NABOKV-L post 0017658, Thu, 5 Feb 2009 01:48:44 -0800

Re: Updike on Nabokov
Following Mr Aisenberg's posting, I picked up Updike's "More Matters" and found his review of VN's Collected Short Stories more laudatory than implied. Please allow me to cite a few passages: 

"Sirin’s Sixty-Five Shimmering Short Stories
Return trips to Paradise are risky. The prose of Vladimir Nabokov did loom as a paradise for me when I began to read [him]….over forty years ago…The publication now, eighteen years after Nabokov’s death, of his collected stores…offers a threat as well as a treat: a threat, that is, to dull and dampen a faithful reader’s old ardor with a ponderous assembly of short fiction already relished in the four handy collections…which the senior N had issued while alive.
His youthful passions for ledpidopterology, chess, and poetry fused to form a prose of unique intensity and trickiness….this tension in Nabokov’s case generated an unfailing cascade of bejeweled details, expressed with a language inventively straining at the limits of the expressible….
When he began to write stories in English, Nabokov sacrificed nothing of verbal ingenuity…”The Vane Sisters” with its purely American characters, is too spookily clever for words, but “scenes from the Life of a Double Monster” and “Lance” show that, had he chosen, he could have tweaked and deepened the shorter form as impressively as he did the novel in his amazing imported English. “Sirin,” his Russian pen-name, means “bird of paradise”; it was Nabokov’s preening gift to stir paradisiacal intimations wherever he alighted."  More Matter, pp. 287-290
A. Bouazza.

From: joseph Aisenberg <vanveen13@SBCGLOBAL.NET>
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2009 6:31:12 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Albion

Wasn't the only Updike novel that Nabokov praised The Centaur? I found his prose an odd mix of exact rhythmed description and bits and pieces of his influences. I've heard him say his major ones were Proust (?!!) and the english conversation novelist something or other Green. I remember thinking Couples had an unfortunate and grinding Joyless Joycean quality, but I adored his short story A&P. I also thought he did a very amusing review of The Defense back in the sixties collected in his first book chat Occasional Prose. Didn't really care for his review of N's collected short stories (in More Matter) where he said that he had lost his initial ecstatic response to N.'s prose, that there were some paradises one could never return to. He also maintained (as did Edmund White) that Nabokov as writer was the total austere aristocrat who was somehow ("charmingly", I recall) able to throw himself into the sordid world of Berlin pension life that he could
never really belong to--as if a real artist could ever belong anywhere! I remember thinking this didn't at all correspond to my Nabokov, who, as Mary Mccarthy once noted of all great writers, was a fantastic gossip; a novelist who loved to wallow in the colorfully unpleasant, prey to all the petty foibles of that petty world, no matter how apart from it he may have been. As for David Foster Wallace's comment, I can only say that this is an amusing criticism coming from someone who ended his life by committing suicide, the ultimate act of solipsism. I was never bothered by all Updike's sex; I was bothered by its being neither sexy nor audaciously perverse enough, merely the tepid (if occasionally poetic) expression of a rather middle class variety of lust gunked up in a lot of "ambitious" fancy writing. For a really biting review of Updike I suggest Gore Vidal's hilarious, if probably unfair, piece "Rabbit's Burrow" collected in The American
Empire, essays from 1992 to 2000. It's wonderfully bitchy. In any case I wish the best for his remains.

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