NABOKV-L post 0003388, Wed, 23 Sep 1998 13:15:34 -0700

Re: VN and literary criticism (fwd)
Subject: RE: VN and literary criticism (fwd)

From: "Welch, Rodney" <RWelch@SCES.ORG>

I think it is rather healthy, this discussion of how much heed we should
pay to VN's literary opinions, because the temptation is great to be
intimidated by them.

Speaking from my own experience, I can say that falling under the spell
of Nabokov is a semi-religious experience. Certainly, we see this here,
in our own group, where there is sometimes more adulation than
admiration. And yet, it is perfectly understandable, too. The new
convert wants to please the spirit of his master, and he does this not
only by delving into each and every one of the books, but by seeking his
opinions on any and all subjects.

Unswerving devotion, alas, quickly proves tiring. To absolutely swallow
Nabokov's opinion on everything is to believe that "Bend Sinister" is in
no way, shape or form a political novel, that Edmund White's "Forgetting
Elena" is a work of art, that "Beat the Devil" is a funny movie, that
"Catch-22" is trash, and that Faulkner and Mann are worthless. To reject
all these -- or Nabokov's superconservative political views -- as I do,
isn't to reject him. It's just a recognition that his opinions are like
him: impossible to copy or (in many cases) predict.

And this is, I think, one of the great lessons his life imparts for me:
do the Emersonian thing, and assume the value of your own opinion. When
Nabokov said his ideal class was a roomful of little Nabokovs, he didn't
mean parrots. He meant people as unique as himself.