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Pale Fire
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Readalongs > Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (Leslie, Pink, Alan & Jenny)

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Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I thought I would go ahead and set this up, as we were planning to read this in August. I haven't seen Pink and Alan around in while, but I am hoping they'll be back soon.

I won't be able to start this before the 15th of August, would that be alright?


Leslie | 15985 comments Jenny -- thanks for setting up the thread. The 15th is fine with me; I will delay putting in my interlibrary loan request for a bit.

I hope that Pink & Alan return soon too...


message 3: by Petra (new)

Petra | 3243 comments Can I join in? 15th of August sounds like a good time for me, too.


message 4: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13035 comments Mod
Will be at the seaside those days; it doesn't look like and "beach umbrella book"! I'll give a llok at your comments though


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Petra, of course!! I've just realised that this book is badly in need of a reprint in Germany! there only is a very expensive old edition which luckily my library has. Seems odd for such a famous book.


message 6: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
I'd like to join in too if I can. The 15th works for me.


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments gladly!


Pink I'm back! I just reserved this online from my library, so should be able to join in mid August too. I've been really looking forward to this one :)

Jenny, my library only has one old copy from 1962, so it's obviously not a popular loan here either.


message 9: by Petra (new)

Petra | 3243 comments Excellent! I'll be ready on the 15th.

I've only read one other of his books (Lolita) and was intrigued at how he made such a dispicable character somewhat sympathetic. I also thought his writing style was wonderful. Looking forward to reading another of his books, especially with all of you.


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments oh it's so good to see you back Pink!


Leslie | 15985 comments Are we ready to start this? I have checked it out from the library so I am good to go whenever everyone else is...


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I've started it yesterday, and I already had a good laugh when looking at the way the book is structured. Has anybody else started already?


message 13: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Unfortunately I forgot to bring my copy to Seattle with me, but I'll start when I get back on Tuesday.


message 14: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Starting today, didn't get time for much reading over the weekend!


Leslie | 15985 comments I just started - I have been having difficulties focusing on reading lately (too many distractions in the hospital) so I may be slower than usual reading this.

I found the 'Foreword' by Kinbote pretty funny (especially imagining him in Appalachia in lilac trousers!!).

I am now reading the poem & am enjoying that more than I had anticipated. I have a question though -- in Kinbote's Foreword, he recommended reading the commentary before the poem. I am wondering if Nabokov intended readers to follow that advice. Any thoughts?


message 16: by Petra (new)

Petra | 3243 comments I'm hoping to start within a few days. I'm glad that it starts out so funny. I'm looking forward to that.


message 17: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink I have no idea which order to read them, I suspect that it would benefit from re-reading them in various orders, but first time round I'm going to flip back and forth and see how I get on. Scrap that, I'm going to read it in order, poem first. Maybe. I suspect he meant to confuse and confound us before even starting.


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Leslie, I agree with Pink, I think it is partially for the sake of confusion, but also gives insight into the personality of the commentator who by doing so quite openly reveals that fact that he believes to be the only one fit to understand the cosmos of thought of the poet. I think he might be a master example of an unreliable narrator to be honest.
So absolutely: do read the poem first!
I am now in the commentary (bizarre!!!!) and I think flipping back and forth to remind yourself of the source of Kinbote's interpretation definitely helps fully appreciating the tricks Nabokov is playing.


Leslie | 15985 comments I just got to the commentary -- I agree Jenny that it does start off quite strange! I hadn't considered Kinbote as a unreliable narrator but that makes a lot of sense.


message 20: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Finished the poem, I agree that it was better than expected. Just started the commentary and oh yes it is strange!


message 21: by Greg (last edited Aug 21, 2014 01:45PM) (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Wow, I am really enjoying this! The contrast between the incredibly fussy, ridiculous Kinbote who is so unaccountably proud of his "powerful" red car and the hard drinking, possibly vulgar poet Shade is hilarious. I laughed out loud several times in the preface, particularly at the tense exchange with the woman in the grocery store and at Kinbote's bizarre closing instructions.

