Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004760, Tue, 15 Feb 2000 17:10:33 -0800

Re: Boyd's Pale Fire & homophobia (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE. Brian Boyd responds to Robert Meyers.

From: Brian Boyd <b_boyd52@hotmail.com>

If Pale Fire were homophobic, how could it be the favorite novel of Edmund
White, not only the foremost American novelist of the gay experience (A
Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, Farewell Symphony) but also
author of The Joy of Gay Sex, studies of Genet and Proust, and one of the
great American travel books (States of Desire: Travels in Gay America)?
White has taught Lolita on a course in late 20C novels, and says his
students respond more favorably to that than even, say, One Hundred Years of
Solitude; he told me he would reread Ada to fire up his verbal engine while
writing Caracole; but Pale Fire is dearest to his heart.

Robert Myers isn't the first to attack Pale Fire for its homophobia. Kevin
Ohi, in the forthcoming issue of Nabokov Studies, attacks both the novel and
especially me for our homophobia. Ohi's correcter-than-thou critique was a
polemicist's dream to refute, as I do in the same issue.

Brian Boyd, University of Auckland

>From: Donald Barton Johnson <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu>
>Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.UCSB.EDU>
>Subject: Boyd's Pale Fire & homophobia (fwd)
>Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 12:39:20 -0800
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Robert Myers <nanrob@dellnet.com>
>I have recently had the chance to read Nabokov's Pale Fire by Mr. Boyd and
>to reread Pale Fire in the process. Though I do find Mr. Boyd's current
>analysis much more convincing and interesting than his previous ideas
>published in American Years, I am finding myself more and more troubled by
>Pale Fire itself. Perhaps it is just a marketing tool for N's PF to
>propose Pale Fire is the true masterpiece of Nabokov's life work, but the
>statements to that end on Mr. Boyd's book's jacket wear on me.
>There's something at the heart of Pale Fire which feels vacant and untrue,
>despite the pyrotechnics of the narrative technique, and the more I think
>about it the more I think the problem is the homophobia inherent in the
>work. Somehow, in Lolita, Nabokov was able to create a complex and
>(almost) sympathetic pedephilic narrator. Part of the success of Lolita
>is the tug of war between Humbert's guilt and his lust. There are echos
>of guilt in Pale Fire, but they are distant and muted. Mr. Boyd makes the
>argument that Kinbote too is guilty of child molesting, hence his exile
>and suicidal nature. But he never convincingly wrestles with this guilt.
>And all the caricatured homoerotic promiscuity seems a mere vehicle for
>cheap laughs.
>I don't know. This is my first posting to the group, so naturally I'm
>unsure of myself, but I do think that Nabokov's homophobia in relation to
>Pale Fire is little mentioned, at least in the literature I've consulted.
>And I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts on the matter.
>-Robert Myers
>EDITOR's COMMENT: NABOKV-L thanks Robert Myers for his note below. Having
>just re-read PF and Boyd's new book myself, I am a bit puzzled by
>Mr. Meyer's idea. Although Nabokov's treatment of gay characters may, in
>some of his works, fall
>short of today's "political correctness" (something, in my view,
>irrelevant to artistic merit). Boyd's new interpretation is extremely
>sympathetic to Kinbote. Note that both Hazel and Shade generously
>contribute to Kinbote's palliative fantasy and, no less important,
>Kinbote's compassion for both Hazel and Queen Disa.

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com