Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001150, Mon, 17 Jun 1996 15:01:14 -0700

VNCollation: June96 (fwd)
Keeping up with Nabokov is a full-time occupation, the schedule for
which, I am not endowed. What you see below is a haphazard stab at
the materials which I hope will be, if nothing else, entertaining.
My thanks again to Marianne Cotugno for important assistance.


Two books, neither of which I have read, elicited in many of the
reviews extensive comparisons with Nabokov. The first is called
_The Debt to Pleasure_ by John Lanchester. Lanchester, the former
restaurant critic of _The Observer_ , is now the deputy editor of
the _London Review of Books_ and he has according to David Sexton
of the _Sunday Telegraph_ "used his expertise in both areas to
brilliant effect" in this accomplished first novel. Sexton goes on
to say that _The Debt To Pleasure_ is:

Nabokovian through and through, from the mandarin vocabulary
and carefully polished cadences of its sentences to its
ultimate theme of the frustrated or perverted artist.

Richard Boston of _The Guardian_ says that Winot, the novel's main
character, is ...

"blood-brother to Humbert Humbert, narrator of Lolita. He
also has a strong ingredient of Charles Kinbote, the crazy
narrator of Pale Fire".

'This is not a conventional cookbook,' as Winot's own opening
words have it, and his recipes (like this one, for blinis) often
spin off at a tangent:

'Add two whisked egg whites. Right. Now heat a heavy
cast-iron frying pan of the type known in both classical
languages as a placenta - which is, as everybody knows, not at
all the same thing as the caul or wrapping in which the foetus
lives when it is inside the womb. To be born in the caul, as I
was, is a traditional indication of good luck . . . Freud
was born in the caul, as was the hero of his favourite novel,
David Copperfield.'

The story itself revolves around memories of Winot's childhood
and a journey to France with homicidal intent. It involves
only a few characters, among whom Winot's brother, nanny and
Norwegian cook are significant, and mainly consists of

' 'Ooh, that looks nice,' she would say. 'Lovely and pink,' she
would sometimes add, a weakness for the colour pink being an
infallible sign of the defective taste one associates with
certain groups and individuals: the British working classes,
grand French restaurateurs, Indian street-poster designers and
God, whose fatal susceptibility for the colour is so apparent in
the most lavishly cinematic instances of his handiwork
(sunsets, flamingos).'

Boston comments,

Winot is a crashing bore, but Lanchester pulls off the
difficult Polonius trick of presenting a bore without being
boring. His observations are sharp, his comments often
rib-ticklingly droll, but he is still a crasher. But before
very long we see through the mannered fashion of the narrative
and realise, first that Winot is a bit cracked, then that
he's crazy as a loon, next that he is actually dangerous. In
fact a serial killer. But all we have to go on is Winot's
account, which is palpably unreliable.

Lanchester, speaking about Nabokov's influence said:

"He's a great genius of the morally oblique, of deception.
There was a point when I seemed to be thinking about him, like a
lead planet, doing things I thought weren't possible in

"In his lovely book about Gogol, he says that you read Tolstoy
as if a writer is seeing in three dimensions for the first time.
And then when you read Gogol, it's suddenly four-dimensional!
You can see around corners, and space is curved, and time's
moving backwards. Nabokov was like that . . . You can't use him
as a model. It would be too difficult."

Another book , The End of Alice, written by A.M Holmes, is in
part a tribute to _Lolita_.

From Newsweek: Imagine Lolita
looking like Alice Liddell in that famous photograph taken by
Lewis Carroll, or like one of Sally Mann's nymphets, a
pint-sized provocateur seducing Humbert Humbert by a lake in
the woods of New Hampshire. Imagine Humbert Humbert with a
screw loose, brutally stabbing his beloved in their motel
room when she gets her first period. Imagine Humbert Humbert's
voice telling the story 23 years later from an upstate
penitentiary. Now you've got the setup for A. M. Homes' new
novel, "The End of Alice," a provocative exercise in
transgressive sexuality.

