Thursday, November 19, 2009

The second and final day for discussion of Transparent Things(only two days to go with the two T's!). One thing of which we can be completely sure is that "mysterious mental maneuver" will be on the final exam, as will this quote from Oscar Wilde which is as emblematic of N's art as of his own: "All art is both surface and symbol."

I really found the obscure interview with N about Transparent Things(in which he basically explains almost all of the book's structure which nobody got, let alone liked)to be very piquant: he goes through the interview being as upfront as an author can be about the intentions of his creation, and then says at the conclusion that his books are written for his family, a few smart friends and readers and Adam von Librikov. Another one of his anagrammatic pseudonyms. Oh N you little prankster!

And I wouldn't have thought about drawing parallels between Transparent Things and Vertigo(between Hitchcock and N. it did occur to me, but not these two things), but it is really a striking resemblance to be found. Wonders never cease.
This is a blog dedicated to the final work of N's which we will be reading for class, Transparent Things. I've gotta say, I liked Pale Fire and Lolita more. My initial reaction was that there were a great many aspects about Transparent Things that I found off-putting or asphyxiating(oh aren't we an ironically witty Kari this morning!), without the sheer delight of tasty word-play and linguistic playfulness that the other works have. I suppose the general malaise of the story itself is one of these aspects, as well as the fact that Hugh Person, while probably mentally ill and/or psychotic, is also (*gasp*)dull and not in the least charming or beguiling(whatever else they may be,Humbert Humbert and Kinbote are not dull).

However, as was mentioned in class the other day, Person can be looked upon as an Everyman, as a state of being which the vast majority of us inhabit or simply "R"(unforgivable pun).Which does lead in to the aspects of the novella which I did enjoy. I liked the sheer undelibleness(is this a word?)of Mr. R, with his bushy eyebrows and bulldog jowls and omni-present glass of whiskey; its kind of unpleasant but he's so...vivid. I also loved the line on page 542 where Hugh is lying next to his snoring wife: "One could not help marveling how such a slender and dainty girl could churn up so ponderous a vibration." I thought that was funny. I also liked the moment near the conclusion of chapter 22, where Hugh spots an ancient white dog, and recognizes it as the same dog he had seen in this same spot eight years ago.

And I also liked this segment near the conclusion of chapter 25 on page 558: "All his life, we are glad to note, our Person has experienced the curious sensation(known to three famous theologians and two minor poets)of there existing behind him--at his shoulder, as it were--a larger, wiser, calmer and stronger stranger, morally better than he. This was, in fact, his main "umbral companion"(a clownish critic had taken R. to task for that epithet) and had he been without that transparent shadow, we would not have bothered to speak about our dear Person."

Perhaps we all of us persons have an umbral companion, the being that we aren't necessarily are, but would aspire to be, and potentially even might be. I dont' know.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We are required, apparently, to read Mary McCarthy's very long, very influential review of Pale Fire(which Rachel has very kindly and conveniently provided access to) entitled A Bolt from the Blue in preparation for the test on Thursday. Thanks to the portion skimmed in class I learned that in fact Alexander Pope(whom John Shade admires and who's style he imitates)mentions Zembla in his Essay on Man. So Shade very likely didn't get the one Zembla reference in the poem from Kinbote but from Pope! Yet another thing to go on the Ever Expanding List of Things Kari Ought to Read(or EELTKOR).

And Chris will have all of the questions on his blog site, God save the king of blogs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I realized, looking at my previous post, that a mistake was made. The list of themes within N.'s work wasn't compiled by Brian Boyd, but by Alfred Appell. Double-A instead of double-B. My bad. But of course, as we learned the other day, mistakes and errors are portals to the truth. John Shade comes to understand this because of a misprint; because of "fountain" instead of "mountain", he has the vague intimations of hope in regard to spirituality for the first time.

Really Shade is much like his creator N. and Wallace Stevens, neither of whom really want Paradise, because nothing dies there(ie. changes). And death is, somehow or other, the only thing that can produce finer things; we love people because we are all going to die, we like ripe fruit because it is on the way toward rotting. There can't be anything beautiful in permanent stasis, which N. and Stevens concieve of Paradise being.

In regards to a paper topic, Kari is still oscillating: Pale Fire screenplay, Lolita as displacement of Greek myth, or the motif of the mythical kingdom. Oh decisons decisons!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Well, the end is inexorably drawing nearer. By Thursday we must have decided upon a paper topic. I am torn between the perhaps more obvious choice of tracing the displacement of Classical myth in Lolita(particularly Ovid's Metamorphises), and the beginning of a screenplay version of Pale Fire. The latter is obviously a very tall order, which interested me even more that Parker of the Outback was thinking of attempting the same. Even if I weren't to attempt it for this class I still might at some point in time. Which doesn't help with my arriving at a decision but there we are.

By way of help, the theme's of N.'s work(as described by Brian Boyd) were given: parody, coincidence, patterning, illusion, work-within-the-work, authorial voice. The last two reverbarate(sic?) especially through Pale Fire, which I confess it had not occured to me to see as a displacement of The Ugly Duckling. But this is what creative fiction does, after all: we take that which is to be found in "reality" and have it serve artistic purposes. Such as Kinbote making the loathed(by him) Gerald Emerald into one the leaders of the Shadows, and Jack Grey into Gradus, the figure of Death. For what is Death, to quote from The Arabian Nights, but the destroyer of delights?

And now I know that the word psychopaumpus means "guide of souls". Is this what N. ultimately seeks to have himself be?
We've been told to blog about discoveries. This is one that I actually made quite some time ago, when I first read through Pale Fire at the end of summer. Oh-so much didnt' register upon the intial reading, but something very striking happened. On page 37, in Canto 1 of the poem, there is the stanza up near the top of the page:

"One opal cloudlet in an oval form
Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm
Which in a distant valley has been staged--
For we are most artistically caged."
Well, I first read this in the morning; in late afternoon the same day, I went out for a walk along the country road near my house. It had sprinkled lightly earlier in the day, but was still nice. On the way home, I looked toward the west, and I saw in the distant sky this oval batch of cloud with an iridescent sort-of rainbow around the top edge of it. It was very beautiful, and I was very struck, encountering this image that I had read earlier in this, the "real world". Was it one of those cosmic instances of what Oscar Wilde called "Life imitating art"? Or was it my imagination drawing connections between two different instances of perception? In any event, it was very striking and indelible to me.