Reading thread

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by rjbman, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. eluther

    eluther Senior member

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    Surprising to me. I feel like Nabokov does a lot of work to specifically not play up the sexuality of the situation, nor does it glorify anything – other than, maybe, Lolita but solely from Humbert's perspective. I've met a lot of people who disliked the book, but no one who was ever riled by the premise of the plot. Which is part of what makes the work so brilliant.

    Anyway, if you disliked Lolita based on that ground, I think Pale Fire's morally questionable material differs enough categorically it shouldn't bother you. Worth reading, I think.
     


  2. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Senior member

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    Agreed. easily their worst.

    Finished a Brief History of Time the other day. It's safe to say it went way over my head.
     


  3. wogbog

    wogbog Senior member

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    Weird, I always thought it was common opinion that Nabokov writes more beautifully than almost anyone. e.g. some quotes that stood out to me from Bend Sinister:

    "What he said, what words he used, did not matter; he kept avoiding her brave kind eyes to which he felt he could not live up, and listened to his own voice stringing trivial sounds in the silence of a shrivelled world."

    "A faint infusion of sunshine spread over the distant hill and brought out with a kind of pointless distinction the little farm and its three pine trees on the opposite slope which seemed to move forward and then to retreat again as the warm sun swooned."

    "A sweet aura of intense relief made the candle rear its flame as old Azureus saw Krug spread the last page on the flat wooden arm of his cretonned armchair and unscrew the muzzle part of his pen, turning it into a cap."

    "As usual he discriminated between the throbbing one and the one that looked on: looked on with concern, with sympathy, with a sigh, or with bland surprise. This was the last stronghold of the dualism he abhorred. The square root of I is I. Footnotes, forget-me-nots. The stranger quietly watching the torrents of local grief from an abstract blank. A familiar figure, albeit anonymous and aloof. He saw me crying when I was ten and led me to a looking glass in an unused room (with an empty parrot cage in the corner) so that I might study my dissolving face. He has listened to me with raised eyebrows when I said things which I had no business to say. In every mask I tried on, there were slits for his eyes."


    lol so true
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014


  4. eluther

    eluther Senior member

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    I haven't read Bend Sinister – just Pale Fire and Lolita, neither of which had a really poetic angle to its prose.

    What I was getting at is that, for me, reading Nabokov isn't about the bravura of the words on the page. He's definitely not a slouch. But he's also not someone whose writing itself I adore. The artifice of what he does is masterful, though, and I think he deserves all of the accolades in the world for it.
     


  5. robinsongreen68

    robinsongreen68 Senior member

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    damn, dude. so who does write really good english prose then?
     


  6. fireflygrave

    fireflygrave Senior member

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    Cormac McCarthy

    "They were watching, out there past men's knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea."
     


  7. wogbog

    wogbog Senior member

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    For me what made Lolita magical was how well it straddled the "ew, pedophilia" line. Humbert writes hilarious and beautiful things, so its hard not to get caught up in his narrative and to start wanting him to win, but then his wretchedness plows through in jarring, lovely ways at all the right moments. Some of my friends never got past the "ew, pedophilia" part and I understand that too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014


  8. noob in 89

    noob in 89 Senior member

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    I think the most recent movie's helped somewhat in that regard, Dominique Swain being a totally palatable fifteen or sixteen, admonitory only in the ways of the old Betty Page photographs -- Guys, it is *not* a good idea to tie up lovely women this way! ... IIRC, Lolita in the book is prepubescent, no? I remember being scorned by a teacher for imagining otherwise.
     


  9. eluther

    eluther Senior member

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    In an incredible twist, I was going to mention McCarthy in my last post but felt like I didn't really want to draw a comparison between him and Nabokov because they operate very differently. Honest. And then to see this:


    McCarthy is my absolute favorite living prose stylist. He just does it so right.

    Props to @fireflygrave on that ESP/good taste tip.

    @wogbog - Do you have a favorite bit from Lolita?
     


  10. dan138zig

    dan138zig Senior member

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    yeah, I think that sums it up for me. and I was still young when I read it so some of the supposedly beautiful proses must've slipped out of my comprehension.
     


  11. robinsongreen68

    robinsongreen68 Senior member

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    huh. i agree it's pretty pointless bickering about who's the best (straight away i think of the old guys in the barber shop in 'coming to america'). but just taking that quote at face value and out of context, to me it has a hollow ring in the sense that it reaches for easy images of the eternal/sublime; there's a certain (ersatz?) melvillian poetry to it but melville's extraordinary rhetorical flights are balanced by reams of careful exposition. even then I don't think melville would speak of the 'vast soul' of a whale, perhaps because he knew a bit about whales, so he's better at describing what happens when you harpoon them, scoop out their fat and boil it down ( actually didn't nabokov use a similar figure when telling his students how one should read great literature: you dissect it forensically, pull it apart and then smell its 'lovely reek' on your fingers)

    i should read more mccarthy though, what do you recommend? think i read 'child of god' a while back. on the strength of that i certainly wouldn't rate him as the best prosodist writing today, in fact i don't even think he's the best mccarthy writing today (lol)
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014


  12. fireflygrave

    fireflygrave Senior member

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    I guess it comes down to personal taste. I tend to prefer starkness and (seeming) simplicity in writing, even a sense of coldness in the right places. It's why I'm so I'm fond of the writing of McCarthy, and why I want to learn Japanese to compare Murakami in translation to the original, and probably why I misliked Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union so much, despite liking the story- I thought he stuffed too much into a sentence, and a lot of them felt like he was just smirking over your shoulder, waiting for a compliment on the cleverness of his writing. That doesn't necessarily mean I think Chabon writes badly, but I don't care for it.

    Again though, that's my personal bias. I tend to like stark aesthetics in general.
     


  13. eluther

    eluther Senior member

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    I certainly wasn't arguing that McCarthy was better than Nabokov. Only that I liked it more.

    Blood Meridian is my favorite of his.


    Chabon is too "hammy" for my tastes, as well. I feel really similarly about Klosterman. Saying that they seem like they're waiting for a compliment on the cleverness of their writing is an apt way of describing it.
     


  14. wogbog

    wogbog Senior member

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    I love McCarthy and Nabokov but yeah I have a hard time comparing them. One's playful and the other's serious. Nabokov delivers his grace with a wink and a grin. He makes me laugh and I get the sense he's having fun while he writes. McCarthy is practically the opposite, only concerned with churning up the most serious matters and the most intense feelings. I tend to favour writing with more jokes. (Dave Eggers says a nice thing about how every day he laughs and every day he's sad so art should have both of those.) The bit about big ole whale souls made me roll my eyes a little but that happens occasionally with both authors.

    I don't have my copy of Lolita so no direct quotes :(
     


  15. lesamourai

    lesamourai Senior member

    Now I feel like a stupid, uncouth philistine, considering the majority of my reading involves spaceships and robots
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014


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