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I liked this book , especially the poem. When I use the first person singular pronoun, I am here referring to my normal persona I have also, at various times, maintained other personas For example, between 1999 and 2001, I used to play chess regularly on the KasparovChess site under the handle swedishchick.I find this a strange example of what makes people believe things Everyone was extremely skeptical on first meeting her but, for some reason, as soon as they discovered that she actually could speak fluent Swedish, they were also ready to believe that she was an attractive 26 year old graduate student living in Stockholm I still can t explain why this might be People liked hearing stories about Chick, as she was known to my circle of friends At the time, I was working at a start up in Cambridge, England, and one of my colleagues was a young woman I will call G G took a lively interest in Chick, and helped me considerably with the development of the back story Chick borrowed several features from her in particular, everyone, for some reason, wanted to know if Chick was blonde, and the agreed on answer was yes, during the summer at least Evenremarkably, G began to acquire features from Chick, which went as far as learning Swedish and moving to Link ping in order to do a PhD there The stories about Chick would fill a small book She was a charming person, and I ve often wished that I were as nice as she was She was always happy to play chess with lower rated players, and commented encouragingly on their progress When people became abusive, as inevitably happens on the Web, she never lost her cool She would occasionally give regular opponents glimpses of her private life, but only after she had known them for some time and felt she could trust them The back story was in fact quite complicated, even though it was hardly ever used she was bisexual, and had a female lover in California that she sometimes visited No one was ever told this straight out, however.It was inevitable that men would fall for this wonderfully attractive person The first time, I managed to hide successfully, and he went away after a while She had poignantly reminded him of a brief encounter he had had many years ago, that he d always regretted not following up The second time, it was too complicated Her admirer was a regular habitu of KasparovChess and kept pestering her for a date in real life He offered to take her on vacation in Germany and seemed completely smitten With great regret, we had to terminate Chick One day at work, we were discussing clerihews We looked up some examples on the Web Suddenly, G started laughing uncontrollably she had been visited by divine inspiration She rushed to her laptop, and shortly afterwards mailed out the following very fine poem Manny Rayner, could be sanerPlays chess, in a dress. My friend is nothing if not PC I m sorry that I can t remember the exact text of the accompanying note, but she made it clear that she was not literally implying that I wore women s clothes when I impersonated Chick, and that, if I had chosen to do so, she would have regarded it as a completely defensible exercise of my right to wear apparel that expressed my personality in whatever way I chose.This review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations I ll example you with thievery The sun s a thief, and with his great attractionRobs the vast sea the moon s an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun The sea s a thief, whose liquid surge resolvesThe moon into salt tears the earth s a thief, That feeds and breeds by a composture stolenFrom general excrement each thing s a thief.Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act IV, scene IIIThis is not a regular review, and may not be for you If you stay to read, never fear, Nabokov announces in the foreword whatever facts are here And please note, there is muchto Pale Fire s narrator Kinbote,than in the commentary below I ve barely scratched the surface of his contrapuntal life If I grant Sybil Shade prime place, it s due to the negligible note, at the very bottom of an index page Shade, Sybil, S s wife, passim Kinbote makes copious notes on every character in Pale Fire itself,and those in the commentary to the poem, even the most minor players, listing each and every reference to them, including page numbers While passim means already referenced frequently , Sybil Shade, translator of others lines,is hardly mentioned in the index, not in the extensive note about her poet spouse, nor in the one about her neighbour, Kinbote himself For this reason, I prefer to see passim as Kinbote s way of saying we ve had enough of her So, in the tongue in cheek spirit of The Revenge of Timofey Pninand borrowing liberally from Timon of Athens, I offer an interview with Sybil Shade entitled Sybil Shade Strikes Back No mumbling, please, speak up What know I of Kinbote, you ask He was a thief To give but one example my husband had a dressing robe, of worn out orange toweling, with pockets large and spacious, in which he kept spare pens and scraps of paper, many written