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Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade Hardcover – November 23, 2011
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Gingko Press's edition of Pale Fire is hands-down the most beautiful book of the year. (...) Pale Fire is the product of three years passion, originally conceived by Jean Holabird, an artist who suggested the idea to longtime friend, Gingko's publisher, Mo Cohen. Cohen became the spearhead for the project, seeking out Nabokov expert Bryan Boyd, working with project coordinator Anika Heusermann and even traveling to Montreux to spend a day with Dmitri Nabokov, discussing the project and watching endurance car racing on TV. I make mention of passion because you can feel three years work when you hold this book. Its contents, hidden within a black box that unfolds this way and that much in the way Nabokov's book does, feel substantial; they feel important. When you hold the book, you remember that books can actually just be beautiful things. --Publishers Weekly
...The Gingko Press Pale Fire is a fetishist's dream, an extravagant plaything to be unpacked and fondled with glee. (Nabokov: One should notice and fondle details.) In another, it is a serious statement about how seriously we ought to take Nabokov's longest and most ambitious piece of verse. The new edition also comes with a svelte booklet containing two essays, by the Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd and the distinguished poet R. S. Gwynn, both of which argue passionately for the aesthetic splendor and autonomy of Pale Fire the poem. --The New Yorker
This jewelbox of intellectual, polemical bookmaking is a defiant shot across the bow of those dull-witted critics who, over the decades, have denigrated the poem as a pastiche, a parody even (the truly tin-eared) a prank, because they are unable to (literally) think outside the box and read the poem as an unconventionally presented integral work of art, a meditation on fate, death, and art that in my view is the pre-eminent work of verse in American literature in the past century. This does not mean it doesn't work as well as the central element within the novel, but (to use the Shakespearean metaphor in the title) the poem is the sun, the footnoted text its reflected lunar luminosity. At last it emerges from eclipse. --Slate
From the Inside Flap
Many think Pale Fire Vladimir Nabokov's greatest novel. At its heart beats the 999-line poem, "Pale Fire," penned by the distinguished American poet John Shade. This first-ever facsimile edition of the poem shows it to be not just a fictional device but a masterpiece of American poetry, albeit by an invented persona -- "the greatest of invented poets," according to Nabokov's own accurate evaluation. In the novel Shade's mad neighbor, Charles Kinbote, absconds with the index-card manuscript of the poem, compiling an ostensible line-by-line commentary that largely ignores Shade's text and heeds only his own egotism. Kinbote's commentary, the bulk of the novel, is an insane comic triumph of would-be romantic self-celebration that cannot quite mute its undertones of desperation. But here we rescue "Pale Fire" from the madman's hand to show the magician's sleight of hand, and the enchantment, in Nabokov's most ambitious poem.
Renowned Nabokov authority Brian Boyd brilliantly explains "Pale Fire" on its and Shade's own terms, showing how its texture compares with Shakespeare's sonnets at their best. Poet R.S. Gwynn sets it in the context of American poetry of its time. Artist Jean Holabird, who conceived the project, illustrates key details of the poem's pattern and pathos.
Now readers can see the text for themselves, fresh from Shade's hands, before Kinbote commandeered it so shamelessly.
This attractive box contains two bookletsthe poem "Pale Fire" in a handsome pocket edition and the book of essays by Boyd and Gwynnas well as facsimiles of the index cards that John Shade (like his maker, Nabokov) used for composing his poem, printed exactly as Vladimir Nabokov described them.
Top customer reviews
For those unfamiliar with the book: the poem Pale Fire is written by John Shade. His crazy "friend" Kinbote kidnaps the manuscript and comments profusely on it. In fact, his comments take up the bigger part of the book. Both Shade and Kinbote are products of Vladimir Nabokov's imagination.
This edition is a hard-bound exterior folio with a stack of cards (the draft) and a small book with the final edition of the poem. Very cute!
The publisher seeks to emphasize the beauty and wonder of Nabokov's poem, and does this along with two wonderful interpretive commentaries never before published. However, they completely eliminate the commentary by 'Prof. Kinbote,' writing him off as a crazy lunatic with an obscure and absurd interpretive commentary on the poem. The odd thing about this choice is that 'Kinbote' is not a real person, who is a crazy lunatic. Rather, Kinbote is also a creation of Nabokov himself and the true and full meaning of the poem's underlying amazement is ONLY revealed through the comments of 'Kinbote.' To exclude his commentary from the publication is truly to rob the reader of some of the most intricate and important aspects of the book as Nabokov originally rendered his work. Even more surprising is that one of the commentators in this edition is Brian Boyd, who wrote a biography of Nabokov and of all people, should have been one of the most illuminated people with respect to Nabokov's multi-tiered levels of meaning in virtually everything he wrote. While Boyd's interpretation of the poem is surely interesting and revealing, it fails to serve the reader in helping him/her in the interpretation of what Nabokov is saying in one of his most seminal works.
While the publication is truly beautiful in its conception, it is really something that is only for Nabokov collectors and for others who are not as steeped in Nabokovian literature, as it fails to assist the reader in interpreting all of Nabokov's brilliant conveyances which lie very much in the 'Kinbote Commentary.' Nonetheless, for those who are truly Nabokov collectors, this publication of "Pale Fire" is something that should not be missing from a full collection of Nabokov's work. Therefore, I would recommend that true lovers of Nabokov's literature do invest in purchasing a copy of this publication as it does add to the fullness of the wonder of Nabokovian inspiration.
Any extensive readers of this book will at some time start try figuring out the contents of Shade's index-cards, so this product will be a short-cut of that process ,which might maybe somewhat reduce the fun part of the reading, but helps the understanding of the book a lot.