Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004663, Thu, 6 Jan 2000 12:34:45 -0800

Re: VN and Galsworthy's _FORSYTE Saga_
"Ever since the days when such formidable mediocrities as Galsworthy,
Dreiser, a person named Tagore, another called Maxim Gorky, a third called
Romain Rolland, used to be accepted as geniuses, I have been perplexed and
amused by fabricated notions about so-called 'great books"

I suppose it is hardly worthwhile to dispute the dullness of Galsworthy. I
remember Evelyn Waugh made his rather dim Paul Pennyfeather a devoted
reader of the Saga. Most would agree with this tacit judgement. But I
wonder sometimes about the awarding of the title 'genius' and its utility.
Certainly it properly belongs to N, as I suspect few list members would
deny. Matthew Arnold says somewhere that scholars are disposed to inflate
the reputations of their authors in proportion to the amount of effort
they have expended on them. I imagine that is how at least some of the
writers N objected to came to acquire their status. But once we stop
trying to decide exactly how far up the slopes of Parnassus to place this
or that author, it becomes much easier to enjoy their books, as I
certainly enjoy a number of works by both Dreiser and Gorky. I'm afraid
there just wouldn't be enough to read if we restricted ourselves to the
books that *did* receive N's imprimatur.

John Richardson, Picasso's biographer, in his recent memoir about himself
and Douglas Cooper (_The Sorcerer's Apprentice_), quotes Braque on Picasso
as follows: "Picasso used to be a great painter. Now he's merely a
genius." Trust an old friend for a truly devastating assessment.


Wayne Daniels