I'm not done with the poem yet, but my wild guess is that Kinbote will not have the proper personality at all to understand this poem; so I'm thinking that his notes could be unintentionally (on his part) hilarious.

What a funny, clever book this is shaping up to be!


Leslie | 15985 comments What an ego Kinbote has!


message 23: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Insecurity & Ego at the same time, one of the most toxic combinations there is


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am really liking this. I am well into the commentary now, and I sometimes feel like I am going cross-eyed trying to follow the wild jumps and conclusions of Kinbote. But I love the clever wit of this novel.

I wonder, is this whole novel one big mockery of literary criticism?


Leslie | 15985 comments Jenny wrote: "I am really liking this. I am well into the commentary now ...

I wonder, is this whole novel one big mockery of literary criticism? "


I was thinking that it was a spoof of literary commentary at first (and it certainly does a good job mocking some of the literary criticism tendencies!). Has anyone else looked at the index at the end? It supports the idea that the entire book is a satire or mockery...

I am finding the story of Kinbote (view spoiler) quite interesting. Of course, I still think the connections between Kinbote and the poem are ridiculous. I don't always go back to the poem to see the original phrase, though, so maybe I am not seeing them.


message 26: by Aitziber (new) - added it

Aitziber | 13 comments I really, really love the conceit of Pale Fire. One thing that academics seem in agreement about, is that Kinbote is a better narrator than Shade is a poet. As in, as much of an unreliable narrator Kinbote is, and he obviously is plenty, he is more talented than Shade. And, of course, this would be intentional on Nabokov's part. Kinbote has all but stolen this poem from Shade's family, he is lying about the poem being about himself, and yet he is a fantastic narrator.


message 27: by Greg (last edited Aug 22, 2014 07:26PM) (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
I don't know - I think Kinbote is so delusional and self absorbed that he actually has made himself believe the poem is about him. Notice the wildly inaccurate assessments Kinbote makes about the behavior of everyone around him in the preface.

And yes, I do think there's some delicious digs at literary criticism, particularly the tendency of some criticism to elaborate simple things and to invent connections that aren't there.


Leslie | 15985 comments Greg wrote: "I don't know - I think Kinbote is so delusional and self absorbed that he actually has made himself believe the poem is about him. Notice the wildly inaccurate assessments Kinbote makes about the b..."

I agree - I think that Kinbote does believe that.


message 29: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Leslie wrote: "Greg wrote: "I don't know - I think Kinbote is so delusional and self absorbed that he actually has made himself believe the poem is about him. Notice the wildly inaccurate assessments Kinbote make..."

Agreed too, but I like how you can see things from so many different angles, very clever. I'm about half way through the commentary so still a bit to go yet.


message 30: by Aitziber (new) - added it

Aitziber | 13 comments Sorry -- I don't mean to say that Kinbote doesn't believe that the poem is about himself. What I mean is that he has obviously stolen it and it's not about him, and we'd usually expect a person like this to be a fraud. But he's not, in the sense that he may be a better writer than Shade.


Leslie | 15985 comments The further I get into the commentary, the more I am caught up in the story of the "last King of Zembla". This is a very innovative way to tell the life stories of two men -- one in the poem (with small additions in the commentary) and one in the commentary.


message 32: by Jenny (last edited Aug 27, 2014 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I've finished it yesterday and thought it deserves all the praise it generally gets. I love how Nabokov gives you reason to doubt everything. I kept thinking I had figured something out to then just find myself in the position of wondering whether I was made to believe I had figured something out when in fact that was yet another lie. Little hints that make you go 'oh that must be important' and then it absolutely isn't,(view spoiler) and who the hell is playing me here!? Oh dear, I never had so much fun while watching my poor brain short-circuit.


Leslie | 15985 comments I finished this last night & (view spoiler). I am tempted to reread Nabokov's Pnin, which I apparently read back in my college days (as it is on my shelf with my name in it) -- I don't remember it at all...


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Leslie, if you do read Pnin, count me in!!


Leslie | 15985 comments Jenny wrote: "Leslie, if you do read Pnin, count me in!!"

