Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001459, Tue, 19 Nov 1996 13:28:59 -0800

Fall 1996 VNCOLLATION (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Suellen Stringer-Hye <stringers@library.vanderbilt.edu>
presents NABOKV-L's longest-running feature, her VNCollation, now nearly
three years old. The VNCollation, prepared with the able assistance of
Marianne Cotugno, surveys popular media references to things Nabokovian.
Her Lolitanian Nabokoviana is featured on ZEMBLA, the Nabokov Web Site
In keeping with the VNCollation's impending birthday, Suellen opens with:
Q. In September, I received a dozen gorgeous roses for my
birthday. The florist said the rose was osiana. It was pink
with a yellowish tinge, like the inside of a conch shell.

A. I cannot find the variety you have mentioned, but others
with similar-color flowers include Alpine Sunset, Lolita
or Solitaire.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette September 28, 1996, Saturday Home and
Garden Section


When one takes as long as I have to compile the Fall 1996
VNCollation, the incidence of unmentioned yet still newsworthy
Nabokov stories declines in proportion to the ability of our
eagle-eyed editor and list serve readers to pick them out. I
therefore begin this season's selection with three stories already
reported on by DBJ and others but include a bit more text and
context to fill out the citation. An additional and charming account
of a meeting with Professor Pnin is also noted. Sections on Lolita
and Popular Culture, Nabokov and the Web, and Books provide
coverage that is representative if not exhaustive. I thank all
those who have contributed and especially Marianne Cotugno for her
assistance in putting the collation together.


As has been previously noted in this forum,_ US News and World Report_ran
an article on October 14, 1996 entitled, "Lolita, a girl for the '90s"
written by John Marks. The headline reads "Nabokov's infamous book takes
another drubbing. But is he to blame?" The first two paragraphs indicating
the general tone of the article are reprinted below:

Four decades ago, a fictional account of sexual relations
between a 12-year-old girl and her stepfather scandalized a
generation unused to such graphic depictions of family life
gone awry. The book was banned in Britain, confiscated by
police in France and lambasted as immoral when first published
in the United States in 1958. Its author was a 20th-century
giant, prolific in both English and his native Russian. But for
many Americans, Vladimir Nabokov became known simply as the
man who wrote Lolita, his reputation reduced, as his son Dmitri
puts it, to that of "a person who wrote a very dirty book put
out by a very dirty publisher."

This week, scholars from around the globe gather in New York City
to celebrate Nabokov's literary legacy. They do so at a time when
Lolita is generating a new controversy, this time over a
filmed version, scheduled for release in a few months. And
this latest uproar gives the scholars something to ponder: In an
era vastly more sophisticated and inured to sex of all sorts
than the sheltered 1950s, how is it that Nabokov's opus is
still capable of triggering such a fuss?

The article goes on to note the "concerns" of Nabokov scholars, and
quotes "one academic" "saying I suspect that I am not the only
teacher of the novel who feels something at stake in the ongoing
history of its misreading and misuse." Nabokv-L readers may
remember that this comment was made by Brian Walter during the
Nabokv-L debate between himself and screenwriter Stephen Schiff,
regarding the validity and veracity of an influential article that
had appeared in _Entertainment Weekly". For the full online text of
the _Entertainment Weekly_ article see:


Below is the excerpted paragraph from the _US News and World Report_
article containing Walter's comment whose intent, I may add,
has been slighty skewed to better conform to the journalist's slant.

And this may be the heart of the Lolita problem, as Nabokov
scholars on the Internet have worried in recent weeks. One
academic attacked director Lyne's attempt to make the film at
all: "I suspect that I am not the only teacher of the novel
who feels something at stake in the ongoing history of its
misreading and misuse." In a culture where the vast majority of
people do not read serious literature, in which the key form of
entertainment is electronic and unconducive to reflection, what
sticks out in popular retellings of Nabokov's story is
disembodied sex, divorced from literary content. The novel's
depth and complexity get lost in translation, and Lolita the
cultural icon prevails. In the end, the author's defenders
say, responsibility for this other Lolita lies not with
Nabokov, not even with Adrian Lyne, but with Madison Avenue,
Hollywood and Wall Street.

THE EMIGRANTS. By W.G. Sebald . Translated from the German by
Michael Hulse (New Directions: $22.95, 256 pp.)

