NABOKV-L post 0019423, Tue, 16 Feb 2010 14:52:35 -0500

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Re: Speak, Nabokov
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Body
I have just finished Michael Marr's Speak, Nabokov, and, like Carolyn Kunin (who gets a nice mention in the book, btw), I very much enjoyed it. This was a surprise to me, since the advance billing led me to believe that it would be something of an exercise in second-hand psychoanalysis. There is a little of that, but it is thoughtfully done and always leads us back to a greater understanding of the work. As Carolyn said, it's very even-handed. Best of all, Maar is an excellent close reader of VN's work; he makes a number of valuable connections (across the whole of VN's oevre) that startled and delighted me. I think he handles the "Lolita" theme quite deftly, while showing how it relates in some ways (and not others) to VN's writerly interest in pederasty and homosexuality.

One regret is that he mostly ignores the incest motif, even though it seems to me an integral part of the other sexual themes to which Maar pays so much attention. Maar goes on at some length about the Cinderella motif, but he doesn't seem to know, or thinks it irrelevant, that Cinderella is at root an incest tale. Perhaps Maar was reluctant to delve into the incest motif because it doesn't reflect any elements from VN's own biography (beyond, I suppose, the Uncle Ruka fondling)?

Anyway, all in all an excellent contribution to Nabokov criticism, and very readable at that.

Matt Roth

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