Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022220, Sun, 4 Dec 2011 00:05:07 -0500

Re: Pale Fire, the poem and its mythic reading
In a message dated 12/3/2011 9:25:58 PM Central Standard Time,
jansy@AETERN.US writes:
> While (rather humorlessly) I kept asking myself about who's going to pay
> the price for Shade's "real" existence as a poet, I was suddenly reminded of
> a science fiction comedy, S1m0ne (Simone), written, produced and directed
> by Andrew Niccol. Perhaps the price is simply getting a good laugh at
> Nabokov's combinatory talents while we enjoy the show!
> .....................................................................................................................................................
> ................................
> * “Pale Fire,” The Poem: Does It Stand Alone as a Masterpiece? by Giles
> Harvey - December 2, 2011
> http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2011/12/pale-fire-the-poem.html#ixzz1fUxjS9rQ
> "Some books...defeat commentary; others, like “Ulysses,” invite it. “Pale
> Fire,” Vladimir Nabokov’s resplendent rare bird of a novel, comes with
> its own commentary built in [...] Given the ludic vitality of Kinbote’s
> portions of the book, it is not surprising that Shade’s subtle, meticulously
> wrought poem should have received short shrift.[...] In a move that is likely
> to irritate and scandalize many, Gingko Press has lifted Shade’s poem from
> Nabokov’s novel and published it as a separate book [...] The new edition
> also comes with a svelte booklet containing two essays, by the Nabokov
> biographer Brian Boyd and the distinguished poet R. S. Gwynn, both of which
> argue passionately for the aesthetic splendor and autonomy of “Pale Fire” the
> poem.[...] In one respect, the Gingko Press “Pale Fire” is a fetishist’s
> dream[...] In another, it is a serious statement about how seriously we
> ought to take Nabokov’s longest and most ambitious piece of verse [...].But let
> ’s not be coy. The commentary may constitute the main attraction, but as
> this lavish new edition reminds us, the poem is itself a doozy that bristles
> with all the humor, yearning, pathos, and metaphysical wit that have
> become synonymous with Nabokov’s name." According to Giles Harvey (op.cit.),
> R.S.Gwynn "argues that the rise of “confessional” poets like Lowell, Plath,
> and Sexton in the nineteen-fifties created a critical climate hostile to
> Nabokov’s coy and playful verse...'With the publication of Lolita,' Gwynn
> writes, 'Nabokov had been hailed as a master of English prose and of the
> American idiom as well; it is not much of a leap of faith to suspect that this
> ambitious poem by the most competitive of authors was an attempt to establish
> himself as firmly in the canon of American poetry as he had done in prose.
> His failure to do so has little to do with the quality of the poem; it is
> more a function of a period during which American poetry was in the process
> of redefining itself.' [...] Paul Muldoon "another great contemporary poet
> and The New Yorker’s poetry editor, had more sympathy than Chiasson for
> claims about the poem’s stand-alone magnificence, and hit upon an apt image
> for the hermeneutic quandaries it poses: 'I do think ‘Pale Fire’ is a quite
> wonderful poem, though it’s hard to read it as an entirely discrete
> entity. Isn’t it like one of those tall buildings which incorporates in its core
> the very crane that raised it?'[...] Novelist Arthur Phillips said: "Even
> without the marvels of the novel “Pale Fire,” the poem “Pale Fire” is a
> little novel in itself. And, as a rhyming novella, there’s really no question
> who wrote it. Only the novel makes it a poem by Shade; without the
> Commentary, the poem could only be by Nabokov. [...] as such, it deserves to be
> published on its own, as a poem by Nabokov. The greatest poem of its century?
> I’m not ready to go that far, even as I’m ready to call its proper
> housing the greatest novel of the century"
> ** G.Lipon writes: "In this interpretation Hazel is destined to die young
> in order to provide a theme (motivation?) for Shade's Magnus Opus, Pale
> Fire. Through composing this work Shade believes he has, or will become,
> immortal.[...] Shade is a poet, a kind of singer, obsessed with his own
> immortality[ ...]Hazel...isn't the immortality that the EL is granting. Rather she
> is the means to literary fame (I use the term ovidian immortality).[...]
> His wish for immortality ...l has been granted, but through the gift of a
> theme and the experience of grief. And so he sets out to compose Pale Fire.
> [...]Shade's hubris is that he imagines himself to be a great artist
> deserving of immortality. For his last year his life has been a forced reliving,
> and embellishing, of his daughter's death, surely to memorialize her, but
> mostly to memorialize himself. Eventually this drives Shade insane."
I said that it should be considered as one of the finest long poems ever
written by an American poet. This sets it against Evangeline, The Waste Land,
the Cantos, and The Bridge, et al. I will have to live with this judgment.
As far as G. Lipon is concerned, all I can say is ars longa vita brevis.

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