Next Up: Pale Fire
This one apparently needs some explaining.
This novel is comprised of two parts: The first section is a 999-line poem, written by the fictional poet, John Shade. The second, which is a large majority of the book, is a commentary on the poem written by the fictional Shade’s fictional colleague, Charles Kinbote.
So what we have here is Vladimir Nabokov, whom you might remember from Lolita fame, writing a novel inside a novel, which is more like a poem and a commentary about said poem.
Follow? Me neither.
But we have some time to figure this thing out. In the meantime, let’s look at some quick facts about Pale Fire and its famous author, Vladimir Nabokov.
- Published in 1962, Pale Fire is one of the most critiqued and written about novels in the last century.
- The title, “Pale Fire,” comes from a Shakespeare poem called Timon of Athens: “The moon’s an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.”
- Reviews on Pale Fire were initially mixed, with comments ranging from “unreadable” and a “total wreck” to more appreciative of Nabokov’s experimental style.
- In addition to appearing on the Time list, Pale Fire is ranked 53rd on the Modern Library list and is the number-one ranked novel on literary critic Larry McCaffery’s 20th Century’s Greatest Hits list.
- The novel is filled with cultural and literary references—everything from the Boston Red Sox and Sherlock Holmes to James Joyce and Edgar Allen Poe.
- Nabokov, who passed away in 1977, was prolific, having written many novels in English and Russian, as well as dozens of short stories, poetry collections, and plays.
Most of you know my thoughts about Lolita, so I’m hesitant about Pale Fire. This sounds like quite the experimental novel.
Anyone read Pale Fire?