Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005569, Thu, 26 Oct 2000 09:54:54 -0700

[Fwd: Nabokov on NPR]
Re: Nabokov on NPR
Wed, 25 Oct 2000 23:33:09 -0700
"Kurt Johnson" <belina@dellnet.com>

The post I received from Nabokov on Line re the item below was blank;
therefore I don't know if it actually got out to people or was also
blank to
them. Thus I post it again below. The NPR program with the interview
Brian Boyd and me [which aired on The Connection (about 75 cities) today

(Oct. 25) at 11.A.M. EDT] turned into what is perhaps an interesting
exchange for Nabophiles. Its available for computer audio at


select "Listen Now" at the "2nd Hour" feature "Nabokov's Butterflies

and also on tape.

A great deal of that discussion centered around Nabokov's metaphysical
versus scientific positions, the prowess of his science per se, and
Lepidoptera in his literature. One other Nabokov scholar, from Boston
College, also chimed in by phone, adding to the material and interest.

Here was my original email about this which perhaps got to some people
was blank at my Nabokov-on-line entry for today.

Two orders of business:
1. the two Nabokov butterfly books were reviewed in SCIENCE (Oct.
which, along with NATURE are the two most prestigious magazines for
professional scientists of all persuasions. It was a two-age/ 3 column
plus two color photos review). A couple comments on these below
(electronic copy at least not available from me).

2. Bob Pyle, Kurt Johnson and Steve Coates speak at the Harvard
of Natural History on Tues. night Oct. 24th at 6 PM. I think the
particulars of this event were announced earlier; unfortunately, with
bag in
had right now, I do not have them with me. But, the Harvard Museum
should not be difficult to locate/telephone etc. if you are in the
They will be introduced by Nabokov's old friend Dr. Charles Remington,
emeritus professor of genetics at Yale and contributor to The Garland
Companion for Nabokov. The presentation is part of a fall/winter
series on
butterflies and Harvard history etc. and followed by a reception in the
event exhibit area.

3. The next day, Kurt Johnson and Brian Boyd (by phone) will be
interviewed on Oct. 25th, on National Public Radio's "The Connection"
at least out of Boston runs at 11 a.m E.D.T. and, I think, is often
rebroadcast in the evening in various places as well. Bob Pyle will be
a plane at this time and not available.

Now, a couple quotations from SCIENCE's review "Blue Book Value",
Vol. 290, Oct. 6, 2000, pp. 57-58.

Re Nabokov's Butterflies Berenbaum says "present[s] a dazzling span of
[then a thumbnail of the contents]. The editors also offer chapters on

Nabokov written to their own strengths; Boyd recounts Nabokov's life,
Pyle details his entomological contributions. Berenbaum summarizes
"[Nabokov] is the best writer about insects of the 20th century, and
possibly evere. As Pyle so aptly says, Nabokov is simply the "foremost
literary interpreter of butterflies and moths." This is no small

Of Nabokov's Blues, Berenbaum says "Johnson and Coates do an outstanding
of laying out the importance of alpha-taxonomy (the classification and
description of species), and it seems safe to say that never before has
desperately underfinanced and utterly essential subdiscipline of biology

been so engagingly depicted. Their conservation message, tied to
(or what is now called "biodiversity inventory") is also eloquent and

However, if there is any negative it is that Berenbaum seems, as do
many, to
take the conclusions of both books as "givens" and, without a sense of
historical flow of the books' storylines considers both "too strident"
trying to defend Nabokov's science. For instance, she takes Nabokov to
for criticizing natural selection with regard to mimicry-- forgetting,
both books make clear, that populations genetics (the key to
mimicry in the light of natural selection) HAD NOT YET BEEN elucidated
during Nabokov's active years as a publishing entomologist. She also
complains that Nabokov must have already been recognized as a
lepidopterist early on [thus, not needing "rehabilitation"] because,
1950, he had three species named after him. Again, she forgets that
three species patronyms emanated from friends or taxonomic colleagues
meantime, well into the 1990's virtually NONE of Nabokov's
for blues were being used or accepted anywhere. Its hard to see how
reviewers miss these major points, but they seem to.

But these were minor things compared to the important of attention to
Nabokov is a venue as important as SCIENCE.

Kurt Johnson