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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 40 / 69

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Cohen 37

reading trivializes death by protesting that he, like Naboltov, took care to reveal the

solution only after the reader has engaged deeply with the characters and the world

they occupy (257-58). In Nabokov, this means repeated re-readings; in Boyd,

simulating the experience of re-reading by dividing his book into the three sections of

the Hegelian spiral, each revealing deeper understandings of the text.

Boyd certainly does not act inappropriately in applying the language and

assumptions of the mystery novel to Pale Fire, as we have seen. But detective work

is more problematic in the novel than Boyd makes it out to be. "Whose spurred feet

have crossed

/

From left to right the blank page of the road?"

(33,ll. 20-21),

Shade

asks the morning after a snowfall, "Reading from left to right in winter's code: A

/

dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat: /Dot, arrow pointing back . . . A pheasant's

feet!" (11. 22-24). The "code" is partly whimsical, suggesting an urgent, clandestine

radio transmission ("repeat:") mulled over anxiously by the recipient ("Dot, arrow

pointing back . . .

")

and decoded ("A pheasant's feet!"). In another sense, though,

the code is indecipherable: "Reading from left to right" to track the pheasant is

impossible, for the would-be naturalist is incessantly directed to the "dot" upon

reaching the "arrow pointing back." "Repeat" can thus be seen as the real content of

the code, with the ellipses suggesting an infinite reiteration of the

action.12

Even when a small "mystery"is solved concretely, the solution is

disappointing. Spying on Shade late in the evening, Kinbote observes that

12

Shade then wonders,

"Was

he in Sherlock

Holrnes,

the fellow whose Tracks pointed back when he

I

reversed his shoes?" (34, 11. 27-28). Kinbote strengthens the tenuous connection between the detective and bird motifs in glossing Holmes as "a hawk-nosed, lanky, rather likable private detective" (78).

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