upon, odd lines and verses that at the hour of bathing did occur, or on waking be remembered one by one That robe did Kinbote plot to steal, that old and ragged garment, and for what For the words trapped within its seams, the crumpled echoes of a poet s dreams.You needproof than that, you say Each thing s a thief, in its own way But I m no thief I ll have you know My poems are pure reflections,not stolen imitations And John did never steal from anyone the titles of his poems are merely borrowedfrom the sea of poets who ve come before, Browning, Shakespeare, Sophocles, andBut Kinbote is a thief, and worse,a parasite, an excremental tic For five long monthsJohn harboured that wormy maggot kept him close The worm became a botfly, and attacked his host.It was Jack Grey, you say who fired the shot that fateful day John Shade was killed by Grey, I ve heard that fifty times orBut Kinbote contrived the whole affair, to steal my husband s words, that their bright fire would shine instead on him, the foul diszembling turd If he could have stolen John s identity he would I saw the way he spied our very life from the dark windows of his home,and from the hill behind our house, his Proust face watching, planning how to pounce I saw the way he looked at me, John s wife Utmost courtesy Pale Fire shudders at his touch Passim, nosalt tears I ll shed I ve talked enough of that botking Why do I speak this way It is unnatural, you say I lived with a poet, and translated poetry by day,We were a rhyming couplet, and habit will have its sway view spoiler I was the shadow of the waxwing slain By the false azure in the windowpane John Shade, Pale Fire, Canto 1,The narrator mentions Conan Doyle s The Case of the Reverse Footsteps Here s an alternative take on reverse footsteps which echoes the inside out nature of Pale Fire hide spoiler Stop it Nabokov, you re making every other writer on this planet look terrible.This novel, which basically rejects every element and characteristic of our common conceptions of novels , is a masterpiece of form and structure It is a book made up entirely of footnotes In the beginning, we are presented with a poem, a 999 line poem called Pale Fire The novel part of this novel resides in the commentary and footnotes on this poem Nabokov constructs an entire narrative, complete with rounded characters and locations, within the line by line commentary of the poem It is wonderful I cannot sing its praises any higher Like in Lolita we are introduced to a less than admirable, unreliable narrator Charles Kinbote Slowly he begins his commentary on his friend s poem, Pale Fire However, as the footnotes pile up, we stray further and further away from academic citation and we are plunged into Kinbote s megalomaniacal and deranged mind Like Alice down the rabbit hole, we have nothing to grab and the darkness evades every word Pale Fire is a true masterpiece The quintessential anti novel Its utter subversion of what we know as literature can only be comparable to Joyce s Ulysses And like Ulysees, I can say without doubt that this is one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, if not, all time. The summer night was starless and stirless, with distant spasms of silent lightning Vladimir Nabokov, Pale FireDo you enjoy reading the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron and William Butler Yates If so, then Vladimir Nabokov might be your favorite novelist, since this master prose writer s feel for language and precision of words is equal to any of these great poets However, if you are like most readers of novels, what keeps you turning the pages isn t necessarily the poetic precision of language Alas, there is still a way for you to enjoy Pale Fire You can experience the beauty and stunning perfection of Nabokov s language, even if poetry isn t your thing Take my word for it here the audiobook is an entranceway to the novel Robert Blumenfeld speaks the words of Charles Kinbote with a charming, easy to understand international European accent, a mix of French German Eastern European And Marc Vietor reads the John Shade poem Vietor does a fine job with the poem but Blumenfeld as Kinbote is exceptional, listening to his voice is like listening to a virtuoso harpsichordist performing a baroque score You will want to listen and listen and listen someOrder yourself both the book and the audiobook and read and listen concurrently you will have one of the most rewarding, aesthetically satisfying literary experiences of your life.Turning to the novel itself, we have Kinbote s forward at the beginning and index at the end, and the actual John Shade poem, entitled Pale Fire, and the extensive Charles Kinbote commentary on the poem, which turns out to be not a commentary in the conventional sense of the term, but a benchmark for a subject of Kinbote s prime interest his dear distant northern land of Zembla and a subject evendear to his heart himself Indeed, Charles Kinbote What a man Many critical essays could be written and undoubtedly many have been written on his character, enough to fill a thick leather bound volume, but here is one quick observation