Previously noted on Nabokv-L, one story from Eric Sebald's "The
Emigrants", utilizes images of Nabokov in several locales, with
butterfly net in hand . In the October 27, _Los Angeles Times_ the
reviewer questions the textual purpose of Nabokov's presence and
offers this solution:

Sebald weaves recurring images through these stories, so
convergent in theme and so ingeniously varied in method.The
Swiss Alps appear in three of them, with their lofty
inhumanview of the world below and their country's cold
isolation from the horrors around it. All four contain fleeting
glimpses of Vladimir Nabokov with his butterfly net: in the
Alps, on a meadow near Cornell, where he taught, and as a
little boy at a German spa.

Why Nabokov? I am not sure. Some of the images in Sebald's
brilliant and somber book work inexplicably. This one is
arbitrary, on the face of it, but it doesn't feel that way. Its
playfulness both lightens and illuminates. Nabokov, whose
liberal father was assassinated by Russian emigre extremists,
steps out of another dark history, portly and pursuing
butterflies. Sebald has fashioned a net of his own.

Publication of the Library of America Series of Nabokov's works is
beggining to generate a lot of press. While most of it is favorable,
Michael Dirda in the October 20 Book World section of the _ Washington
Post_ wondered:

Nabokov's "American" works have recently been published in
three thin-paper volumes. Am I alone in liking the idea of the
Library of America, but finding many of the actual volumes
uninviting, when not positively dispiriting? To think of those
bright butterflies, Lolita and Ada, trapped in those gray,
official pages!

In the August 10, _Daily Telegraph_ the headline, "Brief Encounter SHENA
MACKAY chooses the fictional character with whom she would most like to
spend an evening" prompts me to wonder who Shena Mackay and what Brief
Encounter is. Perhaps British Nabokovians could inform us better on the
source of the following quotation:

... Or be measured for shirts in the dim twilight world of
Jermyn Street with Radclyffe Hall's Stephen Gordon. Or dine on
lichen and brackish water with Stevenson's Alan Breck. Spoiled
for choice, and therefore indecisive, I have chosen as my ideal
companion none other than the ideally bald and suntanned
Professor Timofey Pnin. If we should manage to coincide,
for Professor Pnin's railway timetable is five years old and
in part obsolete, he will be wearing his sloppy socks of scarlet
wool with lilac lozenges, and I shall be in a 1957 frock,
in the style of the year when Nabokov's Pnin was
published. Perhaps we shall have cocktails on some
Midwestern university campus, or, transported to Pnin's
pre-exile St Petersburg, we will drink red tea poured
from a samovar into glass cups. I have loved Professor Pnin
for almost 30 years, and now, coincidentally, we are
exactly the same age. Polite, pedantic Professor Pnin; perhaps
we should meet on the night he is fired from the faculty of the
ghastly Waindell College at the party he gives for his
colleagues. What should we talk about? I could hardly tell
him that he was one of the most poignant characters in
literature, or advise him to leave his killing bottle at
home when he went lepidopterising. Our eyes, meeting over his
precious aquamarine punchbowl, would have to say it all.


Alas, the proliferation of child pornography sites on the web is not
without a concomitant link to Lolita. The Humberts of the world still love
their little Lo and she can be found at addresses like www.lolita.com for a $10.00
subscription fee. Lolita sex, amature(sic) Lolita videos-- these and much
much more can be "accessed" (to use some popular Information Age
jargon) with startling ease. The enticing "Click here for little girl sex"; at one site is
challenged only by the promise at another that it is ..."The only hardcore site worth getting
your knob out for". Amy Fisher, and yes she is still appearing in
the newspapers, this time suing her jailor and other prison staff for
sexual abuse, is still and always appended "The Long Island
Lolita". These and other facts are making the release of Adrian Lyne's film a
complicated affair. Excerpted from the files of the newsgroup
alt.movies.kubrick, the item below has not been confirmed but I suspect that
events in Belgium and elsewhere make at least some of its likelihood

Subject: Re: Lolita Remake Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 08:10:57 -0800
Newsgroups: alt.movies.kubrick. The delay in the release of
Lyne's Lolita is due quite simply to the MPAA's continuing
hangups about any provocative treatment of sexuality that
can't be codified in traditional Hollywood terms. While many
Americans seem to delight in seeing people blown up in any
number of imaginative ways, whether it is ID4 or PULP FICTION,
the idea of sex still gets them into a whole complex of hot
and bothered pseudo-moral quandries. Since Lyne's film is a
graphic remake/adaptation of Nabokov's novel, the MPAA,
echoing the new moralism of the great American middle (or is
it muddle) class feels compelled to protect our precious bodily fluids by
insisting on a ...

