NABOKV-L post 0012074, Thu, 17 Nov 2005 16:43:05 -0800

Subject
Fwd: Sullivan replies
Date
Body
Dear Nabokovians,

You linked my recent piece in the Washington Times only to find
it “singularly, ill-informed." That grated, I must admit. After sifting
through a thousand pages of assorted material, I’m told I’ve learned
nothing. And then, to take all the things I’d learned nothing about and,
under tight time and space constraints, put it in clear English for a mass
readership… What a futile pursuit when it’s all so blithely dismissed!
But then I realized scrawling down that, because it came from The
Washington Times, it was already branded from birth. This strikes as a
curious form of resentment since the essay had nothing to do with
politics - either Nabokov’s, or my own. You should know that arts critics,
for good reason, generally steer clear of their paper’s editorial slant.
What’s more, since all major dailies are now owned by conglomerates, most
literary reviews - surrendering to hype - are puffed up tie-ins to the
blockbuster fiction of the day. Why then would anyone dare to write a 50th
anniversary Lolita tie-in that is not really about Lolita? Well, because I
felt - perhaps naively - that Nabakov deserved to be better known for his
whole body of work. Academically groundbreaking? Absolutely not.
Informative to the reader? I would hope so. Next time, before you stoop to
lazy insults about hackery, perhaps do a little homework. I’m, after all,
a distant cousin: Middlebury B.A. in Russian, a critically-acclaimed
novel on Siberia (Eichborn/Frankfurt, 2002), a work on post-Marxist
philosophy (Routledge 2001), and years spent in Berlin and Paris where I
befriended many Russian émigrés. In short, a few creds under my belt, with
Nabokov’s world not unfamiliar terrain. That I found the early work
boring, the later works barely droll campus novels, or showy intellectual
puzzles does not discount the fact that I’m still a big fan of his
signature work. So let’s leave it at that. I’m no Nabokov scholar.
Perhaps, I went out on a limb. But it’s hard to tell since the comments
did not address the piece. As it was, your response showed pretty poor
etiquette.

Yours sincerely,
Stefan Sullivan
Washington D.C.

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