Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003349, Fri, 4 Sep 1998 15:08:16 -0700

Re: VN & Sentiment (fwd)
From Tim Henderson
> Some of the situations we
> discussed, such as Pnin and his punch bowl, seem to revolve not around
> long-suffering virtue but the kind of pity or other pang evoked by
> helpless and ardent things, whether they deserve it or not.

But of course the pang over the punchbowl has NOTHING to do with the punchbowl
per se -- it has become representative of Pnin's tender feeling toward Victor,
it having been Victor's (lovely, appropriate) gift to his father. And, since
Victor is, himself, a lovely gift to Pnin -- his lack of interest in Pnin's
well-meant (but unlovely because convetional) gift of the soccer ball to him
being actually one of the loveliest things about him -- Pnin's believing the
punch bowl broken is one of the best-prepared moments of genuine pathos in
literature. (These paired gifts, perhaps, are also a key to understanding
Pnin's "failure" as artist and academic -- though not as a human being.)

Which is merely to say, I suppose: not, IMHO, a good example.

It seems to me that "good readers" (which we all, I suppose, believe ourselves
to be) make the distinction between sentiment and sentimentality fairly
easily. Bad readers, like bad books, don't.

Christopher Berg