Lunch I opened to a random page of Pale Fire, to read a few lines over my salad, some crafted sentences, to admire them like ornaments, pictures, little articles of entrancement, and it didn’t work. There’s no lite view of Nabokov’s writing. One glimpse is mind-blinding. He rips the reader from the self, forces Reader to be Other, to rally for Other, twinkling and playing Reader like a wind-up doll, a ticking clock.
Calmly depicting a picture of himself laying it on as a burn, Nabokov writes another writer, a deeply mistaken academic sociopath, proving his points on index cards shuffled for the Reader-as-Examiner over the dead body of a hopefully admired mentor, story within story within story, in service to the importuner, as if any careful listener could reassemble the parts into the same unwarped picture of Truth. All the while Nabokov flexing for no one but himself, impaling the duped, implicated reader:
“He would not have reached the western coast had not a fad spread among his secret supporters, romantic, heroic daredevils, of impersonating the fleeing king. They rigged themselves out to look like him in red sweaters and red caps, and popped up here and there, completely bewildering the revolutionary police. Some of the pranksters were much younger than the King, but this did not matter since his pictures in the huts of mountain folks and in the myopic shops of hamlets, where you could buy worms, ginger bread and zhiletka blades, had not aged since his coronation. A charming cartoon touch was added on the famous occasion when from the terrace of the Kronblik Hotel, whose chairlift takes tourists to the Kron glacier, one merry mime was seen floating up, like a red moth, with a hapless, and capless, policeman riding two seats behind him in dream-slow pursuit. It gives one pleasure to add that before reaching the staging point, the false king managed to escape by climbing down one of the pylons that supported the traction cable (see also notes to lines 149 and 171).”
wait for me, Machine, you got no legs.