Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rorty and Nabokov

Rereading Pale Fire, I came across this passage. It's not from the book itself, but from Richard Rorty's introduction. (It appears in the Everyman's Library edition).
Nabokov arranges things so that, just when we thought that we had stepped back and found the proper standpoint from which to see his book in perspective, we get an uncanny sense that the book is looking at us from a considerable distance, and chuckling. The resulting discomfiture usually turns into renewed exasperation over Nabokov's egotism, his puerile tricksiness, his silly attempts at novelty.
This more or less exactly summarizes my own experience with Nabokov--my frequent unease, as well as my ever-growing admiration. Hopefully, this pass through Pale Fire will mitigate the unease and deepen the admiration. Regardless, the introduction is worth the price of admission.


Saxo philologus said...

Hat Tip: Saxo? I remember praising Rorty's introduction back in 2004 as an incredibly perceptive analysis of Pale Fire's emotional power. As I recall, Rorty goes on to say something about how the sudden change in the reader's perspective is akin to having the carpet pulled out from underneath oneself. This is also, I would submit, why the ending to 'At Swim-Two-Birds' is so powerful. It casts the whole book in a different light.

Anonymous said...

Hat Tip given. You're right, you did mention the introduction to me a while back. Good work!

Cold Bacon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cold Bacon said...

i always read the introduction first, before putting any book down.