Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004766, Wed, 16 Feb 2000 13:46:44 -0800

Re: Boyd's Pale Fire & homophobia (fwd)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>

I have to admit I find it remarkable that Edmund White likes _Pale Fire_
for reasons other than that it's a highly sophisticated and entertaining
literary work. I do believe that if he likes it in his role as a champion
of gay issues, he may be sadly mistaken about VN's original intent. I like
_Pale Fire_ and I like Brian Boyd's book (and even "authored" one of
the justjacket's laudatory blurbs Robert Myers is referring to) but I also
believe VN was quite homophobic (from _Mary_ to _Pale Fire_) and it
behooves his fans and admirers to admit it -- and also to regret it.

Galya Diment

On Tue, 15 Feb 2000, Donald Barton Johnson wrote:

> 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.
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