Monday, May 14, 2012

Vladimir Nabokov - Pale Fire

Interesting Nadja discussion tonight--thanks for attending!  Next month, Vincent's request, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov.  I've never read anything by him, so the only information I can divulge is that I'm basically jazzed about the whole operation.  Discussion is on June 10th at 7 PM.

In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line 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.


  1. Dear Greg,

    How's it going? I'm enjoying Nabokov's Pale Fire very much partly because I've always admired his relentless love for play.

    If your summer schedule permits and if you're interested, I would like to recommend a few modern lit books, which can be a bit challenging but I believe can be rewarding:

    1) Confidence Man (Herman Melville)

    Book Description (from Oxford Classics):

    Long considered the author's strangest novel, The Confidence-Man is a comic allegory aimed at the optimism and materialism of mid-eighteenth-century America. A mysterious shape-changing Confidence-Man approaches passengers on a Mississippi steamboat and, winning over the (not quite innocent) victims with his charm, urges them to implicitly trust in the cosmos, in nature, and even in human nature-with predictable results.

    The Confidence-Man represented a departure for Melville, a satirical and socially acute work that was to be a further step away from his sea novels. Yet it confused and angered reviewers who preferred to pigeonhole him as an adventure writer. Some have argued the book was a joke on the readers loyal to his sea stories, but if so, it backfired. Dismissed by critics as unreadable, and an undoubted financial failure, The Confidence-Man's cold reception undermined Melville's belief in his ability to make a living writing works that were both popular and profound, and he soon gave up fiction. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that critics rediscovered the book and praised its wit, stunningly modern technique, and wry view that life may be just a cosmic con game.

    2) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)

    Many have probably read it. I wonder if folks would like to revisit the novel in light of Virginia Woolf and other modernists we have read.

    3) Something by William Faulkner: ex. As I Lay Dying; The Sound and the Fury; Light in August; Absalom, Absalom!

    5) Spring Snow (Yukio Mishima)

    The first novel of Mishima's landmark tetralogy, The Sea of fertility.

    Spring Snow is set in Tokyo in 1912, when the hermetic world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders -- rich provincial families unburdened by tradition, whose money and vitality make them formidable contenders for social and political power.

    Among this rising new elite are the ambitious Matsugae, whose son has been raised in a family of the waning aristocracy, the elegant and attenuated Ayakura. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new -- fiercely loving and hating the exquisite, spirited Ayakura Satoko. He suffers in psychic paralysis until the shock of her engagement to a royal prince shows him the magnitude of his passion, and leads to a love affair that is as doomed as it was inevitable.

    Think about it. Perhaps we can decide at the beginning of our Sunday meeting.

    Best Regards,

  2. vincent,
    thanks for the recommendations. let's talk them over on sunday and see which one(s) piques the group's interest.

    i have to submit the pick one month in advance, so next month will be calvino - if on a winter's night a traveler.

    i also have to cut out a bit early tomorrow, so it'll just be you guys handling yourselves for a little bit if that's ok!