Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003350, Fri, 4 Sep 1998 20:12:23 -0700

Sentimentality; broken glass (fwd)
D. Barton Johnson
Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies
Phelps Hall
University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone and Fax: (805) 687-1825
Home Phone: (805) 682-4618

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 21:40:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: rhoden@interport.net
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.UCSB.EDU>
Subject: broken glass

>>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.

I agree with both writers, but I don't know if "nothing" belongs in all
caps, though. No thing is more important than the value you invest in it,
but some people invest more emotional value in things than others do. On
the other hand, some things lend themselves to emotional attachment more
than others. Clearly Pnin equates the punchbowl with Victor, as CB said.
It is important that he likes the bowl though; and that it's unique, where
the football, if given, might have been a burden on Victor, like any gift
that is not liked but can't be easily discarded, because it is given by a
loving person. But you can like -things- without necessarily being a crass

I think glass is special in the way it holds emotions, when it does,
because it breaks so quickly--it doesn't wear out. You don't become
accustomed to its impending loss. At the moment of breakage, the emotional
value invested comes to the surface immediately. I saw this happen once
when I stepped on a friend's favorite little brandy glass from Paris during
a laughing fit. ("I crunched a cocktail glass underfoot" -VN, Lolita) It's
not wrong to invest emotions in things at all, though only some people have
the luxury of doing so. At least I don't think it's wrong, even if it
might be considered sentimental. This is why I pointed out that moment
when the original question of tenderness came up. It's one of my favorite
moments, and it should be read by those teachers of mine who called VN
"cold"--I think he knows, at least he says,that he himself has surpassed
the need to care about things, but he can certainly understand and describe

I think I like the shattering bottle even more, but all my copies of BS
seem to dry up, snap, and flutter away. Anyone else have this problem?

David Rhoden

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