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Cohen 25

problem for the skeptical reader, who in investigating Holmes' death must assume the

same role of detective that the story has called into question as inherently

self-

validating: after Holmes witnesses a small alpine avalanche, "It was in vain that our

guide assured him that a fall of stones was a common chance in the spring-time at that

spot. He said nothing, but he smiled at me with the air of a man who sees the

fulfillment of that which he had expected" (501).

This paradoxical situation of being invited to investigate a text that has itself

questioned the act of detection is precisely the condition of reading The

Wolf-Man

and Pale Fire: Freud promises a coherent answer to the "riddles" (163) of the case

and urges the reader to experience "the convincing power"

(18811)

of the analysis, but

qualifies this explanatory confidence in two interpolated passages, shrouding his

solution in ambiguity and indeterminacy; Nabokov writes through Charles Kinbote, a

narrator so patently unreliable that his own life story is a blatant invention, but

renders inadvisable and impossible (as we shall see) any attempt to construct an

authoritative account of his identity and relationship to Shade. Since all texts assume

the existence of just such a reader who will decode "the meaning of a cipher left by a

life," Peter Brooks says, "narrative thus seems ever to imagine in advance the act of

its transmission, the moment of reading and understanding that it cannot itself know,

since this act always comes after the writing, in a posthumous moment" (34). The

Wolf-Man and Pale Fire are not only texts that involve reading and acknowledge the

quandaries of reading, but are texts that are hyperconscious of the "posthumous

moment" of being read. We will need to look more closely at what this doubled self-

awareness means for each.

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