he is a study in contrast, a highly erudite man of letter he might even be a king of an Eastern European country with an ability to fashion language on the level of Vladimir Nabokov, yet when it comes to interpersonal and social skills, he has a blind spot as large as Kazimir Malevich s black circle But I hesitate to make too hasty a judgment, since after reading the novel a second time, my understanding and assessment of Dr Kinbote is entirely different from my first time reading I wouldn t be surprised if I encountered a different Charles Kinbote with each and every future reading Ah, the richness of this most Nabokovian of Nabokov novels Below are two quotes taken from Kinbote s commentary, complete with cross reference notes, to whet your literary pallet and serve as an incentive I hope to engage with the high art of Nabokov s novel We shall accompany Gradus in constant thought, as he makes his way from distant dim Zembla to green Appalachia, through the entire length of the poem, following the road of its rhythm, riding past In a rhyme, skidding around the corner of a run on, breathing with the caesura, swinging down to the foot of the page from line to line as from branch to branch, hiding between two words see note to line 598 , reappearing on the horizon of a new canto, moving up with his valise on the escalator of the pentameter, stepping off, boarding a new train of thought, entering the hall of a hotel, putting out the bedlight, while Shade blots out a word, and falling asleep as the poet lays down his pen for the night How much happier the wide awake indolents, the monarchs among men, the rich monstrous brains deriving intense enjoyment and rapturous pangs from the balustrade of a terrace at nightfall, from the lights and the lake below, from the distant mountain shapes melting into the dark apricot of the afterglow, from the black conifers outlined against the pale ink of the zenith, and from the garnet and green flounces of the water along the silent, sad, forbidden shoreline Reading Vladimir Nabokov can be like playing a game of chess against an international chess master For certain you will be the one who is checkmated, but, still, you gain a deep satisfaction from playing every move. Whoop dee doo, five stars to Mr Nabokov Do you also feel silly clicking on the ratings You throw gold stars into Pale Fire and the vanity of star ratings is exposed We here are a community trying to reclaim our authority over writers who for pages have manipulated our thoughts and beings Generals get stars, good students too, and my 2 year old every time she uses the potty Only the higher ups get to hand them out, but c mmon, is there a higher up for Nabokov Whoever can, hand him a real star from the sky There s a profound difference between clever writing and brilliant writing, and I don t know how it happens that in Pale Fire there s no shame or hiding from clever devices, and yet the outcome is brilliant It could so easily, it seems, have been awful or unreadable You don t expect a farce, a contrived set up the writing of the reader of the writing, and god knows which is the narrator to be dizzy with beauty It s alarming to pass cantos and watch what starts out as a prank turn into the masterpiece of the century. I loved this, especially as my copy of the book seemed to operate on a meta meta meta meta level.The book initially appears to be an unfinished poem, Pale Fire , by a dead writer named John Shade, together with a foreword, detailed commentary and index by a friend of his, Charles Kinbote.But Kinbote is less interested in the poem than he is in discussing the country of Zembla and its flamboyantly gay, deposed King It sor less apparent, as the book progresses, that Kinbote is EITHER a the King of Zembla, b The insane Professor Botkin almost an anagram of Kinbote, see , who believes that he is the King of Zembla or c A fictional creation of Shade, who has faked his own death and written the commentary and notes himself in an attempt at a post modern masterpiece.So, the reader is left unsure what parts of a fictional work are INTENDED to be fictional in the context of the book Zembla doesn t really exist, but as the rest of the book is also unreal, does this matter And of course, if you want to be all realist about it, the whole thing is written by Nabakov rather than Shade or Kinbote anyway.But meta meta meta level my copy of the book has pencil writing in the margin from some student s, who ve provided their own commentary on Kinbote s Botkin or Shade s, Nabakov s commentary, seemingly without realising the irony.And meta meta meta meta level , someone else has stuck a post it on the last page, saying Dear Phantom Annotator,Your meta scribbling has amused meyou could imagine I laughed But now my head hurts. I was mesmerized with the planes of collision of this unusual novel We get a pompous, self serving introduction by a fictional editor to a poem, the poem itself, rendered in wonderful old fashioned lyrical verse dancing life against death, and then a commentary that twists the content of the poem and the scholar s connection to the author into an absurd