NABOKV-L post 0015507, Fri, 28 Sep 2007 11:05:16 -0400

Kerouac, Nabokov, and Alma Mahler walk into a bar . . .
[image: Goldwyn Smith Hall] [image: McGraw Hall]


Sage House News: The Cornell University Press September 27, 2007 Kerouac,
Nabokov, and Alma Mahler walk into a bar . .
under: Featured Titles <>, Recently
Released <> — sagehouse @ 8:07 am

Yr. humble correspondent had a good chuckle over the following passage in
Louis Menand's tour of *On the Road*, "Drive, He
*New Yorker*:

"The Beat Movement had a male muse. This was, of course, Neal Cassady, the
protagonist of both 'On the Road,' where he is Dean Moriarty, and 'Howl.' .
. . Cassady also figures in several of Kerouac's other books . . . and his
iconic presence went beyond the Beats. He became a friend of Ken Kesey, and
he was the driver on the Merry Pranksters' famous bus trip, the subject of
Tom Wolfe's 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.' The Grateful Dead wrote a
song about him. He is the Lou Andreas-Salomé, the Alma Mahler Gropius
Werfel, of postwar American culture."

If you'd like to know why exactly that is so funny, you must read Alma
Mahler-Werfel's Diaries,
Alma might never have juggled sledgehammers—as Cassady is described as
doing in *The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test*—but it's a pretty good bet that,
if placed in proximity to the requisite hardware, she'd have found a way.

In "Drive, He Wrote," Menand also says:

"'Lolita' is in the canon; 'On the Road' is somewhat sub-canonical—also a
tour de force, like Nabokov's book, but considered more a literary
phenomenon than a work of literature. On the other hand, it has had an
equivalent influence. Nabokov showed writers how to squeeze a morality tale
inside a Fabergé egg; Kerouac showed how to stretch a canvas across an
entire continent."

If you are interested in this notion of Nabokov as moralist, please have a
look at Leland de la
new Style Is Matter: The Moral Art of Vladimir
which may well become the definitive word on the subject. Clarence Brown
says of de la Durantaye's book:

"Hitler's mass murderer, Eichmann, when awaiting trial in Jerusalem, read
Nabokov's *Lolita*. He pronounced it an immoral book. Readers less famous
but equally perceptive have agreed. The editor of the *Scottish Sunday
Express* found *Lolita*, 'the filthiest book I have ever read.' The author
of *Style is Matter* does not, of course, spend much time refuting the
absurdity of these views. His splendidly insightful, readable book deals not
only with the moral nature of Nabokov's novels but also with the ethical
dimension of great fiction, and of all great art. Readers need not be
troubled by the expectation of seeing what I suppose will be their own point
of view argued, however ably, for this book is a constantly surprising and
delightful work of criticism."

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