Since I think we'll have a fuller discussion once we have a published theory before us, I'll make this my last post on the MPD theory until the NOJ comes out. --MR
Jim Twiggs: The very idea that it would take FORTY-ODD YEARS for somebody to snort out The One True Truffle strikes me as absurd.
MR: I quite agree. I have never, and will never, assert that Nabokov ONLY intended Pale Fire to be read through the lens of multiple personalities. It is clear that he approved of Mary McCarthy's two-person reading of the novel, at least in its basic facts. Such a reading is perfectly legitimate, and I hope I have never given the impression that reading the book this way means the reader has done it wrong. I do not believe there is "One True Truffle," as you say. (Can those who scorn any theory other than McCarthy's say the same?) The genius of Pale Fire, in my view, is its negative capability, by which I mean that the novel can accommodate doubts, uncertainties, and multiple narrative scenarios. Am I convinced that in PF Nabokov intended to embed a scenario in which Shade and Kinbote are the same person? Absolutely. Am I convinced that he wanted this interpretation to be the only "true" one? Absolutely not. Though it's a feeble analogy in many ways, I see the novel as s
imilar to one of those paintings where it's possible, by way of an unexplainable, minute adjustment of the eyes, to see a beautiful woman or a hideous hag, except in this case the hag and the lady can be seen at the same time, and we intuitively understand that one has made a tragic bargain with the other.
If there is one reaction to our theory that I wish I could alter, it's the sense that such a theory threatens or disproves other theories. It's true that I think our theory makes parts of the novel sing out more meaningfully. But this is true of other theories as well. One flaw of the MP theory, frankly, is that it doesn't do much with the haunted barn or the poltergeists, while Boyd's theory gives real urgency and meaning to those incidents. One flaw of the traditional theory of the novel is that has to explain away all the images of doubling in John Shade's poems, and in the relationship of Kinbote and Shade, by saying, as SKB does, that these things exist simply as a testament to "Nabokov's love of mirrors, symmetries, involutions, paradoxes, etc.,"--or mere "aesthetic bric-a-brac," as I put it in a prior post. So, if I may channel my inner Rodney King, I ask: why can't we all just get along?
Some answers for JF's questions:
>As they [the three bird images] are in Shade's mind when he starts the poem, before Kinbote
They may be forming, yes. Or it could be Nabokov showing us Shade's complex inner life, which will become manifest later on.
>Shade would rather be like his pitiful neighbor than forget his
>life. He may get the imagery from things Sybil says to him.
Okay...but this statement is made in the context of a discussion of IPH. Shade says "I'm ready to become a floweret or a fat fly," not become like. And he then goes on to talk about the newlydead and spirits and letting "a person circulate through you." The context clearly indicates that he is talking about what happens when we die, though Shade's claim that "we die every day" (just four lines before this) should alert us to the possibility that it is possible to die without physical death. "What moment in the gradual decay / Does resurrection choose?" Shade asks in lines 209-210.
>If you don't believe Kinbote ever talked to Shade, why do you
>believe what he says about his birthday?
I don't see any reason to doubt that he thinks this is his birthday.
>The problem with this approach [seeing all the left-right, bearded-clean shaven
>oppositions as significant] is that it can explain anything.
>All similarities are clues, and all differences are mirror-
>image clues to the same thing.
This is a dismal dismissal, Jerry. The very point is that these opposites cannot explain just anything; they explain something very specific! They are integral details, in fact. To say that clear opposites are the same thing as "differences" is to mischaracterize our argument entirely. Yellow is different than black; white is the opposite of black. Yellow and white do not have the same relationship to black.
>And what about Jack Grey? As I understand
>your theory, not only does the secondary personality invent a
>murderer to explain what happened to the primary, and fit
>this invention in with his delusion, but he also invents a
>"real" murderer so the reader can see through his delusion!
>This is fun to describe, but I can't believe it's something
>Nabokov wanted us to see as a possible solution.
Excellent point. It is, as VN would say, an "artistic problem." Indeed, you have hit upon the one area of the MP theory that makes me most uncomfortable: what to do with those scenes where, via dramatic irony, we see a different truth than the one Kinbote intends. In Kinbote's Zembla fantasy, he is flamboyant but heroic, while in the New Wye scenes he tends to come across as a fool. In our article, we propose a solution to this problem, involving a real V. Botkin, which we can discuss when it has been published. As for Jack Gray, I think we have to see the problem from Kinbote's perspective. Kinbote believes in the reality of a malevolent, interloping personality named Jack Gray, who also resides within John Shade--their names are the same, of course. But Kinbote, as in all theories, wants to make Gray part of his own Zembla world, rather than part of the world of John Shade. He does this by transforming Gray into Gradus, and dramatizes the whole confrontation via
the scene on Goldsworth's lawn. But Kinbote is not enough in control of narrative to avoid the reality of Jack Gray altogether, and this bleeds through in his description of how the events were interpreted in the New Wye of his insane memory. It may be that Shade had, at one time, looked through Judge Goldsworth's scrapbook and saw Gray's picture, and the whole scenario grew out of that. I admit that this is rather contorted. I take solace, however, in the fact that all interpretations suffer these contortions on (more than) one point or another. Thanks for bringing it up.