March 9, 2007

*Insert Confused Look Here*

As I made my way through Pale Fire I generally had one deeply intelligent thought- "What the *&$%& am I reading?" I came into it expecting a poem...and got that. Then I got a rambling nonesensical commentary. It then dawned on my somewhat spring break slowed mind that the commentary is the novel as well! Silly Russians. Who does that?

Was I the only one who truly believed I was reading a completely random commentary about a poem by a real editor for the first part of the novel? Wow I hope not (because then I'll just look stupid). I can't even stick Pale Fire into any nice category of literature- it is in a world all its own. Nabokov has entered into a new genre, by creating a story within a story, characters who appear as real people. While the poem itself is unique and, at least for me, somewhat difficult to follow, the real "star" of the novel is the commentary which provides its own story. The reader must uncover (albeit slowly, if you're me) that not only is the editor not actually real, but that he is the more interesting tale- all the ramblings about Zembla and King Charles is actually a story in of itself. You almost have to read the book twice, just to go back and understand everything missed, especially since it appeared as a completely pointless commentary at first glance.

I don't have much more to comment, since I'm still scratching my head about this one. The highlight of the work though? "Vanessa" is mentioned in the poem. Any book is instantly better with the addition of such a great name.

Nabokov, Pale Fire -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at March 9, 2007 5:54 PM | TrackBack

Thanks for this candid post, Vanessa. Yes, it's an unusual work... but I think we're ready for it. Particularly when the week's topic is intertextuality.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 9, 2007 6:34 PM

No worries Vanessa! I was the same way. I actually didn't get it until I met with Dr. Jerz and (in all honesty) I'm still not sure that I get it entirely. I think that it will be interesting to hear the discussion that goes on in class tomorrow about eveyone's reactions to this work.

As far as your reactions go. Don't worry about being confused. The whole class is on this one I think. I agree with you that you need to read this work multiple times in order to get it. I say multiple because I have already read it twice and still don't understand.

Posted by: Tiffany at March 14, 2007 6:12 PM

Vanessa, I think we were all very confused at first. I actually read the foreword during break and only figured out that it was a fictional character talking about another fictional character through talking about it with my dad (I love how smart dads are...I don' know where I would be without mine!) Anyway, despite already knowing that as I read the poem, I will admit that it took me a long time into the commentary before I realized Kinbote really wasn't talking much about the poem at all (formalist critics would go nuts if they read his stuff!) and that he was talking about this random King of Zembla - his homeland. Then, not just a few pages later, (probably around 130 something) I realized that the king was him and that he had been talking about himself this whole time! (Self-absorbed, little brat!) Anyway, so don't worry. You are not alone! And you are right it is unusual, it does seem like the worst thing in the world to do intertextual crit on - except you did make one very good point about a convention it employs - the whole story within a story technique. That is something that is used in many different works. (Can you tell that this is what I wrote my paper on and how excited I am to know that I couldn't have been BSing too much if you noticed it too!) Ok, I think I am done now. Have a great day! See you in class tonight!

Posted by: Lorin at March 15, 2007 2:18 PM
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