Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004758, Tue, 15 Feb 2000 16:31:23 -0800

Boyd's Pale Fire (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE. See below.

From: "Suh, Michael (C&PA)" <MSuh@exchange.ML.com>
To: Dear Professor Johnson,

A couple postings ago, you called Boyd's new book "stunning." I wonder if I
might trouble you to say why. You might remember that a couple months ago I
wrote to you with some complaints about the book and about Boyd's work on
Nabokov in general. I'm writing to you now because I can't help being a
little surprised by the generally uncritical response Boyd receives. Don't
get me wrong: I think he deserves the highest praise for his tireless and
honest scholarship. But doesn't anyone find the otherworldliness and
generosity of his Nabokov ultimately a critical dead end? Am I missing

Best regards, Michael Suh
EDITOR's RESPONSE. I can not at the moment go into a detailed discussion
of why I think Boyd's book "stunning", although I hope to make more detailed
comments on it before long.
Like you, I do find Boyd's insistence on VN's "generosity" a bit
irksome. It is true, I think, that N. is "generous" in the sense that he
is tentative in some of his positions, e.g., the otherworld. On the other
hand, I think "generosity" is an odd trait to use in literary analysis.
Perhaps it is in reaction to the cold, sneering virtuoso image formed by
some readers (and not without VN's own encouragement in staged interviews
and introductions).
As for your "otherworld" ="critical dead end": I gently
posed this view in a conference at Cambridge last year and Brian responded
at some length (as did several others, pro & con, all in response to a
paper by Zoran Kuzmanovich, editor of NABOKOV STUDIES). Boyd and I have
both written up our remarks and they may be published (editors decide
these things) along with the conference papers. I must say that Boyd's new
PF book is a strong defense of his position since it produced radical new
insights into a much discussed book. On the other hand, I suspect the
"otherworld" framework may be smothering other approaches. What do you

Don Johnson