I hope no one's been waiting for my replies.  I've been busy for the past few days.

To Jim Twiggs: I humbly apologize for forgetting to tell you that I read Dupee's essay and mostly agreed with it.  I hope you'll say you cut and pasted that excerpt instead of typing it.

So as Stan says, we may be moving toward a consensus.  Though a consensus on whether the poem is intentionally bad makes sense, and a consensus on whether it's good doesn't, in my opinion, as that's a matter of taste.

I agree with you and Kinbote (an enjoyable thing to say) that "oozy" is by no means self-praise.  And I agree with you that Shade is not the novel's bedrock of morality or reliability.  On which subject, what is the business about the lake he can't see any more?

One place I disagree with Dupee is that he calls Shade "rustic", and others here have agreed.  Yes, Shade grew up and still lives in a country house, but I don't see what's so rustic about the poem.  Certainly not the language.  I admit, though, that I haven't known many country people, and the rather rural area where I live now (northern New Mexico) has important differences from Appalachia.  If the idea is that his interest in nature is rustic, I find it suburban, like mine.  Country people I've known have been interested in nature from the angles of hunting, fishing, gathering, logging, and protecting their farms against pests, as well as in its more spectacular manifestations, but not in scientific names or in dingy butterflies.  My idea of a rustic American poet is James Dickey, not Robert Frost.  Maybe those who know the real Appalachia better than I do can comment.

To Jansy Mello: Indeed Nabokov was never explicit on the subject that he knew more about than he could say.  But if you put together /Pale Fire/ and all the other works you meant when you said "not exclusive to Pale Fire", I don't think you'll find much in the way of contradiction--which could not be said about most philosophies of the supernatural someone might believe.  No doubt others know more about this, and maybe there is a strong case that Nabokov had certain beliefs by this point.

To Matt Roth: Yes, that's the distinction I should have made.  When Nabokov parodies bad writing, it's still brilliant writing that we read without laughing at the ineptitude of the prose, though we may laugh at the character's other ineptitudes.

What might "Pale Fire" parody?  In my opinion, some of the punning, witty poets who were on the ascendant at the time: Richard Wilbur, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht.  But Brian Boyd has mentioned that Nabokov praised Wilbur, though not the others.  He has also mentioned that Helen Vendler thinks highly of "Pale Fire", and she greatly admired Merrill.  So it could also simply be a similarity of some methods.

Gary Lipon and R. S. Gwynn discussed whether "Pale Fire" would have made sense published on its own.  My opinion is that readers wouldn't have understood everything (though a Webster's Second would have helped a lot), but the poem is no more cryptic than a great deal of poetry that was published without notes, starting with Eliot.  And the publisher could have set it up somehow.  "This remarkable poem comes to us from the author of /Lolita/.  We understand it will form part of a new novel in which the fictional poet is killed before he can finish this poem, leaving perhaps only the last line unwritten."  Or we can imagine it published without notes in Shade's world, where there is a Wordsmith College in New Wye and poetry readers would have seen Shade's obituary.

Jerry Friedman,
hoping he didn't forget as much this time
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