NABOKV-L post 0003403, Fri, 2 Oct 1998 14:03:59 -0700

vncollation#21 (fwd)
From: Suellen Stringer-Hye <>

Adrian Lyne:
"The first time I read the book, I read it for all the wrong
reasons." "I was looking for the sex. When I read it
again, I found the book to be horrifying, hilariously funny,
heartbreaking and ultimately, in a kind of screwed-up way, a
love story." --Adrian Lyne

Three major events dominated the "news" about Nabokov during the last
six months; the centennial of his birth, Adrian Lyne's film version
of LOLITA, and LOLITA's #4 ranking in the Modern Library
Edition's list the "Top 100 English-Language Novels of the 20th
Century". Celebrations around the world to commemorate Nabokov's
100th birthday began with the Cornell Nabokov Centenary Festival held
Sepember 9th-11th in Ithaca, New York. The New York Times article
describing this festival already appeared on Nabokov-L . For more
accounts of this festival see the online CORNELL

and the Cornell student newspaper,

Reviews of Lyne's film in the many media outlets range from the
recklessly exuberant to the condescendingly dismissive. A brief
synopsis by Peter Travers in the September 3, ROLLING STONE (p.108)
presents a more "balanced" point of view.

"Lolita"--Girl Power

This is not to say that Lolita is free of smarm. Lyne being
Lyne, the kinky purveyor of 9 1/2 Weeks and other indecent film
proposals, he can't resist cheap shots, such as Swain fellating
a banana and Irons playing fetishistic footsie, that owe less to
Nabokov than to Zalman King's Red Shoe Diaries. Still, the
quality material forces Lyne to rise to the occasion. For all
its flaws (and the growing certainty that Kubrick did Nabokov
better), Lyne's Lolita deserves attention and raises censorship
issues that make it a film worth fighting for.

The #4 ranking speaks for itself.


In an article entitled "An Embarrasment of Riches," Ruth
Wallach, Acting Head of the Doheny Reference Center at the University
of California, Santa Barbara, discusses the changing world of
academic scholarship and Zembla, Jeff Edmunds award
winning website devoted to all things Nabokovian.

"Another example of a very specialized scholarly project is a
Nabokov site called Zembla - The Nabokov Butterfly Net. It is a
kind of a bibliography or catalog of topics pertaining to
Nabokov, which includes original content. It is used by graduate
students and faculty as a springboard for further research,
although potentially it contains a finite amount of information.
I would argue that unlike a print bibliography which is not
always available in one's library, this site is readily
available to anyone with access to the web. And it offers a
different kind of information to scholars than a traditional
bibliography. Lastly, it provides collaborative space. I wonder
whether sites such as this will shift the scholarly paradigms
for humanities research from individual to group endeavors."


LOLITA attracts most of the attention but PALE FIRE speaks to a
different audience with increasing authority. For those interested in
hypertext, PALE FIRE ranks as one of the first. From the August 23,
CHICAGO TRIBUNE written by Jimmy Guterman,


A generation of cyberwriters--inspired by the theories of
Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson and other pioneers in the field of
computer science, and as comfortable manipulating the 0s and 1s
of computer programming as they are manipulating nouns and verbs
(if not more so)--are experimenting with creating fiction and
poetry intended for the computer screen rather than the printed

The hypertext way of experiencing and describing events in art
isn't that new. Groundbreaking alinear fictions like Jorge Luis
Borges' "The Garden of Forking Paths" and Vladimir Nabokov's
"Pale Fire" emphasize that, even without computer screens, we
live in a hypertext world where random information dances across
our consciousness and then disappears, where digressions may
never link back to the main subject.


An odd and improbable annotation for "Stella Blue," a Robert
Hunter/Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) composition can be found at:,

a website devoted to annotations to Grateful Dead songs.

