NABOKV-L post 0005634, Wed, 20 Dec 2000 19:22:05 -0800

Fw: Boyd on Naiman and Senderovich (Pale Fire)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brian Boyd (FOA ENG)" <>
From Brian Boyd:
Eric Naiman thinks "Virgins have written some resplendent books" "the
line most strongly supporting Boyd's interpretation." Certainly it adds a
nice and Nabokovian irony to my hypothesis, but it does nothing to establish
or confirm it. The line could equally be said to indicate that Elizabeth I,
Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson or Alphina Goldsworth "wrote" PALE FIRE or
other books never before attributed to any of them.

An elementary rule of chess problems, surely, is that before there can be a
solution there must be a problem. Where is the problem in "Virgins have
written some resplendent books"? But there IS a whole succession of linked
problems in "pada ata lane" etc., in the insistently haunting quality of the
Vanessa atalanta in the antepenultimate note, in the triple "atalanta" in
"pada ata lane," in the double evocation of Browning's "Pippa Passes"
(Dulwich and "Here papa pisses") in the Haunted Barn note, in Shade's urgent
desire to see beyond death and his raising the question of Hazel's survival,
and so on.

Show me just how you do Maud in 2 moves, and how you do Sybil (who of
is still alive) in 5.

>Perhaps we do a disservice to "the cause of poetry" by seeking poetry's
> cause rather than its meaning.

Perhaps. But Nabokov repeatedly raises the question of its cause, especially
in his novels about poets, Fyodor and Shade. It is a mystery that fascinates
him, and that he can't account for in what he calls "rational" terms, in
terms of what lies within the bounds of mortal human consciousness.

I presume Savely Senderovich's question playfully refers to an irony that I
think HE should make explicit.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: D. Barton Johnson []
> Sent: Tuesday, 19 December 2000 7:42 a.m.
> Subject: Re: Fw: Boyd on NYT Forum and "Nabokov's Pale Fire"
> EDITOR's NOTE. Eric Naiman, originator of the item below, is, inter much
> alia, the author of "Litland: The Allegorical Poetics of The Defense,"
> lead article in the new issue of NABOKOV STUDIES (#5).
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <naiman@socrates.Berkeley.EDU>
> from e naiman
> Many thanks to Brian Boyd and Nabokv-L for the early Christmas present.
> I don't intend to return the gift (nor Nabokov's Pale Fire, of which I
> have already given two copies to deserving readers), but I would like to
> point out that it might be wrapped in a different, "more economical"
> fashion. (To quote Boyd's rejection of the Dolinin-Connolly line on
> temporal discrepancies in Lolita). The Vane Sisters and The Rape of the
> Lock are certainly crucial texts for PF, but I am not convinced by Brian
> Boyd's assertion that all roads lead to Hazel. Why is Hazel in 15 moves a
> better solution than Sybill in 5? or Maud in 2? After all, let us
> remember that the Vane Sisters has MULTIPLE authors. The same is
> obviously true for PF, and I don't see why we can't add the three women in
> Shade's life to the obvious two men. The more candidates for authorship,
> the more we should be inclined to look "up" from the text at the author
> who has written it. (This is not question-begging; few other authors have
> such subtle and beautiful signatures.) In a novel with as many intricate
> connections as PF -- and Boyd's book does a phenomenal job demonstrating
> the extent of these connections -- one could demonstrate that all roads
> eventually lead to any principal character if one is entitled to make an
> unlimited number of intratextual and intertextual leaps. To some extent
> this is a matter of taste, but I think in reading Nabokov one should
> strike a balance between economy (mate in one or two unexpected moves)
> war by citational attrition.(Where art is concerned, everything is
> overdetermined but some determinations are over sooner than others).
> Notwithstanding the above, I was surprised in Nabokov's PF by
> Brian Boyd's not citing some strong evidence in his favor. Maybe I
> his comment on the line
> Virgins have written some resplendent books.
> or maybe this is too obvious but "resplendent" captures the meaning of
> shining back, shining again (secondarily) but also shining intensely (art
> more powerful than life): i.e. pale fire as Shakespeare uses the phrase.
> (NB Resplendent is italicized, ostensibly to catch Sybil's spoken
> intonations, but let us fit that key to a different interpretive lock)
> This would seem to be the single line most supporting Boyd's
> interpretation. (A close second: "It was no use, no use" -- ostensibly
> about Hazel's lack of attractiveness but a pretty succinct motto of VN's
> anti-Chernyshvskian, anti-utilitarian view of art). The problem is that
> other lines lead elsewhere (and thence, perhaps, to Hazel but not always
> right away and perhaps more quickly to Sybil or Maud and always to VN).
> Perhaps we do a disservice to "the cause of poetry" by seeking poetry's
> cause rather than its meaning.