Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004891, Tue, 14 Mar 2000 19:25:38 -0800

A Cryptic l962 Response to McCarthy's Pale Fire Article in
Encounter. Help! (fwd)
From: Iann88@aol.com

Encounter. Help!

I finally did read Mary McCarthy's article on "Pale Fire" in the October,
l962 issue of "Encounter" and found it to be a frenzied whirlwind of cocky
pedantry, so beloved by English Departments in universities -- believe me,
I wrote that kind of tripe too when I was in grad school. Dwight MacDonald
must have gagged on McCarthy's article. And the editors of "Encounter"
published an equally negative response in its "Letters" section the
following month. It goes,

"Playing with 'Pale Fire'"

As we might expect, at the end of Miss Mary McCarthy's giddy flight waits the
spider Nabokov.

(Nova) Zembla is also the "region of a malignant deity, called Criticism."
She is to be found "extended in her den, upon the spoils of numberless
volumes half-devoured. At her right hand sits Ignorance, her father and
husband, blind with age; at her left, Pride, her mother, dressing her up in
the scraps of paper herself had torn. There was Opinion, her sister, light of
foot, hoodwinked, and headstrong, yet giddy, and perpetually turning. About
her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dullness and Vanity,
Positiveness, Pedantry and Ill-Manners. The goddess herself had claws like a
cat. . . her eyes turned inward, as if she looked only upon herself; her diet
was the overflowing of her own gall. . ."

I omit the less elegant details which are to be found, of course, in "The
Battle of the Books." People who play with "Pale Fire". . . . .

McCarthy-Nabokov in five plus three:

McCARTHY -- harm cyt (se.cit.) (notable tendency)
book van--NABOKOV (ditto)

Arnold Goldman
University of Manchester

Could someone please explain the last part of the letter? It's beyond me.
Phillip Iannarelli, Cleveland, Ohio