's post. And yes, my take-off point was "a similarity in
hysterical symptoms." The wonderful quotations you provided sent me back to some
old reviews of Ian Hacking's book on fugue states, Mad Travellers: Reflections
on Transient Mental Illnesses (1999). Among the reviews I found the sentence I
thought I remembered: "Hacking is certainly aware of the purposive and
potentially self-serving nature of these states - which, he suggests, might be
seen as 'the bodily expression of male powerlessness'" (TLS review, 7/16/99, by
Louis Sass). Here are the paragraphs I deleted, which should be inserted between
the two paragraphs of yesterday's post:

Mightn't the elements of conscious purpose and outright fraud that VN apparently
wants us to see in Hazel's bizarre behavior apply equally well to Botkin's
development of "a secondary personality"? If so, this would seem to support
Anthony Stadlen's recent interpretations of Botkin's delusion-- and of course
would also support Shade's own remark, which might otherwise seem offered merely
out of kindness, about peeling off "a drab and unhappy past."

Then again, maybe the resemblance runs the other way. Maybe Hazel and Botkin,
despite flashes of lucidity and seeming control, are both helpless to master the
inner demons that drive them toward self-destruction.

I’m of the opinion that VN leaves this an open question and that here, as in so
many places in the novel, Ambiguity (and not Charles the Beloved) reigns
supreme--flanked, it should go without saying, by Irony on the one hand and Pity
on the other, with the court jester, Comedy, dancing wildly in the foreground.

Forgive me, please, the fancy metaphor. It’s worth adding that Nabokovian
ambiguity, at least in Pale Fire, is both deeper and wider than the ambiguity of
The Turn of the Screw, in which the possibilities are limited. In Pale Fire,
thanks to the proliferation of clues, allusions, and apparent storylines, we can
never be certain of anything--not even of whether our uncertainty is justified
or not. I think I'm agreeing with Gary Lipon on this, but we need to remember
that the uncertainty interpretation of Pale Fire goes back a long way.

One thing that does now seem clear (to me, at least) is that Hazel’s experiments
in the old barn represent a heroic effort at self-healing and that here too the
parallel with Botkin/Kinbote is very striking.

Jim Twiggs


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