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Thread: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    What's with all the (for lack of a better word) nationalistic stuff? I mean even down to Chinese checkers. Is this a typical Nabokov thing? Or is it the narrator and Pnin's need to obsess over such academic details?

    I've only read Lolita.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Yes, now that you mention it, there is a lot of that going on. Well, Pnin is hardly a model of assimilation so I think it makes sense for him to notice the national origin of anything he encounters. It also lines up with his rather dry, academic researcher's way of thinking.

    So, chapter 4, everyone?

    I see that I'm not imagining things with the water themes. It was raining throughout the night when the Water Father welcomed young Victor to town. There were some amusing passages: Pnin lecturing Victor in the diner rather than engaging him in conversation (a common pattern), his hasty removal of the soccer ball after discovering Victor doesn't care for soccer. Someone had earlier suggested Asberger's. He seriously doesn't seem to know how to connect to or relate to other people. He talks at them, not with them. I've given up on plot at this point and I'm settling in for a gentle, elegant portrait of a sad but resilient man.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I haven't gotten to chapter 4 yet. I just finished reading 3 and was going to read 4 in the morning. But I need to go back to the end of 2 for a moment . . .

    "the world of the mind is based on a compromise of logic"

    Fantabulous.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Spoilers below if you haven't read chapter 5 yet. (or 1, 2, 3 or 4). Okay, I'm actually starting to enjoy this novel now. It's hardly going to be one of my most memorable reads, but I'm definitely warming to it. Perhaps much like some people, eventually, start to warm to Pnin himself. Chapter 5 was by far my favorite thus far. Some random thoughts:


    • I loved how Pnin seemed to light up in the company of his countrymen. I think being at Cook's Castle, a somewhat remote location, probably made the temporary illusion of being back in Europe even easier for him to imagine.

    • The water theme continues with Pnin swimming in the stream while his friend watched from the boulder. I loved how [almost] elegant his motions in water were. On land he always seems to be bumbling and losing his footing. But in the water he seemed more at ease:
      Slowly swinging his tanned shoulders, Pnin waded forth, the loopy shadows of leavesshivering and slipping down his broad back. He stopped and, breaking the glitter and shade around him,moistened his inclined head, rubbed his nape with wet hands, soused in turn each armpit, and then,joining both palms, glided into the water, his dignified breast-stroke sending off ripples on either side.
    • After his arrival at Cook's Castle, the rest of the chapter almost reads like a long poem; especially the last couple of pages of the chapter which follow a repeat incident (stroke, aneurysm, panic attack..?) as he hallucinates (or simply recalls in reverie?) his father playing chess and his first love, Mira and her untimely death at the hands of the Nazis. I was not expecting such a startling emotional chapter after the dryness of chapters 1-4. But perhaps that dryness was necessary. If every chapter had been this richly drawn, we'd be drowning in Nabokov's luxurious language. Instead, the effect is far more profound when preceded by such relatively quiet and uneventful chapters. I was especially struck by these two passages:



    if one were quite sincere with oneself, noconscience, and hence no consciousness, could be expected to subsist in a world where such things asMira's death were possible. One had to forget--because one could not live with the thought that thisgraceful, fragile, tender young woman with those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in thebackground, had been brought in a cattle car to an extermination camp and killed by an injection of phenol into the heart, into the gentle heart one had heard beating under one's lips in the dusk of the past.And since the exact form of her death had not been recorded, Mira kept dying a great number of deathsin one's mind, and undergoing a great number of resurrections, only to die again and again, led away bya trained nurse, inoculated with filth, tetanus bacilli, broken glass, gassed in a sham shower-bath withprussic acid, burned alive in a pit on a gasoline-soaked pile of beechwood.
    ^ How crushing!


    And the closing passage was just gorgeous:

    That strange spasm was over, one could breathe again. On the distant crest of the knoll, at the exactspot where Gramineev's easel had stood a few hours before, two dark figures in profile were silhouettedagainst the ember-red sky. They stood there closely, facing each other. One could not make out from theroad whether it was the Poroshin girl and her beau, or Nina Bolotov and young Poroshin, or merely anemblematic couple placed with easy art on the last page of Pnin's fading day.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I have finished the book. There may be spoilers in what I write here, for those who have not reached the final chapters, which are pretty great.

