Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vladimir Nabokov

A book left behind on the front seat of Kyle's car was Speak, Memory--an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. Of course, I knew of the prominent Russian author and his impact on the world of literature but had never read anything by him. I corrected that this week and am now five chapters into Speak. Immediately the book captured my attention with:

"The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."

I found a short interview with V.N., who died thirty-six years ago this week. The unusual clip caught me off guard with its 50's format (though oddly refreshing) and V.N.'s voice, but once I got past that, what he said about his most famous creation, Lolita, and his answer to, "Has sex become a literary cliché?" has me even more intrigued by this 20th century juggernaut. Onward I read.

Vladimir Nabokov discusses "Lolita" part 2.


Dan_Luft said...

I definitely had my Nabokov phase when I got out of college. Hell, I had a Russian lit phase for many years.

I owned Speak Memory for a while but it was an old paperback with tiny print so I never read it. I remember really liking Laughter in the Dark and Invitation to a Beheading.

I've never been able to mention this to someone who would understand but I always thought it telling that Nabokov said that he hated popular genre books but Lolita has a plot just like a lot of Gold Medal paperbacks from the same time period. It's practically from the same template as a Gil Brewer novel -- just written with a wilder style. And 13 French Street was a bestseller while Nabokov was writing his book. So I figure that Nabokov maybe had a few influences he never really wanted to admit.

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of the best autobiographies or memoirs ever written (IMHO).

Charles Gramlich said...

hum, I definitely need to seek this one out.

David Cranmer said...

Dan, I'll remember Laughter in the Dark and Invitation to a Beheading. Thanks. And I believe I'm in my Russian lit phase now thanks to my nephew. Interesting your thoughts on V.N. and Brewer and that goes back to my thoughts that a good story is a good story. Academics and snobs get so caught up in LITERARY that they miss that point and so many fine novels.

I agree now, Patti.

Charles, I hope you do. And thanks as always for stopping by, sir.

Oscar Case said...

I enjoyed Lolita but haven't read anything else of Nabokov that I remember.

David Cranmer said...

You were way ahead of me, Oscar. But I'm enjoying Speak, Memory considerably and have a feeling I will read most of his collected works now.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a fascinating glimpse into the past and into the mind of Nabokov. Lolita is a book you read and never forget. I read it as a teen, but the story disturbs me more now that I'm parent of a girl. It is a beautifully rendered book, but HH is an appalling human being. I'm relieved to hear that the author did not identify with him. Why do readers suspect the worse of authors? A creative mind can create a monster without being one.

I thought of you when I met Craig Johnson at an author event. He seemed like your kind of writer.