Notes VII  




a rotting stump (with ears)

I have seen a distant black bear camouflaged in this way, in West Virginia once.


Part I   Notes I
Part II
Notes II
Part III
Notes III
Part IV
   Notes IV
Part V
   Notes V
Part VI
   Notes VI
Part VII
   Notes VII
   Notes VIII
Part IX
   Notes IX
Part X
   Notes X
Part XI
   Notes XI
Part XII
   Notes XII

©, Acknowledgments
The Author




maps...craquelure anglaise

The hairline fractures in old paintings, accelerated and worsened in 18th century English paintings in which bitumen was used improperly. English imperialists of the 19th and 20th centuries were known to create nation-states, in the field, by drawing up maps and declaring them to exist--much to the lasting benefit of those regions.


       298   crystallist

An amateur crystallographer.

       309   But fragrant archivolts of evergreen

For fir-needle archivolts decorating a Russian village, see Vladimir Nabokov's memoir, Speak, Memory, 1966, Chapter One.


       311-314   Long avenue ... roadside cottage to lakeside hotel

There was a long avenue of oaks at Vyra, the Nabokov family's estate in St. Petersburg Province, that led to a motel in Delores, Colorado, and on to the Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva (free alp air).


       342-343   Arabic tangles ... Hebrew thorns

Two beautiful alphabets: Alphabets



Chinese crystals ... bright diagonal.

A Los Angeles graduate student published a traditional poem called "Lantern Festival" under the pen name Zhu Haihong in the Communist party newspaper in March 1991, two months before the second anniversary of the events at Tian An Men Square. A qianzi shi (acrostic poem) masquerading as a qilu, a seven-character-per-line, eight-line verse form that dates back to the Tang Dynasty, the poem (as it appeared in translation in The Los Angeles Times) reads:

   The east wind caresses the face and hastens the peaches and plums.
   A sparrow hawk spreads its wings, unfolding a bright future.
   The moon reflects in the sea, bringing hot tears.
   A traveler ascends a tower, remembering his home.
   I shall not fail to live up to lifelong aspirations to serve my country.
   The people who raised me are more valuable than 10,000 pieces of gold.
   We must do all we can to catch up and reinvigorate China.
   We wait for spring to spread across this sacred land.

When read diagonally in Chinese, the poem says "Li Peng step down, pacify the people's anger."

In the uproar following publication, the poem's author commented: "It was just for fun. If someone was put in prison, I really regret doing it."




liquid shades/Variegated like Antarctic streams

Edgar Allan Poe's character Arthur Gordon Pym describes certain later American phenomena, including Vladimir Nabokov's English prose, with curious precision:

I am at a loss to give a distinct idea of the nature of this liquid, and cannot do so without many words. Although it flowed with rapidity in all declivities where common water would do so, yet never, except when falling in a cascade, had it the customary appearance of limpidity. It was, nevertheless, in point of fact, as perfectly limpid as any limestone water in existence, the difference being only in appearance. At first sight, and especially in cases where little declivity was found, it bore resemblance, as regards consistency, to a thick infusion of gum arabic in common water. But this was only the least remarkable of its extraordinary qualities. It was not colorless, nor was it of any one uniform color--presenting to the eye, as it flowed, every possible shade of purple, like the hues of a changeable silk. This variation in shade was produced in a manner which produced as profound astonishment in the minds of our party as the mirror had done in the case of Too-wit. Upon collecting a basinful, and allowing it to settle thoroughly, we perceived that the whole mass of liquid was made up of a number of distinct veins, each of a distinct hue; that these veins did not commingle; and that their cohesion was perfect in regard to their own particles among themselves, and imperfect in regard to neighboring veins. Upon passing the blade of a knife athwart the veins, the water closed over it immediately, as with us, and also, in withdrawing it, all traces of the passage of the knife were instantly obliterated. If, however, the blade was passed down accurately between the two veins, a perfect separation was effected, which the power of cohesion did not immediately rectify. The phenomena of this water formed the first definite link in that vast chain of apparent miracles with which I was destined to be at length encircled.



       359   Filed pearl

Mother of peril. Pearlescent pigments, iridescent figments, a phosphorescent glossary.


       370   girl I read about

See lines 289-500 in Canto II of Pale Fire, a poem of 999 lines in heroic couplets by the American poet John Shade. The poem may be found in its entirety (along with an index, a commentary with useful notes, and a foreword) in Vladimir Nabokov's interesting novel Pale Fire (1962).


       385   Platen Lake

Platen: a metal plate in a printing press that serves to position the paper and hold it against the inked type; the platen is usually large and of dark iron in old "platen presses" like the self-inking treadle platen press, designed in 1839 by American innovator Stephen Ruggles.


       402   grimpen

See the poem Pale Fire, line 368. Hazel Shade is reading one of the British poet T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets ("East Coker"), in which Eliot uses the word grimpen. His source is Arthur Conan Doyle. In Chapter Seven of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Mr. Stapleton of Merripit House, a naturalist carrying a butterfly net and specimen box, addresses Dr. Watson with a laugh: "'That is the great Grimpen Mire,' said he. 'A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came out. I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole, but it sucked him down at last. Even in dry seasons it is a danger to cross it, but after these autumn rains it is an awful place. And yet I can find my way to the very heart of it and return alive.'"

Stapleton turns out to be the villain of the story. As Watson reports in Chapter 12, "All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive, colourless man, with his straw hat and his butterfly net, I seemed to see something terrible--a creature of infinite patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart."


       405   (ALL POWER TO...)

See "The Twelve," a poem of black night and white snow written in January, 1918, by Alexander Alexandrovich Blok, 1880-1921.


       412   a film

For an explanation and elaboration of the Russian term poshlust, see Vladimir Nabokov's Nikolai Gogol, chapter 3, "Our Mister Chichikov."


       457   halfsilvered

A mirror so engineered as to reflect approximately half of the particular photons that encounter it, while waving the other half through. Mentioned with relative frequency in the literature of 20th century physics.


       459   her life

See note to line 370.   


       460   my wife

I happened to read the novel Pale Fire for the first time in late March of 1990, beginning it in New York city, continuing it on a jet over the Caribbean, and finishing it on a Jamaica beach. Back in New York, I reread it over the next month: it was the last novel I read before meeting Sophie Forrester, in May of that year.




     Notes VI       Notes VIII