NABOKV-L post 0026434, Thu, 10 Sep 2015 19:44:58 -0400

Re: Was Nabokov a Hebephile\Ephebophile?
Regarding Anthony Stadlen's remark (but not his other points): "Is not
someone who accepts money to give a public interview and then becomes an
"unreliable interviewee", by lying (in, for example, a journal for which
his admiring readers pay good money), dishonouring his contract?"

I don't think VN expected to be held to the same standard of truth in his
interviews as, say, a public servant is (and should be). Like many artists
with doubts about biography's aims and ends (e.g., Bob Dylan:, he seems to have regarded the
interview as just another art form to be exploited for entertainment and
other purposes. As he put it to *Vogue* in 1969:

*Is it right for a writer to give interviews? *

* Why not? Of course, in a strict sense a poet, a novelist, is not a
public figure, not an exotic potentate, not an international lover, not a
person one would be proud to call Jim. I can quite understand people
wanting to know my writings, but I cannot sympathize with anybody wanting
to know me. As a human specimen, I present no particular fascination. My
habits are simple, my tastes banal. I would not exchange my favorite fare
(bacon and eggs, beer) for the most misspelt menu in the world. I irritate
some of my best friends by the relish with which I list the things I hate —
nightclubs, yachts, circuses, pornographic shows, the soulful eyes of naked
men with lots of Guevara hair in lots of places. It may seem odd that such
a modest and unassuming person as I should not disapprove of the widespread
practice of self-description. No doubt some literary interviews are pretty
awful: trivial exchanges between sage and stooge, or even worse, the French
kind, starting «Jeanne Dupont, qui etes-vous?» (who indeed!) and sporting
such intolerable vulgarisms as «insolite» and «ecriture» (French weeklies,
please note!). I do not believe that speaking about myself can encourage
the sales of my books. What I really like about the better kind of public
colloquy is the opportunity it affords me to construct in the presence of
my audience the semblance of what I hope is a plausible and not altogether
displeasing personality.*

The novelist John Gardner referred to this far from displeasing, highly
entertaining personality: *Think of the superbly controlled sadist-snob
image Hitchcock created for himself. Think of Nabokov as he presented
himself both in his writing and in television interviews; using a snob
accent as artfully fabricated as the language of Donald Duck, he reveled in
such goofiness as, breaking in on himself, "Careful now, here comes a
metaphor!" (*

Not that VN was always jokey, but I wonder if he would ever have done
interviews at all if he hadn't been allowed to distance himself from the
proceedings and "play" with the form.

However, it does surprise me that no interviewer ever seems to have
elicited from him his sober personal viewpoint on pedophilia and its
causes. Maybe the question was asked and he preferred *Lolita* to answer
for him.

Brian T.

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