Monthly Archives: June 2010

On inexactitude in mapping

we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of this world.
-Octavio Paz, “January First”
Trans. Elizabeth Bishop
A novel examines not reality but existence.  And existence is not what has occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man can become, everything he’s capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility.
-Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel
Peter Turchi’s Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer begins with the two above quotes, framing the metaphor of writing as cartography.  What follows in the opening chapter of the book is an extension of discussing writing in terms of exploration and guidance, mapping the fictional territories of the imagination.  While Turchi’s discussion is interesting–and written in a very accessible manner–it is also reliant on a central concern of pre-modern aesthetics, assuming that mapping is an exercise in imposing order on the world: textual, visual, temporal.  While this is sensical, my interests in mapping Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire lay outside of the imposition of a different order on a text.

Exploring Pale Fire's paratext with Google Earth

Well, after a bit of prodding from myself and the excitement of sharing this project with the world (and maybe a few with genuine interest!), I’ve plodded my way through the last 20 hours of hand coding to produce…

Pale Tour

Pale Tour: a remediation of many of the narratives found in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire “Commentary” section.

Upon reading this pseudo-hypertext for the second time, I found Kinbote’s commentary to contain many temporal cross-references between his personal narrative and those of Charles Xavier (whom I do assume to be Kinbote), John Shade, and the regicidal assassin Gradus/Jacques D’Gray.  These “time-stamps” looked to be a useful way of charting the many narrative pathways of Pale Fire and, with a bit of closer reading, many spatial cross-references and overlaps can also be found.

Clicking on the above link will send you to my UW-Milwaukee web space, specifically to the home page of Pale Tour.  You can navigate to Charles’s and Kinbote’s narrative tours from that link; Gradus’s tour should be coming shortly.  More information is available on the Pale Tour homepage, such as source files and my method of hand coding.  I encourage all to use my files under the defined Creative Commons license–and be sure to tell me what you’re working on!

I’ve got a few future wrinkles I’d like to add, such as polygon paths to show a more permanent visual record of the narrative trajectories, as well as potentially time-coding the narrative arcs in a single tour that does a better job of visualizing the relationship between narratives.  Until then, enjoy!