STELLA BLUE However, there is a character in Vladimir Nabokov's
novel Pale Fire (1962) named Stella Blue. In the "Commentary"
portion of the novel, in the note to line 627, which discusses
the "great Starover Blue," and astronomer, Nabokov writes:

"The star over the blue eminently suits an astronomer though
actually neither his first nor second name bears any relation to
the celestial vault: the first was given him in memory of his
grandfather, a Russian starover ..., that is, Old Believer
(member of a schismatic sect), named Sinyavin, from siniy, Russ.
"Blue." This Sinyavin migrated from Saratov to Seattle and begot
a son who eventually changed his name to Blue and married Stella
Lazurchik, an Americanized Kashube." (p. 236)

Cocktails are back in fashion but the martini is out of luck.
In an article published on August 19 in the NEW YORK TIMES " Oh,
for Just Plain Gin And Dry Vermouth", William Grimes describes some
of the new concoctions replacing the venerable cocktail king. (Note
the Nabokovian subtext even before arriving at Grange Hall)

In Texas, the pilgrim traveling this via dolorosa will find the
Martini Ranch, a Dallas establishment, whose manager said:
''The sky's the limit. If it's in a martini glass, it's a
martini.'' He ain't a-kiddin, either. One of the bar's standout
cocktails is the Mars Bar martini, a syrupy swirl of dark
chocolate liqueur, white chocolate liqueur, amaretto and
Frangelico, served in a glass whose rim has been dusted in
chocolate flecks from frozen Hershey bars that have been run
through a blender.

Mr. Donohoe and his allies have already lost the gin battle.
Most people drink vodka martinis. And even the most
strict-constructionist martini drinker has to concede that some
of the rococo martinis are rather clever, like the Pixie Stick
martini, a combination of pineapple vodka, sour cherry syrup,
fresh lime and lemon juice. The drink, created at Candy Bar in
Chelsea, is not the kind of cocktail you find in a Raymond
Chandler novel, but it has a certain offbeat appeal. The Lolita,
a new addition to the menu at Grange Hall, calls for 12-year-old
Scotch and hazelnut-flavored sherry, a sly allusion to the real
name of Nabokov's heroine, Dolores Haze. The drink, topped with
a mildly salacious garnish, wins a point or two for

Art Spiegelman, known for the comic book masterwork, MAUS: A
SURVIVOR'S TALE, founded a series called Neon Lit. The series takes
postmodern novels and translates or adapts them into the comic book

The first book in this series was Paul Auster's City of Glass,
adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. Then we did the
Gifford. And now Spain. Rodriguez is putting the final touches
on his adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley.
And Mary Gaitskill has just completed a brilliant script for
the next book, Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark.


A well known Nabokov fan, Martin Amis comments on Nabokov's effect on
his writing in an interview excerpted from the PARIS REVIEW (number

Can you talk about the influence of other writers or poets? I
know one of them is Saul Bellow.

I would say they are more inspirers than influences. When I
am stuck with a sentence that isn't fully born, it isn't yet
there, I sometimes think: how would Dickens go at this
sentence, how would Bellow or Nabokov go at this sentence?
What you hope to emerge with is how you would go at that
sentence, but you get a little shove in the back by thinking
about writers you admire.

I was once winding up a telephone conversation with Saul
Bellow and he said: 'Well you go back to work now,' and I said
all right, and he said: 'Give 'em hell.' And it's Dickens
saying: 'Give 'em hell.' Give the reader hell. Stretch the


The Hindu Goddess LALITA has three aspects, as virgin (Bala),
mother (Tripurasundari) and crone (Tripura Bhairavi). She is the
waxing Moon. She represents love and sexuality. Lalita means
"She who Plays".


