Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022166, Sat, 12 Nov 2011 16:59:35 -0500

Re: Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade
In a message dated 11/12/2011 2:57:39 PM Central Standard Time,
mroth@MESSIAH.EDU writes:
> 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?
I think your sense of chronology is a little defective here. Sybil was out
at "an evening meeting of her club" (as Shade tells Kinbote) when the
immediate events leading up to the shooting occurred. She arrives after the
shooting. Are you saying that Shade wrote the line about Sybil and the 9
concluding lines while Sybil was near the tree, then fell asleep in his swing,
then was awakened by Kinbote with Sybil mysteriously gone? He wasn't using a
digital camera, you know. He was writing a poem, not a piece of reportage.

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