    I don't think Nabokov has a problem of verbosity. It seemed to me that everything went towards building Pnin and the circumstances of his past, as well as those he made for himself as the novel went along - if not entirely that, then also building the narrator, who became very prominent at the end. Algunz said it well. I would actually say that this novel is pretty concise. I think in parts where I might have been a little bored, it wasn't because the language was superfluous, but because I was less interested in the academic circumstances of Pnin's life (where there were many references to things I was unfamiliar with, which slowed me down) and more interested in his romantic and language problems (because I felt I could understand that more easily).

    The thing that interested me the most was how Pnin spoke English, because its awkwardness reflected his own awkwardness. I saw it as though Pnin were equal to his language - something that is roughly translated. At the end, I got the impression that the narrator got all of these stories - practically, the entire book - from Jack Cockerell's Pnin impersonations, which also mirrors a kind of language acquisition (or more accurately, a language learning), I think, so that in the end, Pnin, the book, is a rough translation of Pnin, the man. I don't get the impression at all that the narrator ever heard these stories straight from Pnin, especially because of how the book ends, circling back to the Cremona Woman's Club. So, for me, Pnin is the non-native translation of a character. (EDIT: I want to add this - Jack Cockerell learned Pnin like Pnin learned English. Good enough to communicate, but imperfect - the narrator criticizes Cockerell's impersonation, saying at one point that he doesn't believe that Pnin would have mistaken "shot" for "fired.")

    I enjoyed this book, for the most part. I liked it more than An Invitation to a Beheading, which also had some great elements, but wasn't as neatly shaped as Pnin - in my opinion. I still need to read Lolita, as well as this big book of short stories I have from Nabokov. But anyway, this book is definitely one that doesn't reveal itself out of one reading. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what is being said, and that if I returned to it with a better understanding of some of its artistic references, I could catch more of what is going on. I like that in a book - the whole "challenging the reader" thing... I should probably add Anna Karenina to my reading list...
    Last edited by Alchemy; 02-14-2012 at 06:32 PM.
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I actually finished the book two days ago, but couldn't figure out what on earth to say about the experience. Here's a random collection of my unsolicited thoughts on the book and some possible themes I think may have emerged when I re-read certain passages. I'd be curious to know if anyone else made similar connections or if you think I'm connecting dots which don't exist. It's quite possible; I did go to a public university.


    The banal, minutia of life:
    I have to admit, until the late chapters, I was not sold on this book. Sure, Pnin was a very sympathetic character and there were some funny, some sad, some dull every day observances of his day to day existence. But, after the stirringly emotional and lyrically beautiful summer's weekend at Cook's Castle in Chapter 5, his house warming party in Chapter 6 and the startling revelations of chapter 7, something clicked for me. Could we have felt such empathy for Pnin had all of the prior chapters had such drama and sweep as chapter 5? Possibly, but by getting us so deeply involved in the seemingly minor details of Pnin's live at the college, we grew to know the man in such intimate detail -- as only a friend or colleague truly could. Also, if all of those seemingly minor descriptions of his daily life had been chest-slamming operatic drama-rama fests, the impact of the painful memories from chapter 5 and his dejection and humiliation in chapters 6 and 7 would not sting us as they did. Is Nabokov saying something about life here? About how you know the true essence of another person? Is it true the seemingly banal minutia of his everyday life? I don't know, but it worked for me.


    The real Pnin and Nabokov the narrator:
    From what I can gather it sounds quite likely that Pnin the character was actually based upon a colleague of Nabokov's at Cornell. A colleague who, unlike Nabokov, did not master the English language with such aplomb, never truly assimilated in the US and generally did not meet great success in his teaching career. In fact, this colleague of his was reportedly very upset about the numerous parallels between his life and Pnin's. But since Pnin was published in installments in The New Yorker before being published as a novel, I wonder if he'd formed that opinion after only reading the first couple of chapters. If he did that, i could understand being upset. Here you were being depicted as physically awkward, disconnected, bumbling fool. But if he had read through to chapters 5-7, I think he would have formed a different opinion. Once we know who the narrator is and see that he clearly has a deep affection for Pnin, the prior chapters take on a whole different tone to my ears. We know that our narrator has learned the details of Pnin's life at the college directly from Jack Cockerell's vulgar impersonations, but I think we can infer that our narrator has softened or gently corrected some or all of Cockrell's accounts. For example, at one point, Cockrell says that when Pnin found out he was losing his job he told everyone he had been "shot". But our narrator says he doubts that the Pnin he knew would have made that mistake (saying "shot" in place of "fired"). This feels like a clue. Like the narrator is saying, yes, I took in everything that Cockrell (and others at the university?) told me about Pnin, but I balanced their accounts with the first-hand glimpses I had into his life back in Europe. Cockrell's account, in the narrator's mind, was an exaggeration.

