Re: THOUGHTS: Terra and Antiterra and ADA
JM: ..."the effect is much more inscrutable than is necessary" and, as a tease, I ask: ain't this too utilitarian?
J.A.: That's funny. As a writer I've never been accused of being too utilitarian, but I'll make sure to point your criticism out to the next critic who claims one of my stories is too darn wordy. Of course these things are subjective, and I'm not entirely sure why I think Ada doesn't quite succeed. Of course it's brilliantly written, and full of wonderful inventions, but...I don't know, somewhere after Part one, after we're banished from Ardis, the book really sags I think. All we're left with is a growing sense of aesthetic polemicism (excepting for the wonderful part where Lucette kills herself) that doesn't derive from the book's situation but seems like Nabokov's elbowing Van out of the way to get his own points in, about translation, about the correct pronunciation of Lolita, about how Freud was wrong about the meaning of dreams, and other things seem meaningless on Antiterra. And what I meant by forced, was say the book's structure: Part One is
half the book, part two half of that, and so on and so forth, too programatically intellectualized a way to dramatize the way in which time and experience speed up as we get older; we understand that this is the meaning, but it does not in my opinion successfully feel anything other than fancily stylized Not to mention that the sibling thing is sexuality used as a symbolic relationship, despite what he said about symbolism, for narcisism, just as homosexuality was also unfortunately used.
VN's apparently unsuccessful attempt to bring together the satirical, lyrical, pedantic sides in his nature ( the bawdy and the puritan, too) is for me a source of endless delight. No "unified field theory"! ( and I loved your angry comment "the bl in the words siblings...connects up with the word blank".) J.A.: You do realize that you have tacitly acceded my point. My reading is right, you're saying, the difference is you like what I'm calling a flaw. There are many delightful things in the book, not the least of which is the Ardis Ada's personality; don't know quite what to make of the later one who thinks nothing of having sex with her half-sibling and forcing her into a three-way she clearly does not want to be in. But I think my favorite moments in the book have to do with Marina. Both in Ardis the second: when Van finds Marina being made up at a table on the lawn; and the scene in Marina's bedroom when she asks Van not to turn little
Lucette's head with too much flirtatious attention. And why does Van characterize Cordula De Prey that way, with her easy virtue and her many abortions! How are we meant to interpret such details? Van I think means them to undermine a certain charm her character had developed up to that moment, but I'm not sure; I liked her better than Ada, but Ada's such a funky fantasy infernal girl that we can never quite believe in her, maybe we're not meant to.
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