dramatic framework For dessert, an index that pulls your leg in case you weren t sure It s clever, but not smug There are challenging depths here, but there is no trouble reading it as the prose and narrative is elegant and clear You are left a bit at sea with interpreting what an unreliable narrator is feeding you, but you the reader are empowered with clues enough to make your own frame to the narrative It doesn t quite have the fun factor of Vonnegut or Barth, but it leaves you withmeat per serving, particularly in its grappling over whether art is a means of discovering truth or a godlike power of generative creation I came at this without reading any reviews or knowledge about the book beyond widespread respect by literati and a couple of blurbs at the beginning of my 1968 paperback edition e.g Continually blooms with preposterousness of a most amusing kind The author s talent for the witty phrase manifests itself on page after page My goal here is to present what an average reader like me might appreciate or be bored by, and so inform their reading choice I don t think amusement and wittiness is quite the right hook for this to satisfy most people I know I think the draw lieswith the mystery and puzzle of the plot s construction and the surprises of artful treasures in your path and of doorways that transport you down different paths of meaning.We are presented first with an emulation of a scholar s introduction to the final work of a well respected poet before he died, John Shade The editor, Dr Kimbote, is a teacher in a small liberal arts college in the fictional town of New Wye in the rural state of Appalachia with the flavors of New England , where he was the neighbor and friend of the poet At first it sounds lucky that Kimbote has wangled permission of his friend to edit and publish the 999 line poem, existing as a manuscript on index cards Though a specialist only in the literature of his native Zembla some obscure European nation in the shadow of Russia , he makes us feel that the poet s wife Sybil or true academics in poetry would have botched the job or corrupted the intended text But slowly it dawns on us that the scholar is putting himself excessively into the scene and that we are in the hands of a possible megalomaniac who believes he was instrumental in inspiring the content of the poem This includes his regaling the poet with tales of his country s noble king being deposed and his crafty escape into exile from evil revolutionaries out for his blood He promises in his commentary to document evidence of allegorical underpinnings of his muse role for the poem andproof from discarded alternative drafts I appreciate comic deflation of effete arrogance in the Ivory Tower of academia I am not exactly laughing at this point, but I expect a bitfun before I am through For the poem itself, I was sincerely moved in mind and spirit Geez, why didn t Nabokov try to make it as a poet Shade covers in four sections his boyhood rural connection to nature and wondering about the mysteries of life and its impermanence Then comes pieces on his origins as a poet, finding the love of his life in Sybil, and the joys of raising their daughter He roots for the daughter to succeed despite her homeliness, but he is laid low with her tragic death, driving him to return to obsessions with the possibility of an afterlife I have been no big reader of poetry I was a biology major , but I got pleasures from the poem on the same order as from reading Robert Frost or Wallace Steven s Sunday Morning Obvious references suggest throwbacks to poets like Alexander Pope or Robert Browning So few readers read poetry, so I must give a sample to see if the poem Pale Fire would appeal to people thinking of taking on this package composed by Nabokov A few pages in we get a repetition of the sublime opening lines and then a bit of altered states of consciousness from Shade as a boy of eleven stuck at home alone due to illness I was the shadow the waxwing slainBy feigned remoteness in the windowpane There was a sudden sunburst in my headAnd the black night The blackness was sublime.I felt distributed through space and time One foot upon a mountaintop, one handUnder the pebbles of a panting strand,One ear in Italy, on eye in Spain,In caves, my blood, and in the stars, my brain.There were dull throbs in my Triassic greenOptical spots in Upper Pleistocene,An icy shiver down my Age of Stone,And all my tomorrows in my funnybone.Much of Shade s poem is circles around what human imagination can do to create something of lasting meaning in the face of mortality Whic is a core question I keep seeking answers for in literature and life don t you At one point after the loss of his daughter, Shade has a small heart attack and experiences a vision of a majestic fountain that captivates him with its allure of a timeless reality He is treated to a cosmic joke when he tracks down the source of a newspaper account of another person s near death experience of a fountain, only to learn fountain was a typo for the man s dream of a mountain Life Everlasting based on a misprint He finds a sort of epiphany in the ashes