NABOKV-L post 0022163, Fri, 11 Nov 2011 15:02:38 +0000

Re: Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade
As a Nabokovian, I feel like Christmas has come early this year. Just this week, I have received the astonishing (and astonishingly affordable) book/art object Brian references below, as well as Boyd's own Stalking Nabokov, and (via the library) Thomas Karshan's remarkable Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play.

Karshan's chapter on Pale Fire is among the very best things ever written about that book. I found myself making mental, marginal exclamations on nearly every page. Particularly valuable is his assertion that Shade misreads Pope in several ways, and by doing so reveals much about his Shade's confusing (some would say confused) worldview. I was puzzled, however, that Karshan didn't seem to know (or failed to tell us that he knew) that the sun-tanned man in the Hawaiian shirt that Gradus meets in the library is not Nabokov, but Timofey Pnin.

I was equally impressed and thankful for Brian Boyd's essay on Shade's poem (contained in both the art book and in Stalking Nabokov). He focuses on the brilliant reticulation of patterns (of various kinds) that Nabokov/Shade wove into the poem, particularly at the beginning of Canto One and the end of Canto Four. As I was reading, I was again reminded of a question I've never quite resolved. Because Kinbote describes the evening of Shade's death in ways that are consonant with the description in Shade's poem (almost sunset, red admiral flitting about, gardener working in the yard) we tend to forget that one detail in Shade's poem clashes with a detail in Kinbote's account-that being the whereabouts of Sybil Shade. In the poem, she is "In the garden" "near the shagbark tree" but in Kinbote's note she shows up after the fact, dropped off in a car driven by Dr. Sutton's daughter. What are we to make of this narrative hiccup, if anything? Can we simply chalk it up to Shade's 'poetic license,' or are we supposed to make some other sense out of this clash of details?

Matt Roth

From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf Of Brian Boyd (ARTS ENG)
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2011 4:01 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade

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