Nige has been rereading Pale Fire, and has inspired me to begin my own once-per-decade revisit to Vladimir Nabokov’s most magnificent novel. Just as Lolita has the finest parenthetical phrase in all literature – (picnic, lightning) – so Pale Fire contains my absolute favourite sentence. If you have not yet read the book, you should look away now, as they say on television…
In itself, the sentence is unremarkable. But in its context, its placement (at the end of the third paragraph of the Foreword), and its startling, joyous, vertiginous effect, it has no peer.
There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings.
You are so right, Frank! Context is all – and it still takes me by surprise every time and makes me gasp then laugh.
(picnic, lightning) reminds me of that casual aside in a Randy Newman song – ‘Anyway she died’. Ugh.