Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003318, Fri, 21 Aug 1998 10:04:05 -0700

Sentimentality in VN (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Ryan Asmussen, drummer of the Boston group "Fathouse"
(whose CD "a pin, a cork, a card," bears a picture of a case of VN's
catches) raises aninteresing point below. Reactions?

From: Ryan Asmussen <rra@bu.edu>

Dear All:

In his essay "Inspiration" (Saturday Review, November 20, 1972), Nabokov
briefly pauses to consider a passage in J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for
Bananafish" in which, as he says, "genuine afflation appears to be present":

"Stopping only to sink a foot in a soggy, collapsed castle..."

VN comments, "This is a great story, too famous and fragile to be measured
here by a casual conchometrist."

I can't help but think, when I think of this wonderful, as VN puts it,
"A-plus", story, of the moment in it when Seymour Glass at the beach, soon
to be a suicide, gently kisses the arch of a little girl's foot. And when
I think of this, when thinking of VN, I can't then help but think,
obviously enough, of "Lolita"... I'm not so very much interested in
drawing any parallels between these two works, but I wonder how much of
this sort of 'sentimentality', I think it's safe to say, can be said to
define VN's own work; in other words, how much use does he make of emotions
some would characterize as tender or romantic or nostalgic, but tinged
somewhat with a slight sloppiness or awkwardness, yet very real not only
<despite> that, but <for> all of that. I use 'sentimentality' in the best
sense possible, I should explain, hoping to approach his "beauty plus pity"
definition of art. As a writer, I've always been intrigued by its use and
misuse in fiction. To me, feelings or actions that are oftentimes labeled
as sentimental are really rather profound and important.

Of course, if I was a proper enthusiast I'd have on hand a few
representative selections from his writings to back up what I mean.
Instead, I can only offer a tilt of the head and a pleading, "Do you know
what I mean?"



Ryan Asmussen
Administrative Assistant to the Chairman
Biomedical Engineering Department
Boston University
44 Cummington Street
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 353-8068
e-mail: rra@bu.edu