Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004908, Mon, 20 Mar 2000 13:38:02 -0800

Publisher' notice: Boyd, _Nabokov's Pale Fire_(fwd)
From: Julie Billings <Julie_Billings@pupress.princeton.edu>
Julie Billings, Text Promotion Manager
Princeton University Press

Nabokov's Pale Fire
The Magic of Artistic Discovery
Brian Boyd
Cloth | 2000 | $29.95
232 pp. | 6 x 9

Pale Fire is regarded by many as Vladimir Nabokov's masterpiece. The novel
has been hailed as one of the most striking early examples of postmodernism
and has become a famous test case for theories about reading because of the
apparent impossibility of deciding between several radically different
interpretations. Does the book have two narrators, as it first appears, or
one? How much is fantasy and how much is reality? Whose fantasy and whose
reality are they? Brian Boyd, Nabokov's biographer and hitherto the foremost
proponent of the idea that Pale Fire has one narrator, John Shade, now
rejects this position and presents a new and startlingly different solution
that will permanently shift the nature of critical debate on the novel. Boyd
argues that the book does indeed have two narrators, Shade and Charles
Kinbote, but reveals that Kinbote had some strange and highly surprising
help in writing his sections. In light of this interpretation, Pale Fire now
looks distinctly less postmodern--and more interesting than ever.

In presenting his arguments, Boyd shows how Nabokov designed Pale Fire for
readers to make surprising discoveries on a first reading and even more
surprising discoveries on subsequent readings by following carefully
prepared clues within the novel. Boyd leads the reader step-by-step through
the book, gradually revealing the profound relationship between Nabokov's
ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, and metaphysics. If Nabokov has generously
planned the novel to be accessible on a first reading and yet to incorporate
successive vistas of surprise, Boyd argues, it is because he thinks a deep
generosity lies behind the inexhaustibility, complexity, and mystery of the
world. Boyd also shows how Nabokov's interest in discovery springs in part
from his work as a scientist and scholar, and draws comparisons between the
processes of readerly and scientific discovery.

This is a profound, provocative, and compelling reinterpretation of one of
the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

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