Perhaps in October?


message 36: by Jenny (last edited Aug 30, 2014 12:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I would only really be able to get to it in December, but don't let that stop you. We can always exchange thoughts on it later!


Leslie | 15985 comments Jenny wrote: "I would only really be able to get to it in December, but don't let that stop you. We can always exchange thoughts on it later!"

December would be OK too.


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments in that case: I am in!


message 39: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink I'm not much more than half way through the commentary, but have decided to give up. I'm just not enjoying it and find that I'm reading the words on the page without taking in what they're actually saying. I think the fault is entirely with me and not the book though, perhaps it's just not the right time for me to read it.

I'd still like to join in with reading Pnin in December if that's okay?


Leslie | 15985 comments Sure join us!


Chrissie I just bought Pale Fire and will read it as soon as I can. I hope I can join in too? Or maybe I can add some comments later. I am very late to the party. Sorry.


message 42: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Funny how the commentary started out as literary criticism (albeit highly biased and bizzare) and has quickly drifted away from the poem itself to be Kinbote's monologue. Kinbote is treating the poem like a word association game. One word in the poem sparks whole entirely unrelated stories.

I detect some satire on nationalist tendencies too. Kinbote's national pride for all things Zemblan (and royal) is crossing the line into satire, I think.


Leslie | 15985 comments Chrissie wrote: "I just bought Pale Fire and will read it as soon as I can. I hope I can join in too? Or maybe I can add some comments later. I am very late to the party. Sorry."

Glad that you decided to join us, even if it is late :)

Greg wrote: "I detect some satire on nationalist tendencies too. Kinbote's national pride for all things Zemblan (and royal) is crossing the line into satire, I think. ..."

Oh definitely!

Pink wrote: "I'm not much more than half way through the commentary, but have decided to give up. I'm just not enjoying it and find that I'm reading the words on the page without taking in what they're actually..."

Sorry I couldn't respond more fully yesterday, but RL intervened. It may just not be the right time for you to read this or it may be that this book isn't for you -- in any case, if it isn't enjoyable then stopping is the right decision!


Chrissie thanks.


Chrissie Well now it is completed. Nabokov is a magician with his words. He has marvelous imagination. The book is amazing, but that does not mean I loved it. What an original idea! Only Nabokov could think up such a story.

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

What are you other guys thinking of it?

For me parts were exceptional, other parts less so. I loved the humor. I loved the message. I was surprised how easy it was to read the poem; THAT was a piece of cake. It is Kinbote's story that gave me trouble.


message 46: by Leslie (last edited Sep 05, 2014 11:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leslie | 15985 comments Chrissie wrote: "Well now it is completed. Nabokov is a magician with his words. He has marvelous imagination. The book is amazing, but that does not mean I loved it. What an original idea! Only Nabokov could thin..."

Good review Chrissie! I guess I got more involved with Charles' story (even though Zembla is a fictional nation) than you did, so I found his commentary easier going.

Re the index, that must have been odd in audiobook form :) I actually dipped into it periodically as I progressed, which was easy to do with the hardcover edition I was reading. When I finished the commentary, I then skimmed the entries I had previously read., focusing on the others.

Glad that you didn't have trouble with the poem. I agree that it was like reading a story that happened to rhyme.


Chrissie Leslie, reading the index was kind of amusing because it so clearly showed who was the central protagonist.

I have much easier reading stories that are close to reality. This is just how I am as a person. If I can feel I am learning something about a place or a time that can be used later it feels good to me. Maybe that is why reading about Zembla fell flat for me. For me it was like, what-is-the-point?! It doesn't exist!

anyhow I loved the message., and I thought it was very clever how Nabokov tied all the parts together. That is what I meant when I said it was an amazing book.....even if I didn't love it.

I also love Nabokov's ability to describe things. he has such a rich vocabulary and uses exactly the right word in the right place.

I am certainly glad I read the book. But I do prefer Lolita and Speak Memory. I NEVER exected to love Lolita as much as I did!


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