of his disappointment, that what counts is the play of mind in creating such links of meaning Yes It sufficed that I in life could findSome kind of link and bobolink, some kindOf correlated pattern in the game,Plexed artistry, and something of the samePleasure in it as they who played in found.It did not matter who they were No sound,No furtive light came from their involuteAbode, but there they were, aloof and mute,Playing a game of worlds, promoting pawnsTo ivory unicorns and ebon fauns Wonderful conceptions to me But later he finds a schism in the process of transforming these created links of meaning into his writing He finds freedom in the mental process of creation, yet when doing so suffers from dissociation from his body, the actions of which become like freakish automaton taking off what he has just put on or buying the paper he has read before For the step of formulating words and phrases, the abstract battle is concretely fought , but the power of the pen to swoop to bar a canceled sunset or restore a star seems to me to suggest the danger of flippant construction going astray of reality I get a lot out of such rare attempts of writers to probe the mysteries of artistic creation.For most readers, all this is just backdrop for the novelistic core of the book in Kinbote s so called commentary He comes off like a leech in Shade s life, and in appropriating the poem manuscript, is seen to be a threat to sullying its beauty by making it all, line by line, about him somehow In another way Shade s latching onto the reality of meanings that the self creates has left himself open to the fate of distortion by another self after he is gone After I made this interpretation, I looked in the thorough Wikipedia article and learned about how literary scholars have mined a myriad of interpretations How much of a madman is Kinbote did he have a role in Shade s death could he really be the king in exile, etc Or is all the plot just an illusion or playground for the dance of literary connections or of a virtual chess game I was most impressed with the truth in recognition of Pale Fire as an early example along with Borges Garden of Forking Paths of literary hypertext, analogous to the way the World Wide Web was designed to operate For example, in the introduction Kinbote recommends buying two copies of the future book so the reader can read the lines of the poem side by side with his commentary As another example of nonlinear options, I came across an aha clue when the narrator says Kinbote is an anagram of Bodkin or Bodkine I paused reading to look up the word and find it means several things that intersect with the plot dagger or tool for punching holes in cloth and also the name of a Russian doctor in the 19th century who discovered Bodkin s disease, later known as the infectious viral disease hepatitis A Plus, there is a Professor Bodkin of Russian studies whom everyone is suspicious of See what I mean about clues and doorways that hop you to other dimensions Nabokov called them plums You don t have to feel like an idiot for not catching onto the innumerable literary references in the book Most are just play in a game or filigrees for texture Even catching just a few is rewarding, but not just for erudite cleverness For example, at one point Kinbote is talking about a walk he took with Shade and in looking for a meaningful spot in nature, a farmer s son refers to the site as where Papa pisses That readily rang dim memories of Pippa Passes and a smile over unbelievably recalling the lovely lines of Pippa s song, The year s at the spring, And day s at the morn God s in His heaven All s right with the world But I didn t remember without hypertexting around how her singing as she went along was influencing the actions of various villagers, including one who suddenly decided to carry out his plan to assassinate a government leader of Austria It s satisfying to feel ever element in this book is crafted to serve a purpose So there are worlds within worlds in Pale Fire , almost like fractals Quite a brilliant construction I got the most out of the poem and its fragility in the face of what academics with their own agenda might do to it Others might enjoy the challenge of figuring out what makes Kinbote tick and the twists of concern over the veracity of his stories in the context of a fictional world It comes down to whether puzzles without definitive answers would be too frustrating to you or if instead you find freedom in ambiguity and the prospect of constructing a frame that works best for you. *READ EPUB ⇤ Pale Fire ↝ In Pale Fire Nabokov Offers A Cornucopia Of Deceptive Pleasures ALine Poem By The Reclusive Genius John Shade An Adoring Foreword And Commentary By Shade S Self Styled Boswell, Dr Charles Kinbote A Darkly Comic Novel Of Suspense, Literary Idolatry And One Upmanship, And Political Intrigue It s a well known fact that dogs have a talent for smelling far better than our own They can detect much fainter scents from much farther away What s , when a stew is cooking and all we smell is stew, they can pick out each ingredient the potatoes, carrots, beef and even the