Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003252, Fri, 31 Jul 1998 15:54:29 -0700

Re: Nabokov bibliography (fwd)
I have two recent publications on Nabokov to share with the list. The first is "Playing Nabokov: Performances by Himself and Others," in Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 22.2 (1998): 295-308. (It's an expanded version of the paper that I gave at the first Nice conference, which appeared in the conference proceedings in Cycnos.) Here's an abstract:

ABSTRACT: "Playing Nabokov: Performances by Himself and Others"

In 1918, in the Crimea, the adolescent Vladimir Nabokov devised a new
pastime: "parodizing a biographic approach" by narrating his own actions
aloud. In this self-conscious "game," he orchestrated changes in
grammatical person, gender, and tense in order to transform his present
experiences into a third-person past, as remembered by a female friend in
an imaginary future. Staging his own biography in this fashion allowed
Nabokov to resolve the inherent conflict between his life and his art.
Indeed, he went on to play the game of narrating his own biography
throughout his memoir, Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, and in
his fiction. Fifty years after Nabokov invented this game, he met his
first real-life biographer, Andrew Field, who resisted playing it by
Nabokov's rules. The ensuing quarrel between subject and biographer
eventually inspired three other parodic texts: Nabokov's novel, Look at
the Harlequins!; Field's biography, Nabokov: His Life in Part; and Roberta
Smoodin's novel, Inventing Ivanov. Inevitably, each of these books
became, like Speak, Memory before it, another performance of Nabokov's
self-reflexive game. Indeed, Nabokov's critics, biographers, and
disciples may find it almost impossible to represent his life and art
without merely repeating his own representations of himself.

The second is an essay, "`Subject-Cases' and `Book-Cases': Impostures and
Forgeries from Poe to Auster," in a book that I have co-edited with
Patricia Merivale. (You may remember her as the author of a brilliant
essay, "The Flaunting of Artifice in Borges and Nabokov," that appeared
thirty years ago in L. S. Dembo's Nabokov: The Man and His Work.) The
essay examines staged suicides (which involve crimes of identity as well
as crimes of textuality) in Poe, Felipe Alfau, Nabokov, Borges, and Paul
Auster; it discusses The Eye and Despair in particular. Our book,
Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to
Postmodernism, is due out from University of Pennsylvania Press this fall.

I now get Showtime on cable--it's strange to think of all the large and
small ways in which VN has altered my life!

-- Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
English Department
Holy Cross College