Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002429, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:35:48 -0700

*Dark Ice* Notes lines 8-37 (fwd)
N o t e s

Line 8

Marbled ice. An old postcard of the Pantheon,
its rectangle burned into the pages of the book
I found it in [in a foreign used-book store, in a
city of ancient, eroding marble] read: "Fear of
Absolutes is hardly limited to *black*. I've seen
chilling leaps of whitecaps, far out, on a midnight
sea; and Chinese mourners, in a windy black-and-
white documentary, wearing stark, flapping clothes
the color of chalk."
This idea of *whiteness* seems solidly imbedded
in American culture. The last entry in the journal of
Edgar Allan Poe's doomed explorer, Arthur Gordon
Pym, reads:

March 22. The darkness had materially
increased, relieved only by the glare of
the water thrown back from the white
curtain before us. Many gigantic and
pallidly white birds flew continuously
now from beyond the veil, and their
scream was the eternal Tekeli-li! as
they retreated from our vision.
Hereupon Nu-Nu stirred in the
bottom of the boat; but upon
touching him, we found his spirit
departed. And now we rushed into
the embraces of the cataract, where
a chasm threw itself open to receive
us. But there arose in our pathway a
shrouded human figure, very far
larger in its proportions than any
dweller among men. And the hue of
the skin of the figure was of the perfect
whiteness of the snow.

A masked lake? "Yet for all these accumulated
associations, with whatever is sweet, and honorable,
and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something
in the innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more
panic to the soul than that redness which affrights in
--So Herman Melville, with a deadly pallor,
contemplating the ream of pages he had yet to fill
before his sea could roll on over whale and Pequod,
and the crisp gray fin of a colophon appear.

Line 14

Moon-soil; the soft, fine, ashlike gray dust covering
much of the lunar surface, which may also include
larger rock-fragments, ejecta, and (according to
Murray, Malin, Greeley, *Earthlike Planets*) "glass
from imapct melt."

Line 22

This ghostly anagram (and the others in lines
742, 746, 756, and 843) should be read aloud
in a booming Cambridge-and-Petersburg accent.

Line 28

Apparently supplied by an invisible tourguide,
this pangram--like THE QUICK BROWN FOX
anagram of the alphabet, containing all 26
letters with as few repetitions as possible.

Line 30
Its bent N pointed toward me; W

A *W* is two *V*s (see line 843), and the
compass notation for West. The pointer
seems to be broken, or seized in ice: look
in vain for the wind.

Line 37
Liquid Crystal

A liquid crystal display, or LCD. Viscous
crystals (dark honey, over ice, with lemon,
is a favorite drink of mine): often
birefringent, easily polarized. The
powdery snow outside shone briefly with
diffraction halos as a light was switched
on; off.