NABOKV-L post 0018877, Mon, 30 Nov 2009 01:27:01 -0500

Original Sin: Vladimir Nabokov's eagerly awaited (and
controversial) unfinished last novel ...

Book News for Thursday, November 19, 2009

ShareThisPosted by Brockman, November 19th, 2009

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Original Sin: Vladimir Nabokov's eagerly awaited (and controversial) unfinished last novel, The Original of Laura, finally saw publication this week.
The book gained quite a bit of publicity over its much-debated fate. While Nabokov left instructions that the book — a novel composed entirely of index cards — was to be burned after his death, many others argued that the public deserved to read his work, it would be a crime against literature (not to mention index cards), etc. Finally, Nabokov's son Dmitri agreed to let the work see publication.

Now, the question is: was it worth all the fuss?

The Christian Science Monitor thinks it was: "[A]lthough Nabokov may be squirming in his grave, Nabokov fans and scholars have reason to thank Dmitri for his brave parental defiance in publishing this invaluable glimpse into the way his brilliant father worked."

The New York Times Book Review agrees: "The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun)...should serve as a model of how to publish a posthumous and unfinished manuscript."

The Wall Street Journal isn't convinced: "The first effect of reading The Original of Laura gives less pleasure than a certain squeamishness....[It] shows us the writer's version of a great athlete in decline: not, so to speak, the glorious Lou Gehrig of 1927, but the feeble shadow of the same man, retiring at midseason in 1939."

And the New York Times' Michiko Kakutani lands somewhere in the middle: "In many respects, the release of a rudimentary version of his last novel does a disservice to a writer who deeply cherished precision and was practiced in the art of revision....Yet, at the same time, these bits and pieces of Laura will beckon and beguile Nabokov fans..."

On a related note, the Journal has a slideshow of revamped Nabokov book covers designed by the likes of Chip Kidd, Dave Eggers, and others.

(Click here to buy The Original of Laura)

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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

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