Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000217, Tue, 1 Mar 1994 19:46:48 -0800

vncollation#3 (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 1994 12:28 CST
From: HSS3728@TAMZEUS.bitnet
To: nabokv-l@ucsbvm
Subject: vncollation#3

A pattern is emerging. References to Nabokov fall into set
categories and tend toward the commonplace. Of the "Comparison
with a new author or book" sort, THE FERMATA by Nicholson Baker
is contrasted with Lolita, eliciting more than the usual disdain.

Peter Bradshaw of The Evening Standard, February 17,1994
reviews Baker's book and has this to say about a lurid passage
lasting THE FERMATA's 300 pages:

"To read Nabokov is to experience thrillingly adult rapture.
To listen to Nicholson Baker's hormonal uncertainties ... is
to know what the characters from Wayne's World would be like
if they took a grad school course in creative writing."

Equally offended was Eileen Battersby of The Irish Times. On
February 5, she wrote:

"If Baker thinks he is emulating Nabokov he is as deluded as
his narrator...."

In fact, all contemporary literature is deemed vain in this
February 15, Washington Post lament:

"Why all these gray stories about mundane relationship
problems? Why all these hackneyed combinations of words and
images and ideas?('His dark intensity is attractive ,
though; his wiry, nervous body his deep-set dark-brown eyes"
reads a lackluster story in the current GQ.)...Where is our

A new, old book(that I haven't read, any comments?) CALL IT
SLEEP by Henry Roth is being rereleased (I guess the word is
reissued) and is soon to be a Book-of the-Month Club selection.
David Megahan on February 1, in the Boston Globe claims:

"It is a book I have always loved. The fingers of one hand
are more than enough to count its equals. Maybe the best of
Nabokov and the best of Faulkner. It's one of the few
American books with a spiritual flame at the core."

A charming piece on chocolate, its history and literary character
written by Judith Olney, author of THE JOY OF CHOCOLATE cites:

"Vladimir Nabokov, musing on chocolate in his autobiography
SPEAK MEMORY, remembers 'something as enduring, in
retrospect, as the long table that on summer birthdays and
namedays used to be laid for afternoon chocolate out of
doors, in an alley of birches,limes and maples.'

'Through a tremulous prism, I distinguish the features of
relatives and familiars, mute lips serenely moving in
forgotten speech. I see the steam of the chocolate and the
plates of blueberry tarts.'

The article goes on to note the same combination of cocoa and
blueberries in a Nero Wolfe mystery and offer contemporary
commentary from John Updike:

The scum has come.

My cocoa's cold.

The cup is numb.

And I grow old.

And speaking of John Updike whose name often appears coupled with Nabokov's
- he claims in an interview appearing in the February 6, Calgary Herald,
that his new book BRAZIL,

"... should appeal most to anyone who used to be pleased by
Nabokov's excursions into the semi-real. I'm not Nabokov,
and there was much about his fictional worlds that's a
little constraining, but I did love the attitude he brought
to the art of fiction, a kind of detached, almost scientific
wish to do something new with this form. I don't see that
much anymore. The people who write novels now seem to be
very serious people who want to sell a million , or make a
million at least..."

BRAZIL, according to a Financial Post article dated February 26,
is only the second Updike book to be set outside of the U.S. The
other was THE COUP

"...narrated by a francophone dictator - who sounded like
Vladimir Nabokov on Prozac..."

James McGarrell, an artist of paintings strange and dreamy,(so
says the article) pays homage to artists whose works have stirred
him. In a series of double portraits called "Young and Old"
exhibited recently at Dartmouth college, images of Igor
Stravinsky, Billie Holiday, Cole Porter, Charlie Chaplin were
displayed along with those of Isabel Bishop and Vladimir Nabokov.
(Maybe this portrait would be more suited to the T-Shirt?)

And from personal research conducted on a recent trip to Southern
California, you may be interested to know that a parrot at the
San Diego Zoo, pronounces her three syllable name in a sing-songy
amphribach, cruelly echoed by children in utter disregard for
the precepts of proper pronunciation outlined in the book of the
same appellation.

A well known actress, also of the same appellation, complains in
a section called "Chatter" of the February 14 Time Magazine,

"I don't know if my mother realizes to this day what she
got me into by naming me 'Lolita'. She just liked the name,
but for other people it invited conclusions."

Her friends call her Lolly and the headline entreats "Don't Get
The Wrong Idea".

But of course some do.

In the February 26, Toronto Star, John Bourgeois,(no I didn't
make that name up) the artistic director of the Skylight Theatre
in North York wonders,

"What is art and what is pornography?...in a free society
how should we distinguish between a work of genius like
Lolita and the foul renderings of a pervert or, more vexing
still, the latter's claim of artistic purity?"

His solution?

"Keep the law out of it. Let the people decide."