NABOKV-L post 0019523, Fri, 26 Feb 2010 11:05:12 -0500

Re: Boyd on zesty skaters, XYZ
Wonderful insights, Brian, regarding these frosty passages in "PF." I hadn't noticed the repetition of the frost/crossed rhyme. Actually, it's not only a repetition, but an inversion, as we first get Canto One's frost/crossed, then Canto Two's crossed/frost.

I managed to find that earlier x-y that I referenced a day or two ago. Here it is, from Chapter 4 of Despair:

"[I]t would be possible now to adopt an epistolic form of narration. A time-honored form with great achievements in the past. From Ex to Why: 'Dear Why'--and above you are sure to find the date. The letters come and go--quite like the ding-dong flight of a ball over a net. . . .

"So it goes on and on, Ex writing to Why and Why to Ex, page after page. Sometimes an outsider, a Zed, intrudes and adds his own little contribution to the correspondence, but he does so with the sole aim of making clear to the reader (not looking at him the while except for an occasional squint) some event, which, for reasons of plausibility and the like, neither Ex nor Why could very well have explained. . . .

"And when at last Zed butts in with a letter to his own personal correspondent . . . telling him of Ex's and Why's death or else of their fortunate union, the reader finds himself feeling that he would prefer the most ordinary missive from the tax collector to all this."

Brian posits an implied Zed that marks both the afterlife and Zembla. Here, Zed takes on the function normally given to the narrator of a traditional novel, filling in details that the characters, trapped in their reality, are too limited to know or understand. In the end, he marks their deaths (in a tragedy) or marriage (in a comedy). Perhaps there is a hint here of that same tragic XYZ progression that Brian sees in PF. Though if Brian is correct about the Vanessa being Hazel--on this point I'm a believer--we then get both messages from Zed: a death anda union.


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