For the NYRB, Tim Parks meditates on writing in English through investigating various authors who made switches from native tongues to the more economically viable lingua franca, like Nabokov and Conrad—or who did the exact opposite, like Jhumpa Lahiri—all in effort to answer the question: Why write in English?...more
Posts Tagged: Nabokov
At The New Republic, Laura Marsh examines the interplay—or lack thereof—between Nabokov’s identities as a writer and a lepidopterist. In her investigative and detailed cataloguing of scientific and literary happenings, her only steadfast finding may be this: “There’s a special sense in which all of this activity, however unenlightening, is essentially Nabokovian.”...more
…there is a canonical body of literature in which women’s stories are taken away from them, in which all we get are men’s stories. And that these are sometimes not only books that don’t describe the world from a woman’s point of view, but inculcate denigration and degradation of women as cool things to do.
Even in our prickly individualism, hemmed in by consumer goods, there are moments when we can escape from safe, homogenized lives to experience the tingling pleasures of heat and cold, of icy days and starry nights.
It was like being marched through someone’s private idea of a perfect night, a night where I was the center but one that had curiously little to do with me at all—all of which is to say that in an equation of desire, the object of desire can be integral and incidental at the same time.
Over at ZYZZYVA, Sam Shuler reviews Robert Roper’s new work, Nabokov in America. Roper focuses on Nabokov’s experiences in America, and claims that Nabokov was able to write his best work in America because he was so affected by the country:
Roper’s reflections on Nabokov are carried out with a clarity and a directness often missing from the academicians’ spiraling and excessively involuted forays.
Too many stories about mopey suburbanites. Too many well-off white people. A surfeit of descriptions, a paucity of action. Too much privileging of prose for the sake of prose, too little openness to rougher energies. And those endings?
At the New Yorker, Jonathan Franzen writes about “the New Yorker story” as a genre that emerged in the fifties from the inkwells of Cheever et al., with all its well-educated white male melancholy, and the regional variations from the likes of Welty and Nabokov, all beaming with affluent brilliance....more
For Ploughshares, Clare Beams talks about the strange effect of reading a story in which someone reads a story:
Paintings of people looking at paintings, like this one, can make me fall into a dizzy sort of hole. Gazing at the painting to find, there, painted people gazing at a painting, suddenly I’m not quite sure where I’m actually standing, where the line between me and the painting is.
Nicholas Rys interviews Sean Kilpatrick, author of Sucker June, on the creation of his characters, comparisons of the book to Nabokov’s Lolita, and how film inspires the writer:
I came first to film like a neighing kinsman. Anyone could snicker at my picks in the holiest of fresh fields, our Man Bites Dog cinema.
Even if I didn’t quite grasp the nature of my radical misreading of the novel—Humbert’s a predator, not a competitor—I understood that for the majority of readers it didn’t tend to provoke reactions like mine.
The rapid rise of “trigger warnings” is starting to impact literature curriculums. For instance, Columbia University students lobbied to include warnings on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a core text in Western Literature syllabi. Columbia refused to include warnings, but essentially capitulated by expunging the text from its curriculum entirely....more
How do we reread and is it necessary? Tim Parks demystifies the art of going back to a text for the third, fourth and fifth time....more
At the New York Times, Alice Gregory and Pankaj Mishra discuss the role of moralism in the novel—and conclude that authors should seek to question and provoke rather than preach:
Not only does moral preoccupation corrupt the artfulness of fiction, but fiction is an inefficient and insincere vehicle for moralizing.
At the New Yorker, John Colapinto explores Nabokov’s quintessentially American classic, Lolita, and just how a Russian-born writer could so perfectly capture American culture as an emigre, working specifically with Robert Roper’s new biography on the great writer, Nabokov in America: On the Road to ‘Lolita.’ Of specific and extremely endearing interest: Nabokov’s obsession with the kitsch, and an ad he titled “Adoration of Spoons.”...more
(n.); the process of forgetting;
“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. When we read a book for the first time, the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation.”
–Vladmir Nabokov, from “Good Readers and Good Writers”
This week, Tim Parks takes us on a wonderfully meditative reflection on something we tend, as readers, to take for granted: the physical act of moving one’s eyes across the page, of engaging with words, and—unavoidably—forgetting them....more
Reading is solitary and personal, but you aren’t necessarily alone in it. In some ways, we are all reading together; even if we are also reading alone.