NABOKV-L post 0021110, Wed, 29 Dec 2010 08:00:09 -0500

Books of 2010: A Best Of List ...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Books of 2010: A Best Of List


Hey everybody, it's that time of year again, when I pick the best books I've read over the previous twelve months. I don't remember what I've called this feature in the past, but I've probably had a different name each time, due to my failing memory. Titles like "Favorite Books of 2009" or "What Are the Best Books I Read in 2008? THESE ONES ARE!", probably. It doesn't matter. The only salient facts about these lists are that I don't limit myself to ten, and I don't limit myself to books published that year. This last one is fortunate as I read very little new fiction in a given year, although this time around two whole books published in 2010 make the list, which for me must be some kind of record. The only other thing I want to mention, as I always do, is that this list is, for the most part, in no particular order, until you get to the top four or so. Even there it's kind of interchangeable among those, but I think the number one book on this list is, in fact, my number one book of the year. So now to the list.

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.4. Despair by Vladimir Nabokov - The greatest writer in the history of everything, Vladimir Nabokov could do, or seemed to be able to do, whatever he wanted to do with his fiction at all times, and in Despair he decided to give me a present, some forty-one years prior to my birth, by writing a chilling little murder story about Hermann, a man who believes he has found in Felix his exact double. Hermann is the kind of narrator -- deluded, absurd, funny, frightening, that Nabokov seemed able to create at will, without ever seeming to repeat himself, though when you can write prose like Vladimir Nabokov you probably don't waste a lot of time worrying about how your plots come across. But Despair's plot is nevertheless beautifully handled, culminating in a wintry confrontation in a forest that Nabokov himself called "good fun", but which struck me as fairly worthy of the novel's title. Despair is Nabokov working in the vein of Edgar Allan Poe, but in the end creating something entirely his own. Magnificent.

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Posted by bill r. at 11:41 AM

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