|In the novel, Shade’s mad neighbor, Charles Kinbote, absconds with the poem, compiling an ostensible line-by-line commentary that largely ignores Shade's text and heeds only his own egotism. Kinbote’s commentary, the bulk of the novel, is an insane comic triumph of would-be romantic self-celebration that cannot quite mute its undertones of desperation. But in this new publication we rescue the poem from the madman's hand, and provide even-handed commentary on Nabokov’s most ambitious poem.
Nabokov authority Brian Boyd explains the poem on its and Shade’s own terms, comparing its texture with the best of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Poet R.S. Gwynn sets it in the context of American poetry of its time. Artist Jean Holabird, who conceived the project, illustrates key details of the poem’s pattern and pathos.
Now readers can see the text for themselves, fresh from Shade’s hands, before Kinbote commandeered it so shamelessly.