Advance PW Review: Nabokov's 'The Original of Laura', Publishers Weekly,
The Original of Laura: (Dying Is Fun), Vladimir Nabokov. Knopf, $35
(288p) ISBN 978-0-307-27189-1
Before Nabokov’s death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the
unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final
novel[...]Nabokov’s son, Dmitri [...] is releasing them to the world, though
after reading the book, readers will wonder if the Lolita author is laughing or
turning over in his grave. This very unfinished work reads largely like an
outline, full of seeming notes-to-self, references to source material,
self-critique, sentence fragments and commentary [...]Mostly, this amounts to a
peek inside the author’s process and mindset as he neared death. Indeed,
mortality, suicide, impotence, a disgust with the male human body—and an
appreciation of the fit, young female body—figure prominently
[...] Depending on the reader’s eye, the final card in the book is either
haunting or the great writer’s final sly wink: it’s a list of synonyms for
“efface”—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally,
JM: The critic's negative pre(re)view about TOOL is
somehow balanced by the additional information on how the cards
are presented by Knopf Eds.
It is certainly enriching and fundamental to allow less
distinguished Nabokov scholars, and admirers, "a peek inside the
author's process and mindset as he neared death."
The disquieting final card, with its list of synonyms for
"efface", a compelling array of words which Nabokov wouldn't have
needed to set down in writing, intrigued me in particular.
If one considers the first and last words (and expunge the others) and lets
them to, associatively, "de-compose," we get:
"eff" and "face", also "ob" and "literate". If we remember that VN
often returned to "the shadow of words", complained of Joyce's
"excess of verbal body", described himself as one who doesn't think in
words but in images, TOOL's last is a trump card.