Nabokovilia: Arthur Phillips' The Tragedy of Arthur

Critics have already noted the structural similarities between Arthur Phillips' The Tragedy of Arthur and Pale Fire -- novel masquerading as introduction and commentary to a purportedly real work -- but there are some explicit nods at Nabokov in the novel. (Also some wonderful, less explicit, shadowy nods: chess games, magic lanterns, anagrams.) Here are two. My favorite follows first:

A year later, I am writhing to escape this web spun by two dead men, and literary executorship has become the most self-eradicating punishment Dante could have devised for an egotistical author. There was another writer born on my and Will's birthday, a hero of mine, whose son also signed his life over to promoting and protecting his father's works. I think of them both as these two other laughing corpses fling their bolas around my ankles. (187)


I wrote to my father, still, from Prague, wrote for him, still. The definition of insanity, the twelve-steppers have patiently taught me, one day at a time, is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I wrote for him, still. I have now written four novels, and I devised the idea of an anagram for him to decipher over years. The first letters of my titles of my novels are S, P, E, and A. I planned to write, with all my remaining years, books initialed S, H, A, K, E, R, and E, and then, maybe, A, N, D, M, E.

Shakespeare's lines are a nursery of titles for other, better writers: Pale Fire, Exit Ghost, Infinite Jest, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Sound and the Fury, Unnatural Acts, The Quick and the Dead, Against the Polack, To Be or Not to Be, Band of Brothers, Casual Slaughters. At the very least, I have never named one of my books after his stuff. (120)