MR responding to JA:
I always appreciate your thoughtful, well-written remarks. I think your reading of Pale Fire makes perfect sense, and it seems likely to me that Nabokov wanted readers to read the novel in the way you suggest. But interpretation is not a zero-sum game (necessarily) and in this case I think VN, in order to approach the true nature of dissociative identitities, created a counter-narrative inside of the more obvious one. I will try to respond to a couple of your questions and comments:
1. JA: "why would this reading be preferable to the way in which, say, Brian Boyd originally interpreted the book in his Vladimir Nabokov, The American Years. In that, you remember, he suggested Shade consciously created the Kinbote persona as a kind of experiment in Mortality."
MR: Because, as Boyd has conceded, there are a number of unanswerable objections that make a pure Shadean approach untenable. See PFMAD, 123-126. However, if we remove the notion that Shade purposely created Kinbote, these objections no longer apply. See my post on this, here:
2. JA: "it seems better than the Double personality concept, because yours means the book is filled with so much cheating; there's no confrontation scene that would pull everything together, since the whole idea is something you have to entirely construct of clues, which in my opinion is pretty ineffective story telling: a novel filled with arty intentions rather than dramatic structure."
MR: I don't think a Double personality constitutes cheating, though I'm not certain I understand your use of that term. One of the common objections to this theory has been that it devalues the New Wye scenes, since most of them could not have happened as related if Kinbote and Shade are in the same body. But there is plenty in PF that is dramatized effectively and enjoyably, even though we know these things never happened. Do we enjoy the dull-witted confrontation between Oswin Bretwit and Gradus any less because it is a fantasy? Do we not enjoy the contrapuntal pyrotechnics of Kinbote's note to line 894 (the faculty club scene) once we realize that it can't have happened? (Do we sympathize with BS's Krug any less when we discover that he is a fiction within a fiction?) As for there being no confrontation scene, it is true that VN does not provide an "a-ha" reintegrating moment at the end of the book, but I think this is to his credit. Ada, for what it's worth, also lacks this closure with regard to its two worlds. In PF, the whole book is a confrontation scene between Shade and Kinbote, and this contrast/conflict gives the book its dramatic structure. Indeed, a theory of multiple personalities gives meaning to the structure of the novel that a traditional reading of the novel does not. In the traditional reading, the novel's contrapuntal details and structure are not really part of the plot; instead, they are leitmotif, or at best a kind of manifestation of VN's status as the artist/god. But if Shade, Kinbote, and Gradus are three-in-one, then all of these "covert concords" (Boyd's term) become something much more than aesthetic bric-a-brac. They instead become the essential elements of a fugue. Shade's poem and person are the Cantus Firmus, the fixed line, while Gradus and Kinbote are the Cantus Figuratus, the florid counterpoint (see Fux, Gradus ad Parnassum) that plays above, against, and finally (o n Goldsworth's lawn) together with the original melody. (Canto, of course, comes from the L. cantus, singing, song.)
By the way, I do believe that V. Botkin exists in the novel and lives across the lane from Shade. But I'll leave that for the article to explain.

Matt Roth

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