NABOKV-L post 0006217, Tue, 20 Nov 2001 15:10:30 -0800

[Fwd: RE: [Fwd: VN Sighting in _Lemony Snicket_]
EDITOR's NOTE. Kurt Johnson & Steve Coates are the authors of the
fascinating NABOKOV's BLUES which, among other things, offeres a
reevaluation of VN's stature as a lepidopterist. Recommended reading
for anyone interested natural history & VN.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: [Fwd: VN Sighting in _Lemony Snicket_
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 16:31:46 -0500
From: "Johnson, Kurt" <>
To: "'Vladimir Nabokov Forum'" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Probably only by coincidence there is a parallel to the "butterfly
swallowing" "only to emerge again in more hospitable times" between this
account and how nature works-- and, it has gotten a little attention in
the scientific literature concerning Nabokov's Blues. You'll remember
that in our research on dry habitat (desert/ high altitude and
Patagonian scrub-steppe etc.) members of Nabokov's Blues the question
arose whether they, like many of their blues counterparts in Old World
deserts (like the Middle East) etc. could be "swallowed" by nature for a
few years (that is, go into a prolonged diapause [hiberation]) so as to
emerge NOT when they normally should, to precarious circumstances, but,
instead, a few years later when the environment was more hospitable.
We found that Nabokov's New World blues had not gained this evolutionary
ability and theorized that this was because of their relative young
geological age. In Old World areas (Middle East, Himalayas, etc.) it is
not uncommon for butterflies to show this ability for prolonged
diapause...and many of these faunas are geologically very old, probably
meaning that in their eons of existence, the right genetic traits came
along, and were selected for, to allow for this intriguing survival
strategy. It makes one wonder how savvy this author is on Nabokov's own
knowledge of prolonged diapause in butterflies (because certainly he was
aware of it in certain Old World butterflies and even in a few in North
America (not blues, however)). An interesting parallel; by coincidence
or knowledge, who knows?

Dr. Kurt Johnson

-----Original Message-----
From: D. Barton Johnson []
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2001 2:49 PM
Subject: [Fwd: VN Sighting in _Lemony Snicket_

EDITOR's NOTE. NABOKV-L thanks Holly Cupala for the gem below.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: VN Sighting in a most unexpected locale!
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 23:18:27 -0800
From: "Holly A. Cupala" <>
Reply-To: <>
To: "'Vladimir Nabokov Forum'" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

----------------- Message requiring your approval (48 lines) ------------------

In The Hostile Hospital, Lemony Snicket's latest chronicle of the
unfortunate Baudelaire children, there is a wonderfully mischievous
reference to VN:

At this point in the dreadful story I am writing, I must interrupt for a
moment and describe something that happened to a good friend of mine
named Mr. Sirin. Mr. Sirin was a lepidopterist, a word which usually
means "a person who studies butterflies." In this case, however, the
word "lepidopterist" means "a man who was being pursued by angry
government officials," and on the night I am telling you about they were
right on his heels. Mr. Sirin looked back to see how close they
were--four officers in their bright-pink uniforms, with small
flashlights in their left hands and large nets in their right--and
realized that in a moment they would catch up, and arrest him and his
six favorite butterflies, which were frantically flapping alongs
ide him.
Mr. Sirin did not care much if he was captured--he had been in prison
for and a half times over the course of his long and complicated
life--but he cared very much about the butterflies. He realized that
these six delicate insects would undoubtedly perish in bug prison, where
poisonous spiders, stinging bees, and other criminals would rip them to
shreds. So, as the secret police closed in, Mr. Sirin opened his mouth
as wide as he could and swallowed all six butterflies whole, quickly
placing them in the dark but safe confines of his empty stomach. It was
not a pleasant feeling to have these six insects living inside him, but
Mr. Sirin kept them there for three years, eating only the lightest
foods served in prison so as not to crush the insects with a clump of
broccoli or a baked potato. When his prison sentence was over, Mr. Sirin
burped up the grateful butterflies and resumed his lepidoptery work in a
community that was much more friendly to scientists and their sp

I am telling you this story not just to reveal the courage and
imagination of one of my dearest friends, but to help you imagine how
Klaus and Sunny felt as they watched Esmé Squalor, disguised as an
associate of Dr. Flacutono, walk down the hallway of Heimlich Hospital
carrying the long, rusty knife disguised as a surgical tool to be used
on Violet. The two youngsters realized that their only chance of finding
the Surgical Ward and rescuing their sister was to try and fool this
greedy and stiletto-heeled villain, but as they approached her, like Mr.
Sirin during his fifth and final prison sentence, the two Baudelaires
felt the unpleasant fluttering of butterflies in their stomachs.

Holly A. Cupala
fine art and writing for all ages