Dear N-List,

Sorry about the incomprehensible second-to-last paragraph of my note on Hodge, the para beginning "So an affectionate..." and ending with the insufferable "Which is why" It would be nice if I could complete that suspenseful last sentence, but I can’t. This is a new day. I’ve got other stuff to do and, frankly, I can’t remember what I was going to say. Reading it over this morning, though, I like the effect. Irritatingly overconfident, careless, and — capped by my closing para’s Kinbotean flourish about the supposed "goofiness" of others — a fair punishment for the writer ... which makes it, here, a neat transition to another matter discussed earlier this week in N-List: that of Botkinbote's margin instruction to the printer being mistakenly set in type within the very sentences in which the vigilant scholar claims full responsibility for “any mistakes” in his commentary. Followers of the N-List undoubtedly know — many at brutal first-hand — that the final final reading of any text set in type is the responsibility of the writer. Catching typos, by the way, is usually not as necessary as simply having a last chance to expunge the style-annihilating grammaticisms that some people misuse to attack a writer’s brilliant albeit unorthodox, perhaps even eccentric prose.

But the vast and eternal judgment of the universe weighs fearfully against the PF commentator, the editor of Shade’s final poem. By permitting himself to obliterate the hideous anxiety of his life through the definitively terminal prerogative of suicide, a life which, had it been endured, might in course of time have made him a better man (kind of speculative, that — in fact, forget it) before seeing through the entire publication process, our tormented commentator demolishes his own heinous scheme
(to deliberate mess up another writer, for any reason, is a sin that, like the sin against the Holy Ghost (whatever that was or is or might have been) is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness) to exploit the product of a better writer’s (Shade the better writer? Infinitely arguable proposition. In fact, a major major point in the book. A point often lost to those who miss love-of-literature’s narrow gate and choose instead the wide road to damnation aka lit criticism) mind. The justice here is elemental and profound.

By the way, the Foreword is called a foreword by the joint agreement of VN and his obedient character. And this choice, I believe, is correct because that’s what it is. And where does a foreword appear in a book?  If the book has been published by a company with intelligence, taste and sense (there are a few such), the foreword comes before the word. Since the foreword prefaces the actual matter, it can correctly be referred to as a preface by the writer, speaking of its function or placement. Again, a unilateral decision of VN’s, obeyed by BK/KB. This isn’t some big clue to greater mysteries.

So, sorry about the goofy mistake and, hell, about joking about anyone else’s goofiness — joking I’m clearly unqualified to make (but which I brazenly allude to since my implicit claim of nongoofiness parallels the claims of accuracy and integrity made by an obscure, paranoid, brilliantly-delusional, star-stalking, bible-thumping, manuscript-snatching scholar quickly headed toward the big Exit sign ... where the parallel ends, since the Hodge at this keyboard has got at least 4.5 lives to go and maybe more.

Andrew Brown

On 11/1/07 10:27 PM, "NABOKV-L" <NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU> wrote:

> Dear List,
> The relationship between Johnson and Hodge is analogous to the
> relationship between author and character or, more to the point, the
> relationship between Nabokov and Shade AND/OR the relationship between
> Shade’s fictional creator, Botkinbote,* and Shade.
> In Johnson's day (so like our own, granting differences in technology,
> technique and style) a young fool goes about town shooting cats. "But
> Hodge shall not be shot." Of course Johnson cannot guarantee this. And,
> in any case, Hodge cannot understand much less be either comforted or
> resentful of his friend’s fatuous assurance.
> The analogy lies in Shade’s creator — as unknowable to Shade as Johnson
> is to Hodge — offering or implying a similarly empty assurance against a
> meaningless, arbitrary, therefore usual sort of death. A death that will
> give the lie to the last lines the old poet has just jotted.
> Shade is shot. Johnson had no power to protect Hodge, who may still be
> prowling the Great Wen for all we know. Could Shade’s creator have
> protected Shade? We know that Nabokov claimed (Strong Opinions) that his
> characters “worked like galley slaves,” with neither free will nor any
> direction other than that provided by their taskmaster author. No
> conscientious author can, in my opinion (my way of saying the matter is
> beyond dispute) recast the fate of characters whose destiny’s have a
> structural logic that literary integrity, the fundamental reconciliation
> or juxtaposition of perception and imagination the author has
> established with readers, must observe.
> Despite Hazel’s flutterby of warning, Shade walks into the path of a
> deranged criminal who had once been sentenced to hard time by the
> vacationing Judge whose home Botkin* is currently renting. Shade has to
> die. VN didn’t give Shade a resemblance to the judge for no reason. It
> wasn’t an accident or a case of VN running out of ways to depict the
> appearance of his characters. Besides, Shade’s work as a living
> character is finished.  It’s time for his equally important role as a
> dead guy, to begin.
> So, Johnson, Hodge’s affectionate but powerless friend, makes Hodge an
> offhand promise.
> So, an affectionate but ultimately powerless creator makes his creation
> an offhand promise. creator, Kinbote (aka Botkin)  is most certainly
> Botkin’s creation. Which is why
> Best wishes and many thanks for
> such erudition, such penetration and,
> gratifyingly often,
> such chortle-inducing goofiness,
> Andrew Brown
> *As a Botkinite (but strongly in favor of B. Boyd’s recent responses in
> this List — I mean, VN was a very humorous writer, the sure sign of a
> higher intelligence, and not a scribbler of puzzles or brain teasers. In
> short, a writer of novels, not a mere maker of novelties) I believe that
> Charles Kinbote is Botkin’s delusionary alter identity.
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