NABOKV-L post 0020733, Wed, 15 Sep 2010 17:27:34 -0600

Fwd: Sept. 15 - Tennyson, McKay, Nabokov, Rochefoucald
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From: Today in Literature <>
Date: Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 3:06 AM
Subject: Sept. 15 - Tennyson, McKay, Nabokov, Rochefoucald

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Tennyson and *In Memoriam*
*Sept 15, 2010* On this day in 1833 Arthur Henry
at the age of twenty-two; in 1850, he would be eulogized in
*In Memoriam A.H.H*.: “. . . I hold it true, whate'er befall; / I feel it,
when I sorrow most; / 'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to
have loved at all.” [full
] [image: spacer]

The Jamaican-American poet and novelist *Claude McKay* was born on this day
in 1889. A central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, McKay's *Home to Harlem
* (1928) was the first novel by a black author to make the best-seller
lists. This accomplishment was not applauded on all sides: horrified by the
novel’s vivid portrayal of Harlem’s sex-crime-unemployment subculture, *W.
E. B. Du Bois* and many others accused McKay of selling his race out, “under
the direction of the White man” who wanted to publish or read such
trash. Langston
on the other hand, regarded the book as “the flower of the Negro
Renaissance, even if it is no lovely lilly.” Caught in the “How Shall the
Negro Be Portrayed?” debate, McKay threw up his hands: “Between the devil of
Negro intellectualism and the deep sea of Negro life stands the Negro

McKay first came to America on a United Fruit Company passenger-cargo ship.
His poem “The Tropics in New York” describes a double dispossession, the
speaker unable to either buy the tropical fruit behind the window or return
to the homeland which produced it:

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root
Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Sat in the window, bringing memories
of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical skies
In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grow dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.
The first edition cover of McKay's 1937 autobiography [image:
spacer] Vladimir
's* Lolita* was published in Paris on this day in 1955; below the first,
Olympia edition. In his Afterword, this written in 1956 and included in most
subsequent editions, Nabokov describes his struggles to find a publisher,
and scoffs at the post-publication uproar:

No writer in a free country should be expected to bother about the exact
demarcation between the sensuous and the sensual; this is preposterous; I
can only admire but cannot emulate the accuracy of judgment of those who
pose the fair young mammals photographed in magazines where the general
neckline is just low enough to provoke a past master's chuckle and just high
enough not to make a postmaster frown. I presume there exist readers who
find titillating the display of mural words in those hopelessly banal and
enormous novels which are typed out by the thumbs of tense mediocrities and
called 'powerful' and 'stark' by the reviewing hack. There are gentle souls
who would pronounce Lolita meaningless because it does not teach them
anything. I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and,
despite John Ray's assertion, *Lolita* has no moral in tow. For me a work of
fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call
aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with
other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy)
is the norm….

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Old people love to give good advice; it compensates them for their inability
to set a bad example.

—*Duc Francois de la Rochefoucald*, who was born on this day in 1613

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