What is interesting, in this context, is that Nabokov's book
wasn't graphic at all. Rather PG-13 material, actually :). I'd
be the FIRST to argue against this masterpiece being turned into
some soft-kiddie-porn/ready-for-home-video release. It's not a
matter of prudery, it's a matter of sophistication. You wanna
see 12-year-old ass, then cruise the binary newsgroups. Leave
real literature out of it. Lyne naturally is trying to fight
this. Milos Forman has had the same difficulties with his
forthcoming The People Vs. Larry Flynt. What they are fighting
is an NC-17 designation which would cut their profits by an
estimated 30%. It's not censorship, it's money, that's the
issue. I'm the last person to defend true-blue prudes, and of
course I'm not when I say that the knee-jerk reaction you posted
in defense of carnal liberties (or at least those depicted
cinematically) is really...

Also, popular singer/songwriter (I do hate that appellation) Suzanne Vega's
recent album entitled "Nine Objects Of Desire" and produced by
Vega's husband, Mitchell Froom, features a song on it called "Lolita".



Description, definintion and history of an item of fashion,
already outdated, dubbed the "lolita bag".


This Website is called Parody on Demand and has a form that one
can fill out to vote for the parody you would like to see
written. One may select from three choices Wired Magazine, a
John Grisham Novel or Self Help Manual written in the syle of
John Irving, Hunter S. Thompson or Vladimir Nabokov.


A poem called "For Nabokov" by Christopher P. Jennings. The first
stanza is below:

i warn you
draw this out
take it slow
like blood
slow like special ed
slow like homework
savor every ounce (29.5 ml) for it
soveryfast that thereis asphyxiation
or thereis me which everyyoumaybe

http://www-polisci.mit.edu/BostonReview/BR21.2/Bolt.html Thomas
Bolt reviews The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov online in the
Boston Review.

Titled, "Losing a Country, Finding a Home" From Five College Ink
Volume 7, Number 2, The article discusses Amherst college's
recent acquisition of materials relating to Russian emigre
culture. Some Nabokov materials can be found in the collection.


"Names What do they mean?" by Chris Hall from the zine, Spike.
Nabokov discussed.

Ken Lopez, a Bookseller from Hadley Mass.
(see http://abaa-booknet.com/usa/lopez for further information)
specializes in First Editions or American First Editions of
Modern Literature. Item 288 , was recently featured on the cover of
the bookseller's Catalog 86.

288. NABOKOV, Vladimir. _Conclusive Evidence_ NY: Harper &
Bros. (1951). The first volume of memoirs by one of the most
inventive, and admired, prose stylists of the 20th century. This
memoir was later published in a revised form as _Speak Memory_.
This copy is fine in a very close to fine dust jacket and is
_signed by the author and dated in the year of publication._
Books signed by Nabokov are extremely scarce: this copy was
brought to him by a student when he was teaching at Cornell, who
had hoped to get the book inscribed; as Nabokov virtually
_never_ inscribed his books, this one came back the next day
signed and dated but not inscribed. A very attractive copy of an
uncommon book, and exceedingly scarce signed. $8500 $8500

Thirteen other Nabokov first editions, ranging from $50 to $150 dollars are
also available.

Another book of potential interest to Nabokovian's is:

Lodge, David _The Practice of Writing_ Viking (352 pp.) $ 24.95
Jan. 1997. An essay on Nabokov is a part of this well reviewed


In this cut and paste world I cannot help doing so in order to illustrate
an interesting coincidence. In the October 28, 1996 Los Angeles Times, in
an article discussing the Nabokov scholar Phyllis Roth's interest in
Vampires, the following lines are encountered.

...the 15th-century figure that Dracula is based on--Vlad
Tepes, nicknamed Vlad the Impaler, a prince who started out
protecting his empire from Turkish invaders but got carried away
with brutality.

The previous day, The Columbus Dispatch had featured an article
about the new Library of America Edition of Nabokov's works and

These books are classic keepers, and New York, at least, is
celebrating. ''The Lolita legacy: Life with Nabokov's Art'' is
a talk by Vlad the Language Impaler's son, Dmitri, that the
Mercantile Library will host at 6 p.m.


In closing-- from the newsgroup bit.listserv.words-l. I have yet to
see either the anthology or the poem so
do not know if this is the full text of it nor who is the author.

But to return to the cradle rocking, I think
Nabokov had it wrong. This is the abyss.
That's why babies howl at birth,
and why the dying so often reach
for something only they can comprehend.

from , _The Best American Poetry 1996_ edited by Adrienne Rich.

Suellen Stringer-Hye
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
Vanderbilt University