One can only imagine how thoroughly Nabokov would have hated the
opening paragraph and the further implications of an article, written
by Wendy Moonan of the NEW YORK TIMES, on August 21,
"Seeing Beauty In the Bug On the Wall,"

Salvador Dali used to take live beetles to lunch with him at
the St. Regis. He kept them in a clear plastic box on the table
and watched, riveted, as they navigated mounds of sand. He found
them more interesting than his companions. Vladimir Nabokov
loved butterflies and was expert at catching them; he gave them
names like Karner Blue and Satyr I and II. He may have taken his
cue from the Surrealist Andre Breton, who mounted boxes of
butterflies on the walls of his Paris apartment in the 1920's.
Victorians, like the British aristocrat in the film "Angels and
Insects," invited young men who had scoured the globe for
natural specimens to their homes.

Suddenly, bugs are fashionable. "There's this real fascination
with the natural sciences now," Mr. Taylor said. "They were
always interesting to collectors, but now it's the masses."


Yesterday evening I watched at a movie, titled "Lolita",
directed by Adrian Lyne, a great cinema-man, and played by
Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Dominique Swain. This is a new
movie and as far as I know it is not shown at the cinemas in the
US yet. Irons, the stepfather of Lolita (Dominique, at age of
14) fells in love with her, an ensest relationship, well, I know
this is not the right place to criticize the movie, what I want
to know is that, somewhere in the movie, Lolita plays a 78 rpm
record and song goes on as "open the door Richard... open the
door Richard..." Well, the story of the movie belongs the years
of early 1940s. Any relation with Dylan's "Open The Door
Richard"? Ankara, Turkey


Open The Door, Homer

A connection to "Open The Door, Richard!" (composer?), a
popular novelty song, recorded by artists such as Jack McVea and
his All Stars, 1947 (Jukebox Lil JB-607).

"Open the Door, Richard" was recorded in the 1940s by the great
R&B musician Louis Jordan, sometimes referred to as "the
Grandfather of Rock'n'Roll" due to his influence on Chuck Berry,
often called "The Father of Rock'n'Roll."

Jordan's song was so popular and so well known that in the
1950s it gave rise to an "answer" song by the New Orleans
guitarist Smiley Lewis (with Huey "Piano" Smith on piano) called
"I Hear You Knocking." This too was a major R & B hit.

Richard Penniman, a.k.a. Little Richard, working the clubs in
New Orleans in the 1950s, got hit with so many requests for
"Open the Door, Richard" and "I Hear You Knocking" -- for
obvious reasons -- that he recorded a Rock'n'Roll "re-response"
song called "Keep A Knockin' But You Can't Come In." It also
became a top-selling record.

Letters to the Editor: For the Love of Power Wall Street Journal; New
York; Sep 17, 1998;

Perhaps another apt comparison is between Bill Clinton and the
fictive Humbert Humbert, the nymph-seeking exploiter of
Nabokov's "Lolita." Both are erudite men who love game-playing.
Both undervalue and exploit others for their own self-interest.
Both are concerned with the "show," the performance, not with
ugly reality. Both are in thrall to their passion. Both are
trapped by their passion; they may know what they are doing is
wrong, but they cannot conquer their character flaws. Life
imitates art, after all.

The above puts a timely spin on the following tidbit I received
from a Nabokv-l subscriber (many thanks JA).

I noticed the following in my July 1998 catalog from Thompson
Cigar Co. I've enjoyed reading your Nabokov collations, and
thought perhaps you might find it useful:

The item is "vanilla and regular flavored Lolita cigars." The
text reads: "What Lolita wants is a person who a appreciates a
truly good smoke. Take your choice of savory vanilla-flavored
or regular Lolitas." They cost $17 for a box of 25.


Another tip from a Nabokv-l subscriber.

Thought you might like to know of an excellent article
forthcoming in the journal _Criticism_ entitled "The
Cinematic Art of Nypholpesy: Movie Star Culture and
Nabokov's _Lolita_." It will be out in the Winter 1999

The author is Elizabeth Power.

And please do send me anything you find. Also, let me know if you
would like your name published with it.

Suellen Stringer-Hye
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
Vanderbilt University