NABOKV-L post 0019265, Thu, 28 Jan 2010 20:30:34 -0700

Re: [Fwd: Re:PF and Parody--response to JF]
On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 9:21 AM, R S Gwynn <> wrote:

> In a message dated 1/27/2010 7:23:31 AM Central Standard Time,
> jerryfriedman1@GMAIL.COM writes:
> 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
> comment.
> Shade sure has a lot of close neighbors (especially CK!) if he lives in a
> "country house."

Indeed, Kinbote calls the Goldsworth house "suburban".

However, I think we know of only one close neighbor, CK, who's fifty yards
away. The five families across the road are close enough to hear their
horseshoes and be visited by the dog belonging to one of them, and to know
the others' opinion of the dog, but too far to know which ones play
horseshoes. (The combination of knowledge and lack of knowledge seems a bit
surprising. Has Kinbote overheard shouts of "That damn dog!", maybe?) I
can find no mention of any other neighbors, including when Shade is shot.
Kinbote doesn't worry that anyone will see him when he spies on the Shades.

Up some hill there's a "wood path" that leads to a farm with fields and a
barn (or shed), close enough that Kinbote and Shade can walk there and back
in an evening, skirting Dulwich Forest. That sounds just like the country.
Up some other hill, two houses are mentioned: Dr. Sutton's (three times) and
Prof. C.'s.

One hint that there might be closer neighbors is Shade's phrase, "Some
neighbor's gardener, I guess". It seems there must be neighbors around.
But why would anyone's gardener be trundling a wheelbarrow up the lane
between Shade's and Kinbote's houses? Usually you use a wheelbarrow on your
own property.

So I think the Goldsworth house is at least very exurban, and I don't think
I was too far wrong in calling it a country house, especially considering
that the area might have been more rural when Shade was born.

Whittier may have been one of our few truly "rustic" poets and Frost merely
> "rural,"

I was using "rustic" in the neutral sense, as Jim Twiggs put it--the same as
"rural"--since I took Dupee to be using it that way.

> but Dickey was as suburban as they come, born and raised in the toney
> Buckhead part of Atlanta, educated at Vanderbilt, and spending his adult
> life as an advertising executive

For about five years, according to <

and, both earlier and later, an academic. *Deliverance* may portray some
> nasty rustics, but they're seen from the perspective of a group of *faux *good
> ol' boys out for a weekend's adventure, nicely outfitted by Abercrombie and
> Fitch (as it then was).

Thanks for the information about Dickey, which I didn't know. (I haven't
even read /Deliverance/ or seen most of the movie.) I was thinking more of
his poetic persona. I can imagine the few country people I've known reading
"Cherrylog Road" or even "The Bee" (those who could get past the style) and
thinking that the author was someone like them. Ditto the hero of
/Alnilam/, not that that's poetry. Maybe not some other poems of his,

> And if anyone is the ur-model of the contemporary "academic" poet (and most
> of the poets I know these days, myself included, are academics--if you need
> verification of this claim, just attend the annual AWP convention) it's
> Frost, who was steadily employed by colleges and universities from the 1920s
> onward--Amherst, Michigan, Dartmouth, Harvard, et al. I don't think recent
> times have seen a true American rustic poet, with the possible exceptions of
> Wendell Berry, who writes from his small farm in Kentucky, or the early John
> Haines, writing from the Alaskan outback.
> Shade isn't rustic, not even rural, just born and bred suburban and
> academic.

I'm glad we agree about Shade, who's really the point, and Frost.

> A college town in "Appalachia" doesn't differ much from one in upstate New
> York or one in Georgia or one, I suspect, in northern New Mexico.

I'm smiling as I compare the town I live in (Española) to other college
towns I've lived in, but the college here (Northern New Mexico College) is
so small you couldn't call this a college town.

[snip interesting comments about campus novels]

> Both Pnin and Kinbote are figures of fun in their respective academic
> communities, though CK seems to be seen as dangerous as well (with good
> reason, given his ping pong table and student guests). Was VN also
> imitated, for his accent and his manners, behind his back by colleagues and
> students? As a former student and longtime professor, I can firmly say,
> "Yes."

Yes, I occasionally remember what I said about my teachers, and wonder what
my students say about me.

> To return to Shade, who still seems to me as conventionally "upright" as
> any character invented by VN, I recall that someone recently referred to his
> "drinking problem." Huh? Sybil probably doesn't like him to drink (he does
> have health problems, after all), so he surreptitiously buys a secret pint
> of brandy and is lured with the promise of a bottle of Tokay. This means
> he's a drunk?
> Sybil says Shade "is forbidden to touch alcohol", which strongly suggests
that his doctor has warned that it endangers his health, presumably because
of his attacks. I agree with those who say that someone who drinks despite
such a warning has a drinking problem. But I suppose Sybil could be
aggrandizing her dislike of his drinking--that hadn't occurred to me.

I mostly agree with you on the student in the leotards, though. The gossip
could easily be just gossip.

Jerry Friedman

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