I don't agree with RR's characterization of "revision" at the end of his piece. Writing, even for a genius, is not a ticker tape emerging from some dome of creativity. It's a process. Words are chosen and discarded, and whether they are chosen and discarded in the mind before putting them down on paper, or after, it's still all part of the process of writing. Some just revise more on paper than others. To characterize VN's revisions as the correction of "mistakes" is to mischaracterize this process.

Christopher Guerin
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Fort Wayne, IN 46807
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-----Original Message-----
From: jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US>
Sent: Sat, Sep 26, 2009 10:35 am
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] from Ron Rosenbaum re: an encounter with <Laura>]

Ron Rosenbaum:List members might find my account of first looking into the prepublication edition of <The Original of Laura> of interest. I am particularly grateful to Dmitri for the acknowledgment. I did read all 138 index cards, but for the time being that was the only matter Knopf permitted me to write about. http://www.slate.com/id/2229224/ 
New excerpts: "I regard Nabokov's work, Nabokov's mind, as a labyrinth one could (and ideally should) get lost in for a lifetime. He possessed something, a gift, whose luminescence outshone that of other writers: It made them the palest of pale fire in comparison with his lightning flashes.
Once, as a child, I had a dream that someone was disclosing to me something I remember as "the secret of lightning." I woke up having forgotten the "secret" but never forgot the thrill of being close to that hidden knowledge [JM: a similar experience is related by VN is one of his early short-stories, I think it is in "The Word"*]. That's the way I feel when I read Nabokov. Encrypted within his words, encoded indecipherably, ambiguously, is the equivalent of the secret of lightning. Something akin to the secret code of higher human consciousness, the DNA, the genome of genius...
...What may have tipped my thinking on the subject was the sight of Nabokov's scrawl-outs....I'd known about them from the photos in Die Zeit...They were evidence of the drama inherent in the creative process, a process whose heart is revision. I devoted a substantial portion of The Shakespeare Wars to the scholarly controversy over whether Shakespeare revised his play scripts...Shakespeare's revisions (and Nabokov's) matter for two reasons. Revision indicated that even these writers shouldn't be considered godlike figures from whom the muse poured forth perfection on the first try, but writers who are—in some ways—like other writers, in at least this respect: They were subject to second thoughts...revisions also offer a window into the humanity of the author. That even the greatest of geniuses (and yes, I believe the term is valid for these two) were not superhuman; they live in the same world of error and doubt that the rest of us inhabit. The fact that they think they've made "mistakes" makes their work even more perfect than it would be if they never blotted a line or scratched out a word.
& nbsp;
JM: Although I have felt something that gets close to Rosenbaum's enthusiastic & wonderful descriptions of VN magic ("the equivalent of the secret of lightining...akin to the secret code of higher human consciousness..."), his comparison bt. saints and their miracles ("it made them the palest of pale fire in comparison...) or the pairing of Nabokov and Shakespeare, strike me as being in very  bad taste. As was his praise of scrawls, revisions and corrections that would turn these geniuses' efforts into a work "more perfect" because they reveal "their humanity". 
I once read Henry Ford's blunt words about "History" ( "Bunk."), and, in relation to literary criticism and success, my comments shall be as inapt as Ford' s dismissal of social history. But "bunk!" I say now. 
* The Word, 1923: "Carried away from a terrestrial night by the inspired breeze of a dream, I found myself standing by the edge of a road...and I knew that I was in Paradise ...And suddenly the road on which I stood, suffocated by this splendour, was teeming with a tempest of wings… Out of some blinding depths there arose the multitude of angels I had been waiting for...And fleetingly embracing my shoulders with his wings, the angel uttered a single word, and in his voice I recognised all the beloved voices that had fallen silent....It was a word that overflowed in fragrance and resonance through my tendons, the sun rose in my cerebrum, and the innumerable ravines of my consciousness picked up and repeated the heavenly, radiant word....I cried out the word, taking delight in each syllable. I fitfully threw up my eyes in radiant rainbows of blissful tears…Lord! Winter's first green light is shimmering in my window, and I do not remember what it is I cried out…"
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Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.