Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008878, Fri, 7 Nov 2003 15:54:48 -0800

Fw: "...the Beatles and Nabokov rank high on the list of my
favorite things..."
----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Rabiee" <costanza2000@yahoo.com>
To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> ---------------- Message requiring your approval (156
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> A quick article from the VV's Literary Supplement in
> which EP draws the oh-so obvious connection between VN
> and PMc/JL, mentions DN and YO, quotes K., and praises
> on DM's new book, "Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream
> and History" as "Kinbotean." Of interest, anyway.
> RR
> ---
> http://www.villagevoice.com/vls/180/park.shtml
> a pungent, poetic study of fab four lore
> Besting even precipitation-beaded flora and feline
> follicular sensors, the Beatles and Nabokov rank high
> on the list of my favorite things; indeed, they duke
> it out regularly for the top slot. (Listen: That's the
> sound of a Dmitri-Yoko high-five.) Hardly a day passes
> when I don't think of one or the other, and Devin
> McKinney's audacious, idiosyncratic new study, Magic
> Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History, has made me
> dwell on them ensemble. The book takes its epigraph
> from VN's exquisite object-ground derangement, Pale
> Fire. The line is from Kinbote, that mad annotator: "I
> trust the reader appreciates the strangeness of this,
> because if he does not, there is no sense in writing
> poems, or notes to poems, or anything at all."
> Magic Circles is about the length of Philip Norman's
> 1981 Shout! (my first Beatle Baedeker); to get a taste
> of McKinney's method and priorities, note that whereas
> Norman spends about a page on Yesterday and Today's
> notorious "butcher" cover (white-coated Fab Four
> amidst dismembered dolls and cuts of beef, later
> hastily covered up), the episode is the bloody heart
> of Magic Circles' longest section, the 90-page "Meat."
> The whole patchy package epitomizes the
> artist-audience intercourse-adoration and tension,
> overt and unconscious-that would play out, on an
> unimaginably grand scale, for the rest of the group's
> run. "Meat" performs haruspicy on the Beatles' life in
> the public grinder of 1966, from death threats across
> America to the Marcos-stage-managed Philippines
> fiasco; the still ardent effusions of love, the
> alarming new eruptions of hate. There are knives to
> cut the flesh (he jumps on George Martin's
> chronologically untenable statement that Bernard
> Herrmann's Fahrenheit 451 score inspired "Eleanor
> Rigby" 's strings, instead fingering Psycho) as well
> as the hair: The clipping of Ringo's at a '64
> diplomatic function becomes their own "Rape of the
> Lock." (And what of the fact that the toponyms of two
> key Beatlevilles-Liverpool and Hamburg[er]-come con
> carne?) Throughout, McKinney's metaphors are surgical,
> scatological, sexual; he chases them, exhausts them,
> conflates their meanings (at some point "circles" and
> "holes" overlap), and patiently lures them into each
> other's orbits.
> McKinney, born in 1966, never experienced the
> phenomenon firsthand. His perspective grants him
> freedom to see new combinations, to consider and even
> dismantle the existing critical apparatus; in doing
> so, he jolts his subject back to bristling life. He
> delights in provocative hyperbole: The exclamation
> point John puts to his famously Klan-roiling remark
> ("I don't know which will go first, rocknroll or
> Christianity!") is "one of the most influential marks
> of punctuation ever fixed in print"; Sgt. Pepper
> qualifies as "the most brilliant fake in rock and roll
> history."
> But he's a bit Kinbotean, this McKinney, and the fun
> is in watching him draw from the cute-creepy fan mail,
> the fragrant interview remark, and the songs
> themselves to flesh out his claims. Kinbote
> fantastically reads John Shade's poem as a gloss on
> his own life; McKinney reads the Beatles as the
> '60s-every event in that decade seemingly inscribed on
> their work, and/or (here's a circle) informed by their
> existence. An overblown conception, surely. But pay
> heed to the songs' chart positions-the undeniable fact
> of their incredible consumption-and their still-hot
> clawhold on your brain.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> If this is a history, it's a poetic one, driven by
> smart, breathless connections rather than a need to
> gather all the facts. McKinney insists on the "toilet"
> origins of the Beatles, and his pungent take has its
> organic logic. For the Beatles were once the Silver
> Beetles, who were once the Quarry Men, and you can
> read that lineage like an alchemical text: From
> underground materials, they nourished themselves in
> the manner of "crawly things" (John's term),
> extracting the pale fire (silver) of their early
> rockabilly and skiffle heroes; finally, casting off
> letters and members, they become beatified in the
> light of the world.
> Every myth worth its salt needs darkness, of course, a
> death for rebirth, and McKinney is terrific at
> skinning this particular ouroboros. He delivers
> inventive, uneasy readings of A Hard Day's Night and
> (especially) the candy-colored, dispiriting Help!; he
> dilates on the wooing of America as "fifteen-year-old
> girl," and the unknown pleasures and terrors that the
> group and its child-bride would discover together
> after the honeymoon. The nightmare peaks in the
> penultimate part, "O.P.D./Deus est Vivus," wherein the
> more sinister Beatle-based narratives slither about
> each other-the referential mania induced by the
> Paul-is-dead rumor, shadowy recordings (including the
> Greil Marcus-instigated Masked Marauders hoax), the
> murderous mentations of their darkest disciple,
> Charles Manson. (As proof of the primal allure of the
> appalling Paul myth to even the most innocent
> Beatlemaniac: I observe that on page 387 of Shout!, my
> 11-year-old self has underlined the words minister,
> gravedigger, undertaker, and 28 IF.)
> Not least of the book's pleasures is its discography,
> palm-of-the-hand stories that crystallize outsized
> passions, Herculean labors: the "bottomless Get Back
> sessions" (bootlegged on 24 discs of mostly unedited
> tape and the 17-CD Thirty Days), the little-listened B
> side "whose only rightful precursor may be The Sorrows
> of Young Werther." Less successful are the "Yellow
> Submarine" interludes (tracing that song's mutations
> in the public sphere, ending on a spurious account of
> a fan's suicide) and the autobiographical final
> section ("The unassuming wellspring of my rock and
> roll obsession was a second-hand store in Davenport,
> Iowa"). But McKinney's Beatles-in-my-life account
> disarmingly opens another circle. This one includes
> you-an invitation to imagine your own memoir along
> similar lines. So let's see. Exhibit A: After John's
> death, I clip the cover of Time, not quite knowing who
> he is. B: Nine months later, visiting Seoul for the
> first time, I bond with my Beatles-besotted cousins .
> .. . my most vivid impression of that trip is of
> listening to Beatles records every day-Korean
> pressings, with misspelled titles, e.g., "Ysetreday" .
> .. . ah, speak, memory!