NABOKV-L post 0018886, Tue, 1 Dec 2009 06:43:19 -0200

Re: TOoL--two more reviews
James Twiggs: In case they haven't already been reported (I've lost track), here are links to two substantial essays by well-known writers. The first is generally favorable, the second highly critical: THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, Flashes of Flora by John Lanchester; EXCERPT FROM SPEAK, NABOKOV by Michael Maar

JM: Great additions*, Jim.

Chesterton's Father Brown concluded that the best place to hide a leaf is in the forest and there are plenty of mysterious leaves that demand to be discovered in loving detail - together with trees and the entire forest- in Nabokov. As I see it these items, as art, are themselves more fascinating than the exploration of a "true Nabokov," such as Maar purported to do by lifting VN's mask(s).
But I agree with him that "dying is not fun" but, rather, it is very "funest" ( a word VN employed for dark beauties in KQK)
The guesome escatological descriptions and the masochistic trend or, as Lanchester notes, "the emphasis on physical disintegration" are nothing new in VN, though.

Nevertheless, in TOoL, the "process of dying by auto-dissolution offered the greatest ecstasy known to man....Dissolution, in fact, is a marvelously apt term here, for as you sit relaxed in this comfortable chair (narrator striking its armrests) and start destroying yourself, the first thing you feel is a mounting melting from the feet upward" . Such a description may be fruitfully compared to Lanchester's, on how Wild holds Flora because the " only way he could possess her was in the most [] position of copulation: he reclining on cushions: she sitting in the fauteuil of flesh with her back to him."). The next step leads one to recollect how, on a different key, Humbert Humbert sometimes sat Lolita in a sofa-like lap (not because he was fat like Wild), in order to achieve a particular kind of "dissolution" through orgastic "little deaths."
In that case, Wild's obliterative prospect may become something akin to a sexual ecstasy?

* excerpts: In Michael Maar's "Speak, Nabokov" Nabokov's work is presented as "a forest in which it is easy to lose oneself and see nothing but the trees."[...] and the author tries to reveal "the true Nabokov" hidden "behind the mask of Nabokov's magisterial public persona".For Maar ( in the English version) "from an artistic perspective The Original of Laura is disappointing-all the more so as the hints Dmitri dropped about the new aesthetic summit his father had supposedly reached were so rhapsodic as to make the mouths of Nabokovians water," while in actuality descriptions (such as Wild's dissolution) are "uncharacteristically dreary and colorless... Laura is a far cry from the dark metaphysical cosmos into which Nabokov's great novels draw us. The sad truth is: dying is not fun... All the expansive elaborations on old age in Laura-involving flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, foot odor and prostate tumors-strike a downright grim, masochistic note...Sick and dying, Nabokov ruminates in his literary testament on the book that made him famous. Word has gotten around that a child-woman accompanied him as a theme all his life"...For Nabokov's admirers, the tomb needn't have been opened..."
In "Flashes of Flora," John Lanchester: emphasizes the "thread of loss" that traverses VN's writings. For him the dry tone of academics "make Nabokov's oeuvre seem narrower, more purely intellectual..." and he cites "The Sublime Artist's Studio" (Gavriel Shapiro) and "The Quill and the Scalpel" (Stephen H. Blackwell), to conclude that "these serious, sober, worthwhile books also feel as if they are interring him ever more deeply..." Lanchester follows Wood's distinction between "signature" and "style" and, for him, TOoL "in its finished form would have been full of those flashes of Nabokovian signature" which are so pleasurable to read. Also for him "the emphasis on physical disintegration is something of a new note in Nabokov's work."

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