Exhibit 12.15

Pale Fire

I’ve put off writing about this book since I liked it too much to have any objective take on it. I don’t know if it’s my favorite of Nabakov’s–I have a soft spot for The Real Life of Sebastian Knight–but like most of his work it is so thoroughly better than what everyone else is doing that it’s hard to maintain perspective.

Dave turned me on to the argument between Shadeans–those who believe Shade invented Kinbote and is the author of the entire text–and Kinboteans who believe the opposite, that Shade is the invention of Kinbote. Although I suppose I’d rather believe the latter–I felt very sorry for Kinbote and hated Shaded more than a little–it strikes me as being a typical academic gesture toward postulating exactly the opposite of the popular position in order to seem interesting.

(This move also works with movies, indie rock, and celebrity crushes. On a completely unrelated note, I loved the Speed Racer movie, I hate Radiohead, and I intend to talk about these shocking opinions at length when I’m married to Swoozie Kurtz).

Figuring out the “real story” is part of the fun of the book, but it’s ultimately futile. Nabakov himself seems to have had pretty definite ideas about the reality he intended (his position is that there is no Kinbote at all but only a mad Russian scholar who is a very minor character in the book). If that mystery is all the book had to offer, it would be an impossible burden to put on the reader, something akin to a movie where we realize that the evil mastermind was a guy the hero passed on the street (in other words, a move M. Night Shyamalan would make). Fortunately, there’s so much here that what’s true is unimportant. It’s a tragic, beautiful world and that so much of it seems to be someone’s delusion only makes it sadder.

Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Sebastians

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