Monday, July 7, 2008

Pale Fire: the Jacqui's Room Notes

In which I may make no sense if you haven't read Pale Fire. Or even if you have, I suppose.


Pale Fire was published in 1962, written after the success of Lolita allowed Nabokov to give up academia and write full time, much as the success of The New Girl…and Me, allowed me to give up teaching first and second grade and write full time, so long as I could find other ways to pay for day care.

Pale Fire also contains my current favorite quote on the fragility and the power of the written word:

“We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of though, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing… I wish you to gasp not only at what you read, but at the miracle of its being readable" (p. 289).

Pale Fire: a haiku

poem by John Shade
extensive annotations
deranged editor

Line 1 “John Shade”
The fictional author of the 999 line autobiographical work “Pale Fire” which appears in the book of the same name, born July 5, 1898, shot and killed July 21, 1959*, under circumstances delineated** in the commentary.

Line 2 “annotations”
Pale Fire is written in three parts: a foreword by the editor, the poem “Pale Fire,” and commentary on the poem by the editor, which composes the vast majority of the book.

Line 3 “deranged editor”
Nabokov is the king of the unreliable narrator. The annotations to Pale Fire are mostly disorganized personal reflections of questionable relevance.*** As we read, we realize the annotator is, at best, bitter and stretching the truth to self-aggrandize, at worst, totally delusional.**** and ***** In the end, we are left enthralled by the language, engaged by the story, and amazed at Nabokov's play with the power of words.

* Being a secret numbers person, I can’t help but be amused by having read Pale Fire on the dates during which the story takes place. Of course, I planned this. Because I am just that organized.
**sort of, see note on delusion of the annotator below
*** much like this blog
**** but funny
*****again, much like this blog


Diane T said...

Mmmmm, "delusional annotator"? Makes me want to read it. Although I suppose I should read Lolita first, that's a shocking gap.

Here's the link to my Haiku Review of The House of the Seven Gables (spoiler free):

Or if you're lazy, here's the haiku:

Suits not the New World's temper
Love is the best wealth

Jacqui said...

Yeah, definitely delusional. Not lost on me are the parallels between myself and a delusional literature lover who reads great works and then blathers on about them, connecting them in not-really-pertinent ways to his own life...

I like your haiku; will appreciate it more after I read the Hawthorne.

Kristi Valiant said...

Oops, I totally forgot to leave my comments about my book for the week. I had read the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by A. A. Milne. My absolute favorite part of all was the Anxious Pooh song which starts:
3 Cheers for Pooh
(For Who?)
For Pooh --
(Why what did he do?)
I thought you knew;
He saved his friend from a wetting!

3 Cheers for Bear!
(For where?)
For Bear --
He couldn't swim,
But he rescued him!
(He rescued who?)
Oh, listen, do!
I am talking of Pooh?

(Of who?)
Of Pooh!
(I'm sorry I keep forgetting).
Well. Pooh was a Bear of Enormous Brain --
(Just say it again!)
Of enormous brain --
(Of enormous what?)
I love that song because my nephew is just at that age where adults ask little kids, "what color is that?" "How many are there?" And on and on. He knows we know the answers. So he's starting asking obvious questions back to us about everything just like in Pooh's song. He's totally playing with us, but he does it so seriously.

Now I'm reading Jane Eyre.

Jacqui said...

Kristi, I love that part too. I love all of Pooh's songs, actually. Tiddley-pom tiddley-pom.

I will be interested to see what you think of Jane Eyre. Opinions are currently divided...