Monday, April 16, 2018
Pale Fire online reading group, Week 14
I recently finished Brian Boyd's Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery. Boyd, an English professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, arguably has no peer as a living Nabokov scholar and gives a close reading of the book. He convincing demonstrates that the book has clear references to works such as Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, Robert Browning's Pippa Passes, T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets and "The Waste Land," and other works. If you don't think reading an entire book of literary criticism can be entertaining, Boyd's book might change your mind.
In the bulk of the book, Boyd discusses the theory that I also have endorsed, that the actual author is V. Botkin, an offstage minor character, who invents both Charles Kinbote and the exiled Zemblan king and who commits suicide after writing his deranged commentary.
In the last part of the book, Boyd offers a further theory that the ghosts of John Shade and his daughter, Hazel -- shades of the Shades -- helped inspire the composition of the book. For those who think that it's an unlikely theory, Boyd discusses "The Vane Sisters", a short story which features an acrostic that has a message from two sisters who have died. (Nabokov had to point out the acrostic after The New Yorker magazine rejected the story.)
Incidentally, Brian Boyd knows who Robert Anton Wilson is, or at least has heard the name.
I wrote to him recently, noting that I could find only very expensive copies of his book about Nabokov's Ada and asking for an ebook edition. I mentioned my blog and the online reading group for Pale Fire and explained that I usually write about Robert Anton Wilson.
Professor Boyd pointed to me to where I could find an ebook of his Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness, and pointed out his free Ada website, which has very detailed annotations on the novel. He ended, "Enjoy, and keep blogging. I have very little time to read for pleasure but I'll keep my antenna alert for more on RAW."
Looking ahead to the next reading group: California author, English teacher, Jeopardy game show champ and RAW scholar Eric Wagner has volunteered to lead an online discussion group at this blog focusing on Joseph Kerman's classic study, The Beethoven Quartets. Expect discussion that will included Beethoven and the book, but also Robert Anton Wilson's deep interest in Beethoven.
"I plan to write weekly pieces on the Kerman Beethoven book starting August 6, with the official group beginning August 13 and running eighteen weeks until December 10," Eric says.
About the Kerman book, Eric says, "I gave copies of this book to both Robert Anton Wilson and Rafi Zabor. I took a copy of it with me when I appeared on Jeopardy."
Eric is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.
I expect to be able to check my copy of the Kerman book out of the excellent local library system I use, renewing it as necessary -- that's what I did with the Brian Boyd book -- but I'm putting the reminder up here to give the rest of you time to make necessary arrangements.
And what should we do beyond? The answer, I think, comes from Hilaritas Press, which has new editions coming out soon of the three "Historical Iluminatus" books and then will do the two Cosmic Trigger sequels. They would certainly be a good focus for online discussions.