Nabokov and brunch

It’s sunny and gorgeous here this morning. I’ve not earned a day off, been slacking on everything lately, but I’m taking another anyway. It’s too nice out, so I’ll make this short and then reward myself for putting up a post – finally – with a walk and maybe some window shopping. Hopefully Fright Night too. More rewards than deserved but I’ll slog on through anyhow. (I know I’m awfully selfish.)

I’ve been reading Nabokov on the subway* and, while I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: That. Man. Could. Write.


My favorite (well, for now) is the story “Gods” in the Vintage short story compilation released right around what would have been the author’s 100th birthday – the one with the sparkly butterfly motif cover. Here, read a bit:

You’re laughing. When you laugh, I want to transform the entire world so it will mirror you. But your eyes are instantly extinguished. You say, passionately, fearfully, “Would you like to go . . . there? Would you? It’s lovely there today, everything’s in bloom . . .”

Certainly it’s all in bloom, certainly we’ll go. For aren’t you and I gods? . . . I sense in my blood the rotation of unexplored universes . . . .

Listen–I want to run all my life, screaming at the top of my lungs. Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator.

Don’t stop to think, don’t interrupt the scream, exhale, release life’s rapture. Everything is blooming. Everything is flying. Everything is screaming, choking on its scream. Laughter. Running. Let-down hair. That is all there is to life.”

Can’t you feel it bubbling up from your diaphragm as you read? I’m transported back to when I was a kid, and didn’t yet have all these ghosts of all the rules filtering my every thought and feeling. The feel of running just to run, no race, no workout, no game – just the wind and the sun. It’s the first kiss, the electric touch of a lover . . . god! I love this man’s writing.

If you haven’t read Lolita . . . at least read the first paragraph and tell me if you don’t want to read further. Go ahead, I’ll still be here. Really, I’d be interested in learning more about those of you who could just stop at that first paragraph and not move on to “She was Lo . . . .”

Some more quotes from The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov because I need to share them:

Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal. absently sensing the lips of dampness through my own worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and school-boys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descent into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.

 – “A Letter That Never Reached Russia”

My life is a perpetual good-bye to objects and people. that often do not pay the least attention to my bitter, brief, insane salutation.

– “In Memory of L. I. Shigaev”

That is my ailment, my obsession, and at the same time a thing that somehow belongs to me and that is entrusted to me alone for judgement. Since my early years–and I am no longer young–evil in people has struck me as particularly loathsome, unbearable to the point of suffocation and calling for immediate derision and destruction, while on the other hand I hardly noticed good in people, so much did it always seem to me the normal, indispensable condition, something granted and inalienable as, for example, the capacity to breathe is implied by the fact of being alive.

– “Tyrants Destroyed

Stars of snow, each revealing, before the edges melted, its complex symmetry, would gently come to rest on the shoulders and sleeves and mustaches and caps–all waiting in a queue for the box office to open.

– “The Assistant Producer”

And so I shall tiptoe away, taking leave of my childhood at its most typical point, in its most plastic posture: arrested by a deep drone that vibrates and gathers in volume overhead, stock-still, oblivious of the meek bicycle it straddles, one foot on the pedal, the toe of the other touching the asphalted earth, eyes, chin, and ribs lifted to the naked sky where a warplane comes with unearthly speed which only the expanse of its medium renders unhurried as ventral view changes to rear view, and wings and hum dissolve in the distance.

– “Time and Ebb”

Nabokov 1936My coffee has grown cold, so I’m going for a walk now. Too bad there won’t be butterflies.

*BTW I was home before rush hour on Friday, so I missed the stabbing on the Red Line, though I did hear the sirens when they, finally, responded.