I recently came across two articles in the Google News archive which may be of interest. The first is a review of Pale Fire by Michael Diebold, of The Pittsburgh (PA) Press. The review appeared on May 31, 1962, so it's a fairly early attempt to decipher the novel. Diebold's review interests me because it is, I believe, the earliest example of someone advancing a theory in which Kinbote is a secondary personality of John Shade--the very notion that I, Carolyn K., and Tiffany DeRewal have advanced in recent years. I find it comforting that someone else saw this possible reading so soon after publication. Here's the link:
The second article sheds light on a couple of minor controversies that have come up recently on the listserv. These concern whether or not VN saw "PF" as a good poem, and whether or not John Shade should be seen as a poet in the tradition of Robert Frost. The article, which appeared in the St. Petersburg (FL) Times on June 24, 1962, quotes VN as follows:
"The structure of the book was something new. First, I had to create a New England poet who was a follower of Robert Frost. Then I had to evolve some kind of inspiration to produce a good poem, and I hope I did." These sentences affirm both Shade's Frostiness and VN's "good" intentions regarding the poem. See here:
A cautionary note: VN also says Shade is a New England poet, when it seems clear from most of the internal evidence that Shade lives far south of New England (probably closer to Harrisonburg, VA). I'm beginning to think that VN did not have a very firm notion of New England's borders, even though he lived in Massachusetts at one time. This is not so unusual; I have met Americans from other regions who thought New York state was part of New England, and the different nominal regions of the country do not appear as such on most maps--that is, most maps don't show that Maine, NH, Vermont, Mass, RI, and Conn together make up New England. It's kind of like the term "Yankee." Foreigners use it to refer to all Americans. In America, southerners use it to refer to people from the Union states (in the Civil War). In the north, Yankee refers to New Englanders (the NY Yankees baseball team notwithstanding). In New England, it refers most often to people from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (who despise, by the way, the NY Yankees).
Matt Roth (New Hampshire native)