Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000379, Mon, 14 Nov 1994 17:19:02 -0800

vncollation#9 (fwd)
Subject: vncollation#9

This month Nabokov was mentioned more often than ever but very little
worth noting was said. Quoted or invoked, his frequent cameos in book
reviews and stories about soccer leave one with the impression that the
entertainer is bored even if the publicity agent is not. When journalists
choose the Nabokov Icon (The Hitchcock look-alike I am imagining) from
the graphics menu and import this figure wholesale into their copy, very
little of interest emerges except the knowledge that several not unattractive
snaps exist for use by journalists, who, in the words of a political analyst
on TV, use this image _in the marquis_ to light up their candidates. Some
sensitive commentators, sense that Nabokov's signature style, his voice as
perceived by the reading public, characterized by _an hauteur; a
syntactical primness; a coolness; a metaphorical gorgeousness; and a
thief's lonely (all right I take it back, not so sensitive) precision with
detail,_ is not the only or the true Nabokov and suggest that more should
be pursued. Many admire, many fewer have read. Joyce Carol Oates in a
review of the _Mysteries of Literature_ , a book eulogizing the mystery
genre, faults its author for waxing eloquent on Nabokov and his opinions
while mistaking Humbert for a gross elderly man and Lolita for a 14
rather than 12 year old child. Still it is always a joy to come upon the
choice quotation that melts the hard journalese for a sentence or two.

Passionate Nabokov readers in the press range from the creator of the
Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand, to Sidney Altman, winner of the
1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry who it is said is currently reading Pnin.

I find it a very interesting, humorous, nostalgic book...It has
terrific insight into the mores of Americans.

_King, Queen Knave_ is another favorite. Author of _Latin Lover_
Frederic Raphael wishes he had written it in an October 21 Guardian
article :

... its heartless humor and dandyish wit has remained with me, like
the leer of a knowing Cheshire cat. ...Nabokov's impudent word
play and merciless manipulations of his chararacters' fates are
alien to my sentimental nature and modest practice, but I wish I
could emulate the sharp-shooting grace of his early fiction, before it
became somewhat too showy (the duelist who is unduly smart
on the draw becomes a bully). Of all Nabokov s unmatchable
work, the lean and juvenile _King, Queen, Knave_ appeals to me as
something I might have written, whereas his mature masterpiece
_Pale Fire_, which it somewhat prefigures, is both too rococo
and too fantastic for appropriation . (Faberge is the only man who
might plausibly find it jejune).

Still ambiguous but obviously admiring, Rafael in another article about
autobiography states:

the unsurpassed autobiography of that supreme self-regarder,
Vladimir Nabokov, turned out to be his least conceited book:_Speak
Memory_ was more about his father than about himself.
Nabokov was an anti-Oedipus, to whom bringing his beloved sire
back to life was a filial pleasure .

And back again to the inescapable Freud--Sandra Gilbert and Susan
Gubar in _No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the
Twentieth Century_ have posited that after WWII, men of letters,
Nabokov amongst them, suffered a masculinity complex occasioned by
a profound disturbance brought about by the metaphorical equation of the
gun and its Freudian counterpart. This lead them to experience a case of
reverse envy, man s anxiety over his lost masculinity.

True to form, Lolita gets around. The electronic library catalog at Lund
University in Sweden is called LOLITA. A new syndrome describing not
the perverts, but the average middle-aged man's secret lust for
prepubescent girls has been coined, of course, the Lolita Syndrome.
Lolita Pop, a record of rock music was recently released on Virgin (I
kid you not) records. A first edition of the original Olympia Press edition
of Lolita extremely scarce and marred only by the slightest rubbing on
the joints is selling for a cool $3,000. And the long promised new
version of Lolita , screenplay by Harold Pinter, directed by Adrian Lynn
( Fatal Attraction , 9 1/2 Weeks ) is not yet in production but will be
soon. _Laughter in the Dark_ may also become a movie in the not too
distant future.

...producers Oliver Eberle and Marco Weber of Treehouse Films are
shopping to studios for domestic distribution. ...Treehouse is
putting up more than half of the financing , and Uli Edel (_ Last
Exit to Brooklyn_ ) will direct. ...The script has been written by
Allison Burnett.

Somewhat apropos the recent discussion on this list about Nabokov and
Romanticism, and implying the meaning most widely employed outside the
literary world and least widely discussed within, this excerpt from _The
Burning Library: Essays, by Edmund White_ indicates that White saw
_Lolita_ as a parody of the love novel and this is a quotation from his
essay on Nabokov:

To be sure, the entire history of romantic verse and fiction has
been self-consciously literary. One could go further and insist that
romantic passion itself is literary: as La Rochefoucauld said, no one
would ever have fallen in love unless he had first read about it ...I
have even intimated that conflicts in love...are attributable to
different reading lists -- that amorous dispute is really always
a battle of the books.

White, whose favorite author is Nabokov, says that Nabokov should be
ranked, not with other authors but with Stravinsky and Balanchine.

Nabokov, the linguist, scores another point from William Safire;

"Clinton, Advisers consider Endgame Plans on Haiti", reads a
Washington Post headline, based on an unattributed quote from an
official talking about endgame planning. End game began more
than a century ago as a chess term, like the older gambit
(opening gambit is redundant, as is final endgame). By 1964,
the novelist Vladimir Nabokov was using it as a single word:
We'll simply take the endgame position at the point it was
interrupted today. In dipolingo, endgame is usually followed by
exit strategy, first used in business in the late 1970s.

And sadly, there was not much else.

Suellen Stringer-Hye
Sterling C. Evans Library
Texas A&M University