NABOKV-L post 0019248, Tue, 26 Jan 2010 23:24:39 -0700

Re: [Fwd: Re:PF and Parody--response to JF]
I hope no one's been waiting for my replies. I've been busy for the past
few days.

To Jim Twiggs: I humbly apologize for forgetting to tell you that I read
Dupee's essay and mostly agreed with it. I hope you'll say you cut and
pasted that excerpt instead of typing it.

So as Stan says, we may be moving toward a consensus. Though a consensus on
whether the poem is intentionally bad makes sense, and a consensus on
whether it's good doesn't, in my opinion, as that's a matter of taste.

I agree with you and Kinbote (an enjoyable thing to say) that "oozy" is by
no means self-praise. And I agree with you that Shade is not the novel's
bedrock of morality or reliability. On which subject, what is the business
about the lake he can't see any more?

One place I disagree with Dupee is that he calls Shade "rustic", and others
here have agreed. Yes, Shade grew up and still lives in a country house,
but I don't see what's so rustic about the poem. Certainly not the
language. I admit, though, that I haven't known many country people, and
the rather rural area where I live now (northern New Mexico) has important
differences from Appalachia. If the idea is that his interest in nature is
rustic, I find it suburban, like mine. Country people I've known have been
interested in nature from the angles of hunting, fishing, gathering,
logging, and protecting their farms against pests, as well as in its more
spectacular manifestations, but not in scientific names or in dingy
butterflies. My idea of a rustic American poet is James Dickey, not Robert
Frost. Maybe those who know the real Appalachia better than I do can

To Jansy Mello: Indeed Nabokov was never explicit on the subject that he
knew more about than he could say. But if you put together /Pale Fire/ and
all the other works you meant when you said "not exclusive to Pale Fire", I
don't think you'll find much in the way of contradiction--which could not be
said about most philosophies of the supernatural someone might believe. No
doubt others know more about this, and maybe there is a strong case that
Nabokov had certain beliefs by this point.

To Matt Roth: Yes, that's the distinction I should have made. When Nabokov
parodies bad writing, it's still brilliant writing that we read without
laughing at the ineptitude of the prose, though we may laugh at the
character's other ineptitudes.

What might "Pale Fire" parody? In my opinion, some of the punning, witty
poets who were on the ascendant at the time: Richard Wilbur, James Merrill,
Anthony Hecht. But Brian Boyd has mentioned that Nabokov praised Wilbur,
though not the others. He has also mentioned that Helen Vendler thinks
highly of "Pale Fire", and she greatly admired Merrill. So it could also
simply be a similarity of some methods.

Gary Lipon and R. S. Gwynn discussed whether "Pale Fire" would have made
sense published on its own. My opinion is that readers wouldn't have
understood everything (though a Webster's Second would have helped a lot),
but the poem is no more cryptic than a great deal of poetry that was
published without notes, starting with Eliot. And the publisher could have
set it up somehow. "This remarkable poem comes to us from the author of
/Lolita/. We understand it will form part of a new novel in which the
fictional poet is killed before he can finish this poem, leaving perhaps
only the last line unwritten." Or we can imagine it published without notes
in Shade's world, where there is a Wordsmith College in New Wye and poetry
readers would have seen Shade's obituary.

Jerry Friedman,
hoping he didn't forget as much this time

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