Humbert Hu mbert’s na rration co ntains the best mode rn example of allite ration ...
Complete article at following URL:
Diaries of an Emotional Miscreant
October 7, 2010 - Zach Davis
Can I make a confession? What’s that? It depends on what I confess? Well, it’s nothing bad, I assure you. Yes, I know the photo of me for the blog is creepy, but that’s really just the way my face sits. It’s unfortunate, but I have learned to live with it.
What I have to confess is not creepy, although I do reserve the right to confess something creepy in the future, right when you least expect it (I’m writing this naked).
I love to read. That’s it, my confession. It’s something that I love to do more than many other things, and I have been doing it for a long time.
[ ... ]
In Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the first paragraph of Humbert Humbert’s narration contains the best modern example of alliteration in the English language. The word play is exquisite, especially if you actually take the time to consider that when Humbert speaks of how his beloved’s name strikes the teeth (including, of course, the proper tongue placement), he is exactly right. Read this, please: “Loliota, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” The skill and craftsmanship of those lines is poetic and beautiful. The rest of the novel is filled with grand literary allusions (notably to “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe) and elaborate word play. For instance, as an almost throwaway character, Vladimir Nabokov himself appears in the book under the name Vivian Darkbloom, which is an anagram of the author’s first and last names. As it turns out, Humbert is right: you really can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
In like manner, the terminal paragraph to James Joyce’s “The Dead,” which is without question one of the greatest short stories of all time, and due to its length (fifty pages in the original text), it is also one of the best novellas, contains intricate alliteration, although it is not as showy as Nabokov; instead, it is used to guide the reader along the gradually descending swell of the main character’s painful self-awareness over his realization that his wife lived and loved before him and into his awareness that all things die eventually. Please read:
"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
Every writer since Joyce and Nabokov, before they pick up the pen or place their fingers in anticipation on the home row of their keyboards, must address the fact that what they produce form the fleet work of their two sets of five fingers may never equal, or even rival, those two paragraphs for their purity. In essence, you see, the two of them being first has nearly ruined it for the rest of us because we are merely writing variations on the same theme. I say nearly, however because there exists within every great writer the need to not be content with standing on the shoulders of giants but to slay them, so that they might stand for themselves.
The list of the best novels ever written is very, very long, but the five that struck me the most as I read them, in form, construction, technique, skill, and emotional impact, are The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
[ ... ]
Diaries of an Emotional Miscreant
Zach Davis - Blogger
Zach Davis is a longtime Panhandle resident. He is a graduate of Shepherd University, and his absence is still being felt at that institution today. Mr. Davis is the area's preeminent writer of unpublished fiction, but he feels that his break is coming soon because the rejection letters are becoming kinder. Mr. Davis has lived two-thirds of his life in the area and would have no other for his home.
phone: 304-263-8931 218
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/