Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005311, Sun, 9 Jul 2000 10:09:19 -0700

Re: What was Gordon wearing? (fwd)
From: Jennifer Parsons <jdparsons@home.com>


You suggest "Gordon's unreflective hedonism is surely presented as more
appealing than Gradus' gnostic denial of his body." We later learn even more
about Gradus's possible reason for denial of his body: he was "quite cured of
the lust that Nature, that grand cheat, puts into us to inveigle us into
propagation" by repeat attempts to "castrate himself" - How cruel Kinbote is
to Gradus, presuming this is Kinbote's, not Shade's, contribution.

I think Nabokov probably intends equal parts reader disgust for Gradus, the
low-grade, mindless, Soviet-like, grotesque, brown-suited automaton, and the
Quilty-household-like goings-on at the Lavender Villa, as embodied in the
graceful/bestial/sullen/sly person of young Gordon. Gordon is certainly more
appealing, at least in form, than Gradus, but his situation at the Lavender
villa is hardly beautiful. Agree, that Nabokov's stress is more on the strong
whiff of pedophilia and sleaze - or to put it in more positive light - the
pagan delights - at the Lavender Villa, than on the homosexual nature of the

The impression I get now, on re-reading these pages, is that Lavender has
presumed that Gradus, as art dealer in homosexual and/or pedophiliac
pornography, will likely enjoy the "company" of young Gordon, the "nephew" of
Lavender, to whom Gradus is introduced by "Mademoiselle Baud."

Gradus, after questioning Gordon (while being given a tour) about the
whereabouts of "your king" and getting all the information he is likely to
get, "spat in disgust" at the sight of the finally completely naked, supine
boy. He then instantly receives a phone call from Lavender saying "Sure you
aren't a mucking snooper from that French rag?" and "A mucking, snooping son of
a bitch?" I now wonder if Lavender hasn't been watching from a window all
along, Gradus's and Gordon's progress around the grounds, and if perhaps Gordon
wasn't set before Gradus as a trap. When Gradus proves indifferent in not
taking "the jailbait," Lavender makes that phone call, almost as if he has
seen everything that has, or rather hasn't, happened.

Galya Diment wrote:

> From: Arthur Glass <goliard@worldnet.att.net>
> Mr Berg has also 'gotten it right' in that I neglected the description of
> 'the grceful boy wreathed about the loins with ivy.' The contrast with
> Gradus in his brown suit is brought out in that sentence. The smell of that
> new suit is mentioned earlier, and could not have been anything less than
> sour on a hot afternoon. The contrast of pagan sexual delight and the
> Puritanical uptightness of the Party man is more important here, I think,
> than Nabokov's views on homosexuality. Gordon's unreflective hedonism is
> surely presented as more appealing than Gradus' gnostic denial of his body.
> Of course Gradus has increasing troubles to come with his physical self.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 7:51 PM
> Subject: Re: What was Gordon wearing? (fwd)
> > From: TENTENDER@aol.com
> >
> > Re note to line 408
> >
> > > The note seems to involve a superposition of sex and death.
> >
> > Mr. Glass seems to have gotten it right, although the superposition would
> > seem to be (not surprisingly, given the famous -- and one notes, recently
> > uncontested -- VN negative attitude toward homosexuality) between not sex
> but
> > homosexuality and death.
> >
> > There is one (possibly merely metaphorical) costume change for Gordon in
> this
> > note, not noted by Mr. Glass, for between the loincloth and the black
> bathing
> > suit, "the graceful boy" is found "wreathed about the loins with ivy."
> >
> > Christopher Berg
> > Tentender@aol.com