Mr. Big Pineapple Cart himself - novelist Vladimir Nabokov ...
The Big Pineapple Cart
June 1, 2010
by Snarky's Machine
Mr. Big Pineapple Cart himself - novelist Vladimir Nabokov
Novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote all his novels with a No. 2 pencil and 3×5 index cards. When I read about his novel approach to crafting – err – novels I was intrigued. As a connoisseur of index cards myself, I wanted specifics: which brand did he prefer, how often did he purchase them and what did he use for penning grocery lists.
The writing process itself, as with Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada, entailed writing with a No 2 pencil – neither too hard nor too soft – on index cards. To avoid confusion, he would write on one side only, placing a large X on the reverse. The No 2 pencil has the advantage of being easily erasable, something that he valued. He said he used up the eraser at the end of the pencil more quickly than the pencil itself.
- described by his son, Dmitri, in a 2009 interview linked at the beginning of this entry
Nabokov’s process – while doubt intriguing – is probably a bit too involved for my own writing habits, but it is still inspiring nonetheless. My use of index cards is decidedly less prestigious. My current rabid consumption of index cards to make lists sprang out of an ill fated experience with the “scraps” method. The scraps method involved the use of fancy cut scissors, pretty paper and writing each item on one scrap. The idea was to discard the scraps as you performed a task – all well and good – except I like to archive my lists (that’s a nice way of saying I’m sort of a paper packrat, albeit very organized) . Another bad sign: I actually enjoyed creating the scraps more than I enjoyed executing the tasks they described. I abandoned the scraps method quickly. It didn’t cross my mind again until I was switching purses and discovered a lone scrap, “Call that dude about that thing.” I’m sure this meant something to me at the time. I also pondered writing a memoir titled, “I just do what the scraps tell me to do.” But that vanished the same time the scraps method did.
Now I use graph rule index cards, punch a hole in them at the end of the day and store them in my planner. I know it sounds like a whole mess of pageantry in the age of technology, but it’s the best way for me to stay organized. I need to write things down by hand to really make sure they stick. Plus I enjoy the process.
I’m not picky about what kind of index cards I use. Mostly it’s Oxford brand I get from big office supply box retailers (hey, they’re not paying me to be specific). I have let go of the bitterness over the quality of the cards. I seem to remember a time when the cards were actually, well, cards and not so flimsy.
Did I really just write a post deconstructing my use of index cards?
I put legitimate list items such as “go to the gym” and ridiculous ones like, “mindchoke deathstar contractors” I’m not sure what this says about me.
Okay after reading this and browsing this flickr stream I probably need to step up my game. I was actually dazzled by the organization and dedication. Though I’m not sure how much time I would have left to devote to other things like sleeping and snarking on people wearing Crocs.
For years I thought the lyric in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”:
Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov was Just like that big pineapple cart. So now that’s what I call Nabokov.
Boy, that Sting is sure a cutie pie!
Search archive with Google:
Contact the Editors: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/