    But then there's the issue of the solitary moments in the novel which no one could know about. Surely Pnin would not have told anyone about these strange physical spells he was experiencing or about those painful memories of his first love? So, what to make of them? Well, early in the novel, the narrator refers to himself as Pnin's physician. Curious, because, I don't recall any other reference to him being physician; especially not Pnin's personal physician either back in Europe or in the US. In fact, he had come to the university to head up a new Russian Literature program. So, perhaps we are to infer that as Pnin's self-appointed "physician", these physical spells were an invention of the narrator. Simply a device for him to be able to trigger these distant memories of Pnin's youth in Russia and France. He knew about the younger Pnin's life in Europe from his encounters with both Pnin and Liza, Pnin's wife. It seems that back in Europe he recognized Pnin as a sincere, pure-hearted, loving man. A bit awkward? Sure, but essentially a good man.

    There's also the case of the narrator "recalling" that Pnin earned straight A's in math, had a lead role in a play when he was a young man and was proudly shown off by his father. But Pnin contradicts these memories and says he never did well in math, he had in fact only played a minor role in that play and that his father never proudly introduced him to strangers. Was this the narrator (or Nabokov on the narrator's behalf?) acknowledging that memories/remembrance can go both ways? Like with Cockrell they can cruelly distort the truth and paint the subject of the remembrance in a negative light. Or, if we have just a glimmer of someone's true character (as the narrator did with the love letter written to Liza) perhaps that true memory then influences our remembrances of other minor details. And suddenly, we have remembered a Pnin who didn't really exist. A straight A math student, lead actor in the play, a boy proudly shown off by his father. And is the narrator acknowledging these issues with memory but saying he's going to embellish the past a bit because those slight embellishments will give you a truer portrait of what the real Pnin was like? An act or kindness or pity? From the narrator to Pnin and from Nabokov to his former colleague?



    Literary references and Pnin the puppet?
    I haven't read Anna Karenina, so I can't comment on what that book's introduction in several discussions in Chapter 5 might be about. Perhaps nothing at all beyond a reference to a prized Russian book; a shared reference amongst Russian emigres. But, later in the novel there are references to both Homer and Gogol, whose work I am somewhat familiar with. In The Odyssey, Odysseus, of course spends years at Sea trying to get back home. Yet another water reference in connection with Pnin, the "sea father" trying to get back home. Gogol's work was connected to the tradition of Russian and Ukrainian puppetry and folk theatre. In fact, some of the characters in his works were considered to be puppet-like creations for Gogol to pull the strings of. Think of the physical descriptions of Pnin. The large brown bald head, the wide, strong torso, tapering off into the embarrassingly thin legs and small feminine feet. Sounds almost like a puppet, right? Is this actually Nabokov's hint to us that really it's him pulling the strings all along? I mean, of course we know that Nabokov has written this book, but perhaps what he's saying is is that the narrator is his stand-in. His puppet. And Pnin is the stand-in/puppet for his colleague from Cornell.

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    old school RageAgainstTheAoki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    tl;dr, I know.

    Sorry, I know that was a bit self-indulgent. But I think I had to write it all out to process it. Let me know if you think I'm completely off here.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by RageAgainstTheAoki View Post
    Could we have felt such empathy for Pnin had all of the prior chapters had such drama and sweep as chapter 5? Possibly, but by getting us so deeply involved in the seemingly minor details of Pnin's live at the college, we grew to know the man in such intimate detail -- as only a friend or colleague truly could.... Is Nabokov saying something about life here? About how you know the true essence of another person? Is it true the seemingly banal minutia of his everyday life? I don't know, but it worked for me.
    I think you bring up an interesting question: Could those later chapters (maybe 5 and 6) work as a stand-alone short story (or novella, however long it adds up)?

    I think we get a lot of Pnin's character in those two chapters, alone. The way Pnin gets lost on the road somewhat mirrors his incident with the train, minus some further details on his little neuroses. I think they might be a successful story, actually, which then brings up the question: What are the other chapters doing? I think you're right about the depiction of a person's "true essence," which probably has a lot to do with the "seemingly banal minutia." I also think the chapters work a lot in regards to language, which is constantly being brought up - Chapter 1 introduces us to Pnin's English; Chapter 2 seemed to go into the Russian language, and Chapter 3 touched on the Russian language's pronunciation, syntax, and morphemes; and Chapter 4 was one of the strangest chapters, because it was so much about Liza and Victor, but whenever we are close to Pnin, we see him deep in language (he speaks to Victor in Russian, French, and English, seeming to test his language as soon as he sees him).

