Nabokov was my project last year–I got tired of reading random things that turned out to be disappointing. So, when I read Invitation to a Beheading (having read Lolita time back) and really liked it, I read everything Nabokov wrote (most all of the Russian stuff having been translated). It was extremely satisfying because (i) almost everything was really good–dazzling and puzzling in a good evocative way and (ii) the continuity overlook from doing it all pointed up lots of self-references/themes/revisited obsessions. (I used my little computer to from my desk order every Nabokov work in my regional library database.)
Then I re read Lolita too and THAT is the truely amazing work among an amazing group.
I have been rereading Ada at random, which works quite well, but when I want to reread a whole book, it will be Pnin–I want to find out the secret of why it is so different from the others.
Here is a bit of Ada (I posted this once before but it is the epitome of Ada to me, French and all):
A sort of hoary riddle (Les Sophismes de Sophie by Mlle Stop-
chin in the Bibliothèque Vieux Rose series): did the Burning
Barn come before the Cockloft or the Cockloft come first. Oh,
first! We had long been kissing cousins when the fire started.
In fact, I was getting some Château Baignet cold cream from
Ladore for my poor chapped lips. And we both were roused in
our separate rooms by her crying au feu! July 28? August 4?
Who cried? Stopchin cried? Larivière cried? Larivière? An-
swer! Crying that the barn flambait
No, she was fast ablaze—I mean, asleep. I know, said Van,
it was she, the hand-painted handmaid, who used your water-
colors to touch up her eyes, or so Larivière said, who accused
her and Blanche of fantastic sins.
Oh, of course! But not Marina’s poor French—it was our
little goose Blanche. Yes, she rushed down the corridor and
lost a miniver-trimmed slipper on the grand staircase, like Ash-
ette in the English version.
“And do you remember, Van, how warm the night was?”
“Eshchyo bï! (as if I did not!). That night because of the
That night because of the bothersome blink of remote sheet
lightning through the black hearts of his sleeping-arbor, Van
had abandoned his two tulip trees and gone to bed in his room.
The tumult in the house and the maid’s shriek interrupted a
rare, brilliant, dramatic dream, whose subject he was unable to
recollect later, although he still held it in a saved jewel box.
As usual, he slept naked, and wavered now between pulling
on a pair of shorts, or draping himself in his tartan lap robe.