NABOKV-L post 0018614, Mon, 28 Sep 2009 17:21:46 -0400

Re: from Ron Rosenbaum re: an encounter with <Laura>
I don't agree with RR's characterization of "revision" at the end of his piece. Writing, even for a genius, is not a ticker tape emerging from some dome of creativity. It's a process. Words are chosen and discarded, and whether they are chosen and discarded in the mind before putting them down on paper, or after, it's still all part of the process of writing. Some just revise more on paper than others. To characterize VN's revisions as the correction of "mistakes" is to mischaracterize this process.

Christopher Guerin
1222 W. Rudisill Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
260-409-9541 cell

-----Original Message-----
From: jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US>
Sent: Sat, Sep 26, 2009 10:35 am
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] from Ron Rosenbaum re: an encounter with <Laura>]

Rosenbaum:List members might find my account of first looking into the
prepublication edition of <The Original of Laura> of interest. I am
particularly grateful to Dmitri for the acknowledgment. I did read all 138 index
cards, but for the time being that was the only matter Knopf permitted me to
write about. 


excerpts: "I regard Nabokov's work, Nabokov's mind, as a labyrinth one
could (and ideally should) get lost in for a lifetime. He possessed something, a
gift, whose luminescence outshone that of other writers: It made them the palest
of pale fire in comparison with his lightning flashes.
Once, as a
child, I had=2
0a dream that someone was disclosing to me something I remember as
"the secret of lightning." I woke up having forgotten the "secret" but never
forgot the thrill of being close to that hidden knowledge [JM: a similar
experience is related by VN is one of his early short-stories, I think it is in
"The Word"*]. That's the way I feel when I read Nabokov. Encrypted within his
words, encoded indecipherably, ambiguously, is the equivalent of the secret of
lightning. Something akin to the secret code of higher human consciousness, the
DNA, the genome of genius...
may have tipped my thinking on the subject was the sight of Nabokov's
scrawl-outs....I'd known about them from the photos in Die Zeit...They were
evidence of the drama inherent in the creative process,
a process whose heart is revision. I devoted a substantial portion of The
Shakespeare Wars to the scholarly controversy over whether Shakespeare revised
his play scripts...Shakespeare's
revisions (and Nabokov's) matter for two reasons. Revision indicated that even
these writers shouldn't be considered godlike figures from whom the muse poured
forth perfection on the first try, but writers who are—in some ways—like other writers, in at least this
respect: They were subject to second thoughts...revisions also offer a window
into the humanity of the author. That even the greatest of geniuses (and yes, I
believe the term is valid for these two) were not superhuman; they live in the
same world of error and20doubt that the rest of us inhabit. The fact that they
think they've made "mistakes" makes their work even more perfect than it would
be if they never blotted a line or scratched out a word.


Although I have felt something that gets close
to Rosenbaum's enthusiastic & wonderful descriptions of VN
magic ("the equivalent of the secret of lightining...akin to the secret code
of higher human consciousness..."), his comparison bt. saints and
their miracles ("it made them the palest of pale fire in
comparison...) or the pairing of Nabokov and
Shakespeare, strike me as being in very  bad taste. As
was his praise of scrawls, revisions and corrections that would turn these
geniuses' efforts into a work "more perfect" because they reveal
"their humanity". 

once read Henry Ford's blunt words about "History" ( "Bunk."), and, in
relation to literary criticism and success, my comments shall be as inapt as
Ford's dismissal of social history. But "bunk!" I say


The Word, 1923: "Carried away from a terrestrial night by the
inspired breeze of a dream, I found myself standing by the edge of a
road...and I knew that I was in Paradise ...And suddenly the road on which I stood,
suffocated by this splendour, was teeming with a tempest of wings… Out of some
blinding depths there arose the multitude of
angels I had been waiting
for...And fleetingly embracing
my shoulders with his wings, the angel uttered a single word, and in his voice I
recognised all the beloved voices that had fallen silent....It was a word that
overflowed in fragrance and resonance through my tendons, the sun rose in my
cerebrum, and the innumerable ravines of my consciousness picked up and repeated
the heavenly, radiant word....I cried out the word, taking delight in each syllable. I fitfully
threw up my eyes in radiant rainbows of blissful tears…Lord! Winter's
first green light is shimmering in my window, and I do not remember what it is I
cried out…"

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