NABOKV-L post 0024161, Sun, 5 May 2013 16:31:54 -0700

Taking the Waters, a digression on a theme
Jansy writes: Aqua, of course, indicates the "eau de cologne" (or a beverage, if
we remember the Scandinavian aquavit, the Italian Grappa, the Brazilian
aguardente, aso) and there's a companion "aqua" to the talc and perfume **..

Dear Jansy,

There are also akvavit (the water of life in Swedish and Whiskey I believe means
the same or similar in Gaellic). There is "eau de cologne" (in Köln it is
Kölnwasser, natürlich). From thereabouts hail both Sartre, Jean-Paul, and his
cousin, Schweitzer, Albert. There's a very famous cathedral that took over a
hundred years to construct there. There's definitely a there there.

Retourner a nos moutons: One goes to Baden Baden to take the waters and one goes
to Bath to bathe. Well, not anymore I guess. In the olden days few ladies took
the plunge, or if they did had to wearswoony baloony bathing dresses. You can
actually see young ladies dressed like that (they are convent girls in the film)
to take their showers in Yolanda and the Thief, the last film ever made by Fred
Astaire and Minelli - the film (highly recommended - to die for in so many ways,
visually stunning and the music!) Yolanda and the Thief. It was a flop, hence
it ended the careers of the director and the star. The song 'Angel' is to die
for - when I hear it I swoon.

Back toPerfume which was an odd but terribly fascinating best-seller written way
back when, in French originally I believe, about a genius parfumeuer who I
believe murdered women, but god only knows why. Does any List member recall? was
he misshapen in some way? dwarfish?

And now I must back to my fish, whose eau il est necessaire a changer - tout de


I hear Alice Waters is to die for too - don't like Berkeley myself.

From: Jansy <jansy@AETERN.US>
Sent: Sun, May 5, 2013 8:57:25 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] [SIGHTINGS] Cats: Johnson's Hodges and Pale Fire:

Various CAT entries found in the internet, link Johnson's "Hodge" and Pale
Fire.( I'll underline some of the references)

1. The Corner: The one and only.
A Disagreement on Nabokov,by Michael Potemra
July 3, 2012 4:

Yesterday I posted a reflection on some theological issues raised by Boswell’s
anecdote about Dr. Johnson and his cat. In the comment box, a writer using the
handle “Bill Adams” claims that I misunderstood both the anecdote and Nabokov’s
use of it; he says that Johnson was not actually claiming that someone was
going around shooting cats, but indulging in hyperbole, and that by quoting
Johnson’s “Hodge shall not be shot,” Nabokov was therefore making a point about
the power of literature to create real sympathy for characters in unreal
In my view, Bill Adams’s analysis has two things going for it. First, Boswell
refers to Johnson’s account as “ludicrous.” Second, Pale Fire is indeed a book
about how fictions can overtake reality; the title is itself a quote from
Shakespeare, in which the moon is described as an “arrant thief” whose “pale
fire” is a mere reflection of the light of the sun. It glows with a light that
is not its own, but we admire the glow anyway.
Neither of these is dispositive, of course. Referring to an event as
“ludicrous” or “absurd” does not mean it didn’t really happen. (Proof: The
content of the sentence “Chief Justice John Roberts opposed the Court’s four
conservatives and declared Obamacare constitutional” can reasonably be described
as ludicrous or absurd. And yet the sentence is factually accurate.) And the
fact that Pale Fire is a novel about novels does not mean that it is not also,
and more importantly, a novel about real things.
Mr. Adams concedes much of the latter point, and says he agrees with some of
what I wrote even while questioning my premise. Perhaps he is right about
Johnson and the cat-shooter? In any case, I thank him for the post, and
recommend that anyone interested in these matters read his comment.
A Disagreement on Nabokov | National Review Online‎

2. Maaja A. Stewart "Nabokov's Pale Fire and Boswell's Johnson"
"nabokov has deliberately chosen a prosy anecdote, one that reverberates with
no symbolic suggestiveness, to stand uneasily at the beginning of Pale Fire
(1962). Its position marks its importance, but its contente, by itself, does not
yield the significance we would expect from words in such a position - no title
for the novel, no metaphorical condensation of the central situation we shall
encounter, no metaphysical evaluation of the world we shall experience...

Maaja A. Stewart Nabokov's Pale Fire and Boswell's Johnson - JStor

3. Boswell records about Hodge the cat:

"I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for
whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that
trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily, one of
those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with
one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this
same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast,
apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling,
rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a
fine cat, saying, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than
this;’ and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, ‘but
he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.’ [ ] “This reminds me of the
ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young
Gentleman of good family. ‘Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about
town shooting cats.’ And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself
of his own favourite cat, and said, ‘But Hodge shan’t be shot; no, no, Hodge
shall not be shot.’” (Life of Johnson, Chapter 41)
Indeed, Hodge shall have his oysters and Hodge shall not be shot, because
Johnson loves him.
This last paragraph with its snippet of pet talk, “Hodge shall not be shot,” is
part of the epigraph to Nabokov’s weird novel Pale Fire, though it’s hard to
tell if the quotation was in earnest or a joke, or if a joke, what sort of
[ ]."Boswell himself confessed: “I am, unluckily, one of those who have an
antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I
frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge.” If
Charles Kinbote, “Pale Fire’s” demented commentator, is indeed then some
cracked Boswell (there are other hints that Nabokov fully intended the
connection), reconsider his remarks about moving into his rental in New Wye,
Appalachia, where he was expected to cat-sit:
“Among various detailed notices affixed to a special board in the pantry, such
as plumbing instructions, dissertations on electricity, discourses on cactuses
and so forth, I found the diet of the black cat that came with the house:
Mon, Wed, Fri: Liver
Tue, Thu, Sat: Fish
Sun: Ground meat
(All it got from me was milk and sardines; it was a likable little creature but
after a while its movements began to grate on my nerves and I farmed it out to
Mrs. Finley, the cleaning woman.)”
•That other great epigraph is from “The Waste Land.” If you can think of any
that beat my two, let us know.
Two more Nabokov sightings announced in the same NYT Artsbeat blog:
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* Lolita’s Ancestor
* Two of Nabokov’s Many Cultures

4. In the way that anecdotes become collaborative productions, the trajectory
of this anecdote does not end with Boswell's Life. This same anecdote also
turns up in the paratextual front matter of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale
Fire (1962), between Nabokov's dedication of the book "To Vera" and the table
of contents. Gerard de Vries's note in The Nabokovian, extending the life
history of this anecdote yet further, frames the problem it poses in this way:
"[W]ith the epigraph to Pale Fire, Nabokov left us with a rather contumacious
riddle." It is in the spirit of riddle-solving, then, that de Vries sets about
reimagining this anecdote: how this anecdote can be understood to fit into the
text it precedes.
From London to New Wye, from Johnson's Literary Club to theNabokovian, what we
would call and recognize as the same anecdote turns up serially, stitching
together different moments in conversational time. The characteristic thing
that governs each of these ritual redeployments...
Pale Fire and Johnson's Cat: The Anecdote in Polite Conversation
Sean R. Silver
From: Criticism
Volume 53, Number 2, Spring 2011
pp. 241-264 | 10.1353/crt.2011.0009

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