NABOKV-L post 0017666, Fri, 6 Feb 2009 17:04:26 -0200

Re: Propose a limited-edition artist's book of The Real Life of
Sebastian Knight
SES: I'm team-teaching a course this semester entitled "Artists' Books and Writers' Tales," which includes both a weekly seminar (focusing largely on discussions of fiction that asks questions about the nature of books and reading) and a weekly studio (in which students learn to make books). Artists' books, or livres d'artistes, are book-objects that take a variety of forms.We just read The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and I gave the students the following assignment for Wednesday, Feb. 18, which I thought List members might enjoy. Perhaps you would like to submit your own proposals to the List? [...] Assignment:
In the spirit of Borges, who describes the books he may write someday, and in an effort to bring our course’s literary and visual components together, I’d like you to imagine creating a limited-edition artist’s book of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Your proposed book should incorporate the text of Nabokov’s novel and convey its meaning through the book’s own visual, spatial, or conceptual form. What would such a book look like? How would one read it? The artists’ books that you’ve seen in the studio, in exhibits at the Cantor, or in the pages of Smith’s Structure of the Visual Book may inspire you. This is only a proposal, so you’re not limited by your resources or technical skills. Please describe your book in a brief paragraph, about as long as this one (150 words), and bring it to class on Wednesday, Feb. 18. You may include a sketch if you wish.

JM: What an impressive invitation and magic carpet teaching project: how to transform 150 words into a self-contained book that incorporates the text of RLSK and its uni-multiverse while breaking away, at the same time, from its containment (if I understood correctly the spirit of your creative task).Congratulations!

One question: You mentioned that V. proclaims that “any soul may be yours, if you find and follow its undulations” (p.204) in its final paragraph, which includes "three parts, joined by the word “or,” " thereby allowing the reader "at least three possible interpretations (or, in McHale’s terms, multiple endings)...: V. suddenly realizes that he and Sebastian may actually be literary characters." The final quandary, resulting from "who is this “someone else” who can be both of them, but whom neither of them knows? The author of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight? or the reader of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight? We’re back where we started!", as I see it, is dependent on accepting V's premiss "any soul may be yours."
Should the reader reject this premiss does it mean that the text of RLSK has not been sufficiently "incorporated" and that, from the very start, the reader has failed the proposed assignment?

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