    Then we come to these favorite chapters, at which point many ideas of language have been established, and perhaps we now focus on a message about Pnin's life - or a language's life. It seems to me, that although I think chapter 5 and 6 are successful on their own, they lack something that I believe is a central focus in the novel - language... Well, they don't lack ideas of language, but the intricacies of Pnin's language (it's life). We get to see it dying (more-so in chapter 6, I think; chapter 5, although beautiful, mystified me a little - what was it trying to say?). Chapter 6 seems to ask about the necessity of Pnin's language. Can they find a place for it in the university? Does anybody want it at the university? You have Hagen, in a way, trying to preserve Pnin; and then you have Blorenge, who sees this dead language. I think Nabokov is saying something about life, but also the life of a language.

    Quote Originally Posted by RageAgainstTheAoki View Post
    Well, early in the novel, the narrator refers to himself as Pnin's physician. Curious, because, I don't recall any other reference to him being physician; especially not Pnin's personal physician either back in Europe or in the US.
    This is a thing that I keep wondering about, but don't know if there is any clear answer. How well does the narrator actually know Pnin? Because I didn't see any signs about him being Pnin's physician (other than his referring to himself as the physician), since whenever he saw Pnin, it almost seemed to be unexpected, and Pnin would pretty much act like the narrator was a stranger. I mentioned above that I had a feeling that this physician got his stories from Cockerell's exaggerated impressions. He just seems to be the very definition of an unreliable narrator, which seems to explain some of the contradictions at the end. I think the decision to have an unreliable narrator also ties back with Pnin's language though, because Pnin's English is filtered through layers that change its meaning - or obscures its meaning - much like Pnin would be changed and obscured by an unreliable narrator.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I have 2 chapters left, but I had to say that I felt Chaper 5 was the most heart-wrenching. Pnin doesn't allow himself to love and the story of his love for Mira was so sad. Great observation on Pnin's swimming Rage, water theme continues. I was surprised that Pnin was so great at something (croquet!), I felt like this was the first time he allowed himself to be carefree and happy. Even when he was with his "son", he seemed proud and somewhat happy while trying to set a good example, but in an intellectual way, not letting it flow naturally.
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Sorry guys. I'm just posting in here to say that I haven't finished yet so I am avoiding the discussion until I do. Hope to finish it up by the weekend.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by Alchemy View Post
    I think you bring up an interesting question: Could those later chapters (maybe 5 and 6) work as a stand-alone short story (or novella, however long it adds up)?

    I think we get a lot of Pnin's character in those two chapters, alone. The way Pnin gets lost on the road somewhat mirrors his incident with the train, minus some further details on his little neuroses. I think they might be a successful story, actually, which then brings up the question: What are the other chapters doing? I think you're right about the depiction of a person's "true essence," which probably has a lot to do with the "seemingly banal minutia." I also think the chapters work a lot in regards to language, which is constantly being brought up - Chapter 1 introduces us to Pnin's English; Chapter 2 seemed to go into the Russian language, and Chapter 3 touched on the Russian language's pronunciation, syntax, and morphemes; and Chapter 4 was one of the strangest chapters, because it was so much about Liza and Victor, but whenever we are close to Pnin, we see him deep in language (he speaks to Victor in Russian, French, and English, seeming to test his language as soon as he sees him).

    Then we come to these favorite chapters, at which point many ideas of language have been established, and perhaps we now focus on a message about Pnin's life - or a language's life. It seems to me, that although I think chapter 5 and 6 are successful on their own, they lack something that I believe is a central focus in the novel - language... Well, they don't lack ideas of language, but the intricacies of Pnin's language (it's life). We get to see it dying (more-so in chapter 6, I think; chapter 5, although beautiful, mystified me a little - what was it trying to say?). Chapter 6 seems to ask about the necessity of Pnin's language. Can they find a place for it in the university? Does anybody want it at the university? You have Hagen, in a way, trying to preserve Pnin; and then you have Blorenge, who sees this dead language. I think Nabokov is saying something about life, but also the life of a language.

