Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003471, Thu, 5 Nov 1998 14:53:35 -0800

Nabokoviana: "strange attractors"
Brian Boyd writes:

In Lolita I.8 one HH writes "it is not very likely that a prison library
will harbor such erudite works. The one to which I am restricted these
days, despite my lawyer's favors, is a good example of the inane
eclecticism governing the selection of books in prison libraries." Not
always inane. Humbert discovers there Who's Who in the Limelight, with the
name "Clare Quilty" like a strange attractor between "Roland Pym" and
"Dolores Quine." Look at this tangle of stresses:

Harriet Hawkins, Strange Attractors: Literature, Culture and Chaos Theory
(London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995), 76: "The complex 'nonlinear
structure of a literary 'fractal,' in contrast to more linear works . . .
is described in remarkably similar terms by John McVicar, who first read
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire while serving time in prison. McVicar had
been used to reading novels by Harold Robbins, and the comparative
complexities of Nabokov's novel struck him with the force of revelation:
'In Pale Fire every surface of reality throws up other often inconsistent,
contradictory interpretations that make equal sense. Reading it * and it
can be read non-linearly, as Nabokov's biographer, Brian Boyd, suggests .
. . there is always more than there seems, but whatever levels of
complexity the reader understands, each works and satisfies and, most of
all, delights.' (Sunday Times, 19 June 1994, p. 9)." [ellipsis in Hawkins]

Brian Boyd
English Department
University of Auckland
Auckland, New Zealand
FAX + 64 9 373 7429
e-mail: b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz
EDITOR's Query: The term "strange attractors" rings faint, untraceable
bells in my head. Astronomy? Nuclear physics? Help?