bay leaf and parsley flakes Close readers who are analogous to these super sniffers are the ones who will enjoy this book the most, I suspect No worries for the rest of us, though I m proof that this can still be a good experience even if the only thing you can distinguish is stew.As must be true of most Nabokov works, this book features multiple layers of intellectual fascination There are those I recognized, those I read about after the fact, and even a few plums that Nabokov said were yet to be plucked years after publication The base level is the story itself It s structured, cleverly enough, as a 999 line poem by a character named John Shade along with a metafictive analysis around it comprising a forward and an extended commentary by Shade s university colleague and neighbor, Charles Kinbote The poem is actually pretty good, though parts seemed slightly satirical It details events in the poet s life including encounters with death, idylls of the day to day and insight into the creative process The rhymes were clever, too However, the poem was just the starting point The crux of the story was Kinbote s reaction to it We quickly realize a second level to the book that this fellow academic and wordsmith is off his rocker He had long, discursive comments where he began inserting himself into the poem in ways we as readers know couldn t be true Kinbote s style was literate and at times pompous almost a caricature of a bloviating professor To be honest, I liked it I kept imagining Frasier Crane in the role Nabokov was no doubt poking fun at academics, especially those who write literary criticisms Kinbote s analysis was often marked by a strained and comical attempt to tie his own narrative to the poem It featured a country in the far north of Europe called Zembla ruled by a certain King Charles Is it a coincidence that this is Kinbote s given name I think not Nor will you We also learn of an assassin who was part of a Soviet backed revolutionary group Though slow witted, he tracks King Charles down to the college town in Appalachia where they live and technically this is a spoiler, though I think most would agree that the plot points were of secondary importance and therefore spoilable view spoiler mistakenly murders Shade This is notable in that Nabokov s own father was killed by mistake by an assassin in 1922 hide spoiler Death is the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism Is that it No It is an eternal loss of a lively soul a sudden departure from the precious present an endless termination of familial bonds Nothing can affect anyonethan a death in one s family, especially a life purloined from us before its time Such is the memory misery of our poor, dear poet Mr.Shade, the father of the departed bride, Hazel For we die every day oblivion thrives Not on dry thighbones but on blood ripe lives, And our best yesterdays are now foul piles Of crumpled names, phone numbers and foxed files Canto 3 Pale Fire is arguably the best book of Vladimir Nabokov It is not easy to resist losing ourselves in the magical word play of Nabokov To talk about it, this one opens up with a 999 liner poem in 4 cantos followed by detailed commentary of the man, the narrator, who tried saving its maker the poet Shade The poem takes us through an emotional musings and lugubrious reflections on his past What starts like an impeccable portrait of spellbinding mother nature and an illustrious profile of father time it is good to associate Nature and Time like this Isn t it Credit goes to Nabokov soon turns out to be a painted parchment in an artistic cage echoed with sonorous memories.The poem brims with disconsolate descriptions of the lost daughter and his missive meditations on after life Distant events and obsolete objects bring back the vivid memories of the loving victim of the vertiginous misfortune The mirrors don t smile at him any The lights don t brighten his day A dark cage with parchments of memory is what his life turned into Thegrowing pains have become permanent dysfunctions My God died young Theolatry I found Degrading, and its premises, unsound No free man needs a God but was I free How fully I felt nature glued to me Canto 1 What is the use of faith for a father who lost his precious princess His faith fades away The wonder lingers and the shame remains. A new friend arrives A king, Mr.Kinbote, after making a surreal escape through a hidden door from a closet like coupe, befriends the poet and entrusts him with the events his princely adventures, kingly misfortunes, and masterly escapes His desire to make this eminent poet Shade write about him tantalized him But he is not alone Somewhere on the other side of the world, someone is embarking on a journey with a loaded pistol with a plan of regicide So, here they are A king who lost his country, A poet who lost his daughter, and A man who has nothing to lose, converging in this cathartic work of an impeccable poet Will there be another death A death brings only another death view spoiler Here is Kinbote relating his life to this posthumous work and contemplating and writing elaborate commentaries hide spoiler