Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015756, Sun, 2 Dec 2007 22:46:16 EST

Re: THOUGHTS: Wenches,apples,Cain and Abel,Compassion.
In a message dated 12/2/2007 3:09:37 PM Central Standard Time,
jansy@AETERN.US writes:
> RS Gwynn responds to several recent posts:
> (1) ***Jansy Mello:... But it’s no accident that we later learn how greatly
> Shade dislikes...
> RSG: This is, as they say, a "fruitful" comment.
> Jansy Mello: Who wrote the sentence you quoted was Andrew Brown. I used it
> to make reference to vegetarian Cain and carnivorous Abel, very direct
> descendants of the "apple" episode.
> (By the way is there not a slang word connecting "fruit" and homosexuality
> in English?)

Pun intended.

> (2) ***Carolyn Kunin:... It is clear that something sexual (at least) is
> very
> wrong with Shade.
> RSG In what sense, pray tell? He has been married to the same woman for
> many years, has good standing in his community ..... Are you saying
> that his tolerance of Kinbote means that there is something "wrong" with
> him? Whatever happened to compassion?
> Jansy Mello: I agree with Matt Roth's arguments [ John Shade is a
> character in a novel by Nabokov makes a difference in the way we read and interpret
> his poem...we are encouraged to view the poem as a
> window into the life of John Shade--to see both what it reveals and what
> it...is hiding. I continue to
> believe that John Shade is a much more complex and troubled character than
> most traditional readings of the novel allow]. Perhaps, as C.Kunin maintains,
> Shade and Kinbote are one and the same in the Jekyll&Hyde fashion and this is
> why Shade was tolerant with his "alter" - but I don't think such split is
> necessary to explain human "nature's" contradictory aspects. John Shade might
> have wanted to hide things in himself he disliked or feared, but as simple
> readers, we have not this right if we want to study "Pale Fire" and grope with
> Nabokov's words and constructions. Compassion is something I cannot see in
> Shade, but I often find tenuous hints of compassion in Kinbote himself.

I cannot conceive of a "simple reader" who cannot find compassion in the
character of John Shade, who has just written a 999-line poem in which the central
line (500) describes his daughter's suicide. Shade has more that "tenuous
hints" of compassion, especially when he responds so generously to weeping, mad
Kinbote. To be sure, Kinbote has compassion as well, especially when he is
writing about his ill-treatment of Disa, but for the most part his compassion is
self-directed. Would a man lacking compassion denounce, say, such evils as
bullfighting and racial prejudice? Shade does.

> Carolyn asked: Why "dead wench" Jansy?
> JM: The "dead" was inspired in Marlowe's _Jew of Malta_,
> IV, 1. [ Friar Barnadine: "Thou hast committed--" //Barabas: "Fornication--
> but that was in another country; And besides, the wench is dead."]
> A nice "archaism": wench and quench, rake and slake.
> I see Matt Roth has interesting developments qua Pale Fire, as so does
> A.Sklyarenko with "Ada" and the pale fire picture hanging in a ship's cabin.
> Can't wait to read more about them...

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