Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001317, Tue, 17 Sep 1996 11:20:28 -0700

QUERY: "Cakewalking" in "Speak, Memory" (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Joseph Piercy's <j9250308@wlv.ac.uk> "cakewalking" query
below illustrates one of the hazards of reading VN. "Cakewalking" is a
sort of dance or "strutting" contest in the traditional American black
community (and minstrel shows) in which the prize was a cake. One may
ponder where VN encountered the term although he lecture-toured the SOuth
in the 40s and spoke at one or more black colleges.

------------------ Well, I don't know if this is really a query as such -
I'm just interested to know if anyone has any possible interpretations for
an oddity in the final passage of "Speak, Memory". It has occurred to me
that it might be a typo error in the edition that I have but alas - our
library is closed for a week for a re-fit so I can't check out any later
reprints - I think it probable that it's just a small absurdity to match
the colours and avoid repeating the word "cat" - unless anyone can
enlighten me as to what the practice of "cakewalking" might entail (?)

"There, in front of us, where a broken row of houses stood between us and
the harbor, and where the eye encountered all sorts of stratagems, such as
pale-blue and pink underwear CAKEWALKING on a clothesline, or a lady's
bicycle and a striped cat oddly sharing a rudimentary balcony of cast

"Speak, Memory" - U.K 1st Revised Edition,
Weidenfeld And Nicholson, 1967.

any ideas (no matter how obtuse) most

Joseph Piercy
University Of Wolverhampton
United Kingdom