Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005216, Mon, 26 Jun 2000 18:17:53 -0700

Re: Nab Forum-- NYTimes Forum Select Boyd's Pale Fire (fwd)
From: Jennifer Parsons <jdparsons@home.com>

I didn't know about those code words - very interesting, indeed - though
I like to think Mick Sussman didn't intend it as such - and he has now
changed it for us, anyway.

Although I admired and was knocked back a bit by Galya's eloquent
defence of "quirky" as applied to Boyd's book, I agree with Tom Bolt and
Mark Bennett - the crux of my problem right off the bat with the word
"quirky" was its smallness - it struck me as an insulting understatement
considering the quality, depth and scope of NABOKOV'S PALE FIRE ....

The word "quirky" obviously may be ideal when used appropriately, but in
this case, it is most definitely "under-powered" (perfect word) and
reminded me immediately of the word "loony-toons" as used by Ronald
Reagan a few years ago to describe a rather frightening dictator. I
doubt they meant it to reflect the twisting or unexpectedness of Boyd's
"changing his mind" as I doubt they knew what his first thoughts were on
the book, let alone these ones.

Galya Diment wrote:
> From: Thomas Bolt <bolt@tbolt.com>
> Forgive me if I wasn't clear: "quirky" is a publishing code word.
> Publishing insiders use it as shorthand to describe a certain
> kind of book.
> The "idiots in publishing" are not all people in publishing
> but those who lack the time to read a book and understand
> it yet have the time to pretend to classify it.
> As people who have experienced or studied racist language
> (the most obvious example) know, a code word ("That boy
> Hughes certainly is *articulate*) is often an insult or at the
> least a dismissal wrapped up in an underpowered compliment.
> Code words are sometimes used innocently, but they can
> nevertheless touch a nerve, and that touched mine.
> As for the dictionary definition, calling Nabokov "quirky"
> is akin to calling Proust quaint, Shakespeare talented,
> Wilde a clever chap. Perhaps true, but not true enough.
> Humbert's predilictions are not peccadillos.
> Tom
> bolt@tbolt.com
> PS
> Beowulf is Quirky, to make a scholarly pun. Lovers of
> Old Anguish with know what I mean. Others can ask
> their Grammar.