    You know, I think Chapter 5 could easily be its own self-contained short story, but yeah, I don't think it would have the impact it does without the preceding chapters. Really interesting points about language. I hadn't thought about that. As for what our narrator(s) are saying in chapter 5? Well, I may be grasping at straws here, but I think it actually has a connection to your language discussion. Doesn't Pnin seem more self-assured, accomplished, relaxed and understood in chapter 5? Whether or not Pnin was speaking in English, Russian, French or a combination of all three in Chapter 5 could be open for interpretation, but even if it was just in English, he was among other Russian emigres; some of them dear friends. Not only was his way of speaking understood, but his European cultural references and his views on contemporary American culture were also understood and often appreciated. He even excelled in physical activity - swimming and croquet. Sure, we have the unreliable narrator who may be sweetening things up a bit, but I think perhaps the purpose of the chapter -- if a chapter of a novel must have a sole purpose -- was to show Pnin in his natural habitat. Or at least as close as he could get to it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Alchemy View Post
    This is a thing that I keep wondering about, but don't know if there is any clear answer. How well does the narrator actually know Pnin? Because I didn't see any signs about him being Pnin's physician (other than his referring to himself as the physician), since whenever he saw Pnin, it almost seemed to be unexpected, and Pnin would pretty much act like the narrator was a stranger. I mentioned above that I had a feeling that this physician got his stories from Cockerell's exaggerated impressions. He just seems to be the very definition of an unreliable narrator, which seems to explain some of the contradictions at the end. I think the decision to have an unreliable narrator also ties back with Pnin's language though, because Pnin's English is filtered through layers that change its meaning - or obscures its meaning - much like Pnin would be changed and obscured by an unreliable narrator.
    Great point on the language here as well. It's amazing how many layers there are to this little novel. I can't believe that Nabokov could write like this in what was his third language. The word genius gets bandied about far too much, but this kind of talent seems to fit the bill. This was a book that, about half way through, I thought was nothing more than a pleasant mid-Century campus novel.


    I really enjoyed this process of reading a novel and discussing it with others as we progressed. Made me realize how much I miss my old English Lit classes. It almost makes me want to apply to a Masters program in English Lit, but that would be ridiculous. I'm a terrible writer and I have no interest in teaching or academia. Just going to have to stick with book clubs! Looks like this might be our first and last one, though. Shame.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Ah! Excellent point on chapter 5. I forgot that he was with other Russian emigres.

    I enjoyed doing this, too. I'm also a bit homesick about my literature classes. The ones I took during my masters program didn't even have assignments, or tests, or things like that (except for a rare essay or some easy creative responses), so they were pretty much just book clubs. It's really fun to be in a room full of fledgling writers, moderated by an accomplished writer, talking about books and short stories without worrying about grades... But yeah, I don't know if this is a successful run for the Coachella board. I think, in the future, might we all want to try again, we should probably do a short story (or a couple short stories, to compare and contrast).
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I went past your spoilers really quick so as not to ruin anything, but I'm getting bored. Is there a point to the mundanity and detail? It's like American Psycho, but at least he's was murdering chicks in between.

    I'm on vacation so I should be done in a couple of days.

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    There is a point to it, but it seems to be more meditative and vague - as opposed to action or adventure. Pnin does not murder chicks, but a turn does happen near the end.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Alchemy, let's just be straight with Gunz. There is a dead woman in Pnin's past.


    I enjoyed doing this, too. I'm also a bit homesick about my literature classes. The ones I took during my masters program didn't even have assignments, or tests, or things like that (except for a rare essay or some easy creative responses), so they were pretty much just book clubs. It's really fun to be in a room full of fledgling writers, moderated by an accomplished writer, talking about books and short stories without worrying about grades... But yeah, I don't know if this is a successful run for the Coachella board. I think, in the future, might we all want to try again, we should probably do a short story (or a couple short stories, to compare and contrast)
    Your masters program sounds like a dream, Alchemy. Except for the whole turning in a thesis thing. If only there was a program in which one could read great literature, have fascinating in-depth conversations about the literature and then not have to produce any of one's own work. I don't have much hope for a future book club on this board if everyone's struggling to complete a novel that's under 200 pages. I'm going to have to find another book club. But, I'm still happy for this experience as I doubt I would have sought out another book club without this prompting. So,thanks for organizing, SD! If anyone has recommendations for book club groups (online or off), let us know.
    Last edited by RageAgainstTheAoki; 02-18-2012 at 06:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I finished the book last night and very much enjoyed reading rage against's and alchemy's discussion of the novel. Don't call this a failure since at least you two came up with great ideas here.This novel was short but it was so dense that I think it was difficult to get through. I particularly liked the part where Pnin mixed up Professors Wynn and Thomas -- perhaps that was another clue to the theme of the unreliable narrator getting Pnin's character wrong by relying on Cockerell's impression of Pnin, as in the theme of mistaken identity.