The Moscow Times, ran an article in February of 1996, pointing out
the "Russianess" of Nabokov's English:

Although Nabokov's English cannot be called anything less than
perfectly fluent, it is nonetheless not completely perfect.
It bears the subtle, but indelible stamp of Russian. While
reading " Pnin, " I was particularly struck by one feature of
Russian that I had never paid much attention to before, but
which is clearly one of the reasons why so many English-speakers
fall so hopelessly in love with the language and why Russian
drives so many translators to tears. On the first page of
the novel, for example, Nabokov describes his hero as "ideally
bald, sun-tanned, and clean-shaven." What strikes me here is the
word "ideally," which - I would argue - no native speaker of
English would use in this situation. A person can be
completely bald or perfectly bald, but not ideally bald.
Nabokov also mentions Pnin's "sloppy socks," which were
"soberly colored." This propensity for creating combinations of
nouns and adjectives or adverbs and adjectives that are
simultaneously natural and jarring springs from Nabokov's


Stanley Kubrick , in _The Film Director as Superstar_
admitted that he regrets bowing to the studio censor and The Legion
of Decency while making his film of _Lolita_

"I didn't sufficiently dramatize the erotic aspect of Humbert's
relationship with Lolita, and because his sexual obsession
was only barely hinted at, many people guessed too quickly
that Humbert was in love with Lolita. Whereas in the novel this
comes as a discovery at the end, when she is no longer a nymphet
but a dowdy, pregnant suburban housewife; and it's this
encounter, and his sudden realization of his love, that is one
of the most poignant elements of the story. If I could do the
film over again, I would have stressed the erotic component of
their relationship with the same weight Nabokov did."

David Mamet in the May 5, 1996 _Los Angeles Times_ :

I know these folk, the beloved thugs of the ongoing aesthetic
Morality Tale which, to us in the Arts, is our Hero-Journey, I
know these Mamelukes of Mammon have only gone out and bought a
decorator. I know that.

And I know Hitler hired Leni Riefenstahl,and she made a couple
of compelling flicks, but hey!

But how dare they, once again?And what can it do to my
sensitive soul to see examples of both the Saturday Evening
Girls and Newcomb College on the sideboard of a man who watched
the dailies of my films in his limo, while talking on the
phone--to see a wheat-tangerine Heriz on the floor of the man
who said of my (rejected) script for " Lolita" : "You made
him look like a pedophile?"

>From the potentially World Wide Waste of Time.....

Below you will find a briefly annotated list of Websites which are
in some way connected with Nabokov:


http://www.dramex.org/plays/sifs/lolita.sif Information about
what appears to be a new musical rendition of _Lolita_.
Author's email address noted.

http://www.harpercollins.com/audio/lolitaco.htm Harper Collins audio
web page. An audiotaped reading of Lolita is here available for
purchase. "Actor James Mason masterfully reads the witty, poetic
prose as his rolling British tongue humorously renders Nabakov's
characters and settings in colorful three-dimension." --
Booklist HarperAudio. ISBN 1-55994-634-2; $12.00; Canada,
$15.95; 1 hour on 1 cassette.

An excerpt of Mason
reading from Lo is availble here, if you have the proper

Penguin 20th Century Classics. Online Ordering information for several
Nabokov books.

Satire Press--David Levine--literary cariactures. A caricature of
Nabokov is available at this site


French poem called Lolito-Lolita

http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/usr/ee0r/lodolo.html The text
of Humbert's Wanted poem.

Tyutchev poem "Dusk" translated by VN.

The Upas Tree by Pushkin translated by VN

http://www.theatlantic.com/atlantic/atlweb/classrev/Lolita.htm This
website is devoted to classic reviews from the _Atlantic
Monthly_ _Lolita_ is reviewed in 1958 by Charles Rolo .

A "glosssy" web magazine, _Salon_ features articles about art and
culture from a pop-modern perspective. An article about Nabokov entitled
"My Inspiration--The Sorcerer of Cruelty" is included in this

History of hypertext as it relates to cinema. Excerpt and
disussion of Pale Fire.

An informal critique written for a class assignment of Nabokv-L

An unflattering, possibly spurious story about Nabokov at James
Laughlin's house in Utah. Titled "Self Absorption".

Trollita--a loose parody of Lolita written by a Hobart Hobart.

The undeveloped website
of a self- styled "literary anarchist" who calls himself Sirin
and his website VNN Virtual Nabokov Network. Not much there.


Plans to mark VN Centennial reported in The St Petersburg Press

Full details of Kubricks' _Lolita_ from the Internet Filmography.

The Times-Picayune Publishing Co.
The Times-Picayune

February 29, 1996 Thursday,



Through the St. John Shade Tree Committee, several tree planting
projects are now under way in the parish.

Suellen Stringer-Hye
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
Vanderbilt University