NABOKV-L post 0007198, Mon, 2 Dec 2002 08:57:28 -0800

Fw: 7) Vladimir Nabokov,
by Jane Grayson .. especially for any admirer of Nabokov ..
EDNOTE. I add my endorsement to Michael Dirda's "stocking stuffer" recommendation below. Grayson's short inexpensive book combines a basic, beautifully written, biography of VN plus a cornucopia of splendid photographs to delight the VN connoisseur.

----- Original Message -----
From: Sandy P. Klein
Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 8:26 PM
Subject: 7) Vladimir Nabokov, by Jane Grayson .. especially for any admirer of Nabokov ..

December 1 2002

Michael Dirda
In which our dilettante-columnist finds holiday cheer in essays, memoirs and poetry.

By Michael Dirda
Sunday, December 1, 2002; Page BW15

"Every morning," confessed Jean Cocteau gloomily, "I tell myself, you can do nothing about it: submit." I know how he feels. Periodically I awake -- usually after a night of grinding my remaining teeth and a few director's-cut nightmares -- to the conviction that I never could write, lack all critical intelligence, and am, at best, nothing but a shallow dilettante. While public intellectuals or cutting-edge critics are busy primping for their morning sound-bites and radio spots, I shamble despondently to the bathroom with phrases like "bankrupt imagination" and "where did I go wrong?" resounding through my otherwise bleakly empty mind.

But after a pot of black coffee, I start to look on the, well, less dark side. I still love to read, and avowed dilettantism does free one from any kind of parti pris zealotry. Specialization, ideology, intellectual turf -- none of these troubles the insouciant boulevardier of letters. While single-minded scholars devote careers to learning everything about novelist Charles Brockden Brown, while deep thinkers delve deeper and deeper into the theoretical underpinnings of feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, while with-it assistant profs deconstruct Indian captivity narratives or hip-hop lyrics or movie scripts, I simply read whatever catches my fancy.

That shameless eclecticism is reflected in the sort of books that pile up around my bedside during the fall. As Christmas approaches, these stacks grow more and more precarious, rather like my own tenuous grip on reality. But it's pretty clear that the common element among these livres de chevet is that they tend to be highly personal works, nobly and steadfastly dilettantish even when the authors hold passionate views about art and culture. Let's take a quick look at 12, the canonical number for all

7) Vladimir Nabokov, by Jane Grayson; Samuel Beckett, by Gerry Dulles (Overlook, $19.95 each). These two volumes -- on possibly my favorite mid-20th-century writers -- inaugurate a beautifully designed new series called Overlook Illustrated Lives. Roughly the size of trade paperbacks, the 150-page primers surround scores of pictures -- one or more to nearly every page -- with crisply related biography and commentary. (If you know the annual PleМade "Album" series -- e.g. Album Stendhal,Album Queneau -- you will recognize this format.) Look no further for the perfect literary stocking stuffer, especially for any admirer of Nabokov, Beckett or fine book-making.

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