NABOKV-L post 0019927, Tue, 27 Apr 2010 23:39:48 -0600

Re: THOUGHTS on Shade's Litany of Hates
On Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 12:58 AM, Gary Lipon <> wrote:

> On Apr 25, 2010, at 9:26 PM, NABOKV-L wrote:
> [Jim Twiggs' post was apparently misplaced during the birthday
> celebrations on Friday. Here it is now! -- SES]
> ... I've always thought there's a corresponding point near the end of
> Shade's poem. It comes here, in lines 923-930:
> *Now I shall speak of evil as none has*
> *Spoken before. I loathe such things as jazz;*
> *The white-hosed moron torturing a black*
> *Bull, rayed with red; abstractist bric-a-brac;*
> *Primitivist folk-masks; progressive schools;*
> *Music in supermarkets; swimming pools;*
> *Brutes, bores, class-conscious Philistines, Freud, Marx*
> *Fake thinkers, puffed-up poets, frauds and sharks.*
> Everything after "I loathe" is not Shade but rather pure Nabokov... as if
> Shade had stopped writing and a pre-cut set of pet peeves had been pasted
> in--that I assume it's VN's way of winking at us from behind the character
> he's created and is now making fun of.
I didn't comment on this before, but why "not Shade"? It's certainly pure
Nabokov, but it seems like Shade too, unless it's inconsistent with
something in Shade's character that I'm missing.

Your remarks anticipate somethings I've wanted to write about for sometime
> about this passage and Canto 4 in general. Right now though only a few
> thoughts.
> You are right that almost all of the items in the shit-list can be
> attributed to VN,
> although* Jazz* is supported by Kinbote's *the first quawk of Jazz* and
> apparently shared by VN.

It's a variant, but are we sure it's not Shade's?

Bull-fighting, Picasso's art (*abstractist bric-a-brac; / Primitivist
> folk-masks*),
> and probably *progressive schools; / Music in supermarkets– *are
> particular to VN.
> *swimming pools *is an outlier that bears further consideration.
> *Brutes, bores, class-conscious Philistines, *are things everyone
> dislikes.
> *Freud *is disliked by both VN and Shade, if Kinbote can be believed.
> *Marx* of course is particularly disliked by VN.
> *Fake thinkers *may be taken as referring to, and generalizing upon, the
> just mentioned Freud & Marx.
> *puffed-up poets, *if taken to include, especially, T. S. Eliot, is shared
> by Shade & VN.
> Who likes *frauds and sharks*? (not investors or swimmers).
> Overall, there doesn't appear to be much order to the list, and this is
> worth noting.

As I should have remembered in my previous post, they're all shared by Shade
and VN, who said in an interview that he endorsed the list.


*Swimming pools* may remind Shade of Hazel's death. Far-fetched?

Not that much, but I suspect it's more the same reason Nabokov disliked


Both interviews are in *Strong Opinions*.

You might like to go back and read the entire canto with this question in
> mind:
> *For each metaphor how decipherable is it?*

Sunglassers: Not very decipherable. I think I can decipher "versipel" and
have a good idea about "Newport Frill" (after a struggle and with some
help), but no one agrees with me.

> I'm not going to go into that kind of detail here but simply point to the
> passage closely following the above one and ask how it gets decoded:
> And now a silent liner docks, and now
> Sunglassers tour Beirut, and now I plough
> Old Zembla’s fields where my gray stubble grows,
> And slaves make hay between my mouth and nose.
> The disjointed thoughts, which begin right from the start of the canto, the
> looseness of metaphor throughout, the obsession with the act of shaving, and
> the litany of hates, some of which seem odd, all point to the notion that
> Shade is truly loosing his grip on reality; and perhaps his sense of
> identity!
> The unprepared inclusion of VN's pet peeves in Shade's *litany of hates, *along
> with the remote *swimming pools,* is intended to confuse, and secondarily
> amuse, the reader and make him ask if Shade isn't losing his mind.

But what about the much more coherent end of the canto?

On the question of the goodness of Pale Fire as poem, and this is a
> standing, strong, opinion of mine: one should evaluate any poem based mainly
> upon one's own experience of it and without much recourse to extra-libra
> opinions, be it the author's or some augustly received critic's. This is, I
> think, the way this act has traditionally been performed. (The missionary
> position?) One might ask the dinner partner how he or she likes a particular
> dish but one shouldn't be dependent upon outside opinion as to whether or
> not it tastes good.
> I think people have been quoting Nabokov's statements about the poem in
regard to the question of how good he *intended* it to be, which might
affect the interpretation, for those of us who think there's such a thing as
the author's intention.

as per usual,
> *–GSL*
Jerry Friedman

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: