NABOKV-L post 0018829, Fri, 20 Nov 2009 11:26:31 -0500

Subject
TOoL: A few thoughts
Date
Body
My heartfelt thanks as well to Dmitri for giving us this gift.

Chip Kidd's design, incorporating the photo facsimiles, is thrilling. The prominence given to the list of synonyms (we can't really know that it was supposed to end the novel) causes each of the words (from "efface" to "obliterate") to radiate connections that extend from the novel itself to the book's design and even, with supreme irony, to the situation of its author. In moving from "efface" to "obliterate" we move etymologically from the removal of the face or form (presumably the last stage of Philip Wild's project) to the removal of letters--an arc we can easily relate to VN's own death and the questions surrounding TOoL. The second word in the list ("expunge") comes from expungere, meaning "to prick out, mark for erasure by dots" (Webster's 2nd). In the design of the book, Chip Kidd not only gives us perforations around each card, but also includes perforation-like dots around VN's photo, as if he himself were marked for erasure.

While I found the reworking of the Lolita theme tiresome on the whole, I did enjoy the scene in Chapter Two where Mr. Hubert, humming, weaves a "sticky invisible" web around Flora, much like Humbert's spider web early on in Lolita.

On page 95 we get a thumbful of "modern French writers," with one exception. This appears to be "Michima," "a foreign performer" inserted by Flora's Japanes classmate. The reference may be to Yurio Mishima, the Japanese novelist who "performed" ritual suicide (seppuku, or disembowelment) which ended with his own beheading (at the hands of a servant). Like Wild, presumably, the head went last, and given PW's own bowel problems, he too might have contemplated a similar autosurgical procedure.

Matt Roth



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