    I would very much like to read a short story and discuss it if you two are on board. :-) This experience has inspired me to read Lolita again to see how much I missed thematically when I read it the first time.
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by amyzzz View Post
    I finished the book last night and very much enjoyed reading rage against's and alchemy's discussion of the novel. Don't call this a failure since at least you two came up with great ideas here.This novel was short but it was so dense that I think it was difficult to get through. I particularly liked the part where Pnin mixed up Professors Wynn and Thomas -- perhaps that was another clue to the theme of the unreliable narrator getting Pnin's character wrong by relying on Cockerell's impression of Pnin, as in the theme of mistaken identity.

    I would very much like to read a short story and discuss it if you two are on board. :-) This experience has inspired me to read Lolita again to see how much I missed thematically when I read it the first time.

    I don't know about "great ideas" on my part. Looking for a pattern and then crying out "symbolism!" is freshman grade stuff, to be sure. That being said, when re-reading certain passages, I did come across Joan at the party arguing with another party guest about a certain novelist's intentions:
    But don't you think -- haw -- that what he is trying to do -- haw -- practically in all his novels -- is -- haw -- to express the fantastic recurrence of certain situations?
    "Haw" is an odd one. Not "um" or "uh", but "haw". The first definition of "haw" makes sense, but something tells me that the fourth definition was also on Nabokov's mind when he wrote that little passage. As though he were saying to us, yes, reader, there are patterns thoughout and, yes, they have meaning. Again, I could be overreaching here.

    haw 1 (hô)
    An utterance used by a speaker who is fumbling for words.
    intr.v. hawed, haw·ing, haws
    To fumble in speaking.

    haw 4 (hô)
    interj.
    Used to command an animal pulling a load to turn to the left.
    intr.v. hawed, haw·ing, haws
    To turn to the left.

    Anyway, I just enjoyed the process. Nice catch on Wynn and Thomas. There was so much going on there as we were hurtling toward the conclusion that I completely forgot about that mix-up. I think you're right; it definitely plays into the unreliable narrator. And, sure, I'd be up for some short stories.

  18. #48
    Coachella Junkie algunz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Bump

    I'm almost done reading and will be back to comment on your commentaries. This has proven to be a bit more interesting than I first anticipated, but I certainly can not claim this to be even close to one of my "favorite" books.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Chapter 7 felt like it wasn't even the same narrator from previous chapters. For most of the book, i thought the narrator had intimate/close knowledge of all the happenings, but in the end, if indeed it was the same narrator, the last chapter unraveled the (non)relationship he had with Pnin.

    While i came to enjoy some of Pnin's quirks, I ultimately feel that he'll never be happy and does it to himself. At his age, i guess people are set in their ways, but whatever ghosts of his past/obstacles he's faced (dead love, first wife was a bitch, unexpected "son") he never manned up. I can't sympathize with people like that. Even the narrator that considered himself a friend to Pnin, albeit a sliver of a connection thru a few chance meetings over a lifetime, he was a total dick to.

    Overall, i enjoyed the experience of the "book club" as I wouldn't have read this book otherwise. I'll join in on future readings if we continue but it does seem hard to coordinate over the interwebz.
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Yes, but was that the real Pnin? We'll never know. Spoiler for anyone who hasn't read Pale Fire....



    Pnin is a minor character in that novel. I've yet to read it myself, but stumbled upon this fact last week. I think that will be my next Nabokov.

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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    OH DAMN. I may have to read that.
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I know some cats who read Pale Fire at my graduate program, and none of them seemed to like it. I remember it was in a literary seminar called "Non-Linearity."
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by RageAgainstTheAoki View Post
    Yes, but was that the real Pnin? We'll never know.
    Exactly. it wasn't the real Pnin (at least in my opinion), it was the narrator's perception of Pnin and the disconnect from "his friend" to someone that wouldn't take his phone call and rejected the idea of working with him leads me to conclude that the real Pnin is a dick. At least my perception of the real Pnin. lol. i guess that's what's great about this novel, as with any great work of art, everyone gets something different from it.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
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