Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005806, Sat, 10 Mar 2001 21:52:23 -0800

Re: Rosebud (fwd)
From: Rodney Welch <rodney41@mindspring.com>

I don't know that influence-spotting is all that illuminating, but it is
necessary when the artist in question claims no influences at all.

Rodney Welch
Columbia, SC

** It strikes to me that this argument -- influences versus no influences
-- is not unlike the debate about evolution versus creationism. Nabokov
professed to believe that he was created from the very start as a
ready-made Artist, or, at the very least, a ready-made cocoon of an
Artist. But then his ideas about evolution were also quite unorthodox,
as Bob Pyle, among others, points out. In his Introduction to _Nabokov's
Butterflies_, Pyle writes: "Not that he was a creationist by any
stretch... [b]ut he doubted that Darwinian selection could tell the
whole story" (64). Just how much of a true creationist he, indeed, was
in the case of influences we will never know but it is quite likely
that VN had a tendency to exaggerate his contrarian claims precisely
because he was afraid that others might believe that, like evolution,
influences "could tell the whole story." GD***

> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 16:40:23 -0800
> Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)
> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
> I meant to include Proust, but it was past my bedtime. The phrase should
> have read "Some of the major influences were Shakespeare, Milton,
> Browning, Flaubert, and Pushkin." I think what is arguable is the
> necessity of seeking "influences" for understanding an artist. The problem
> I have is that we seem to be saying that "If A hadn't written, B wouldn't
> have either." or that "A did something in a particular way because B had."
> and I am not sure those are valid conclusions. At any rate, I am not sure
> it adds anything to our picture of the work of art.
> On Sat, 10 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
>> ** I believe Kiran Krishna probably meant "Gogol and, of course, Pushkin"
>> but he will clarify it himself, of course. For my own part, I find it
>> somewhat odd that we are seriously discussing the possibility that any
>> writer, including Nabokov, could possibly escape the influence of others,
>> especially those who were writing before him and whose books, of course,
>> shaped his/her sensibilities as a child or a young person. The case with
>> writers who were writing at the same time should be harder to assume
>> because it does not quite work the same way but even there, when a writer
>> reads another writer, the process is of course similar to any craftsman
>> observing another craftsman's work and looking for elements he/she can
>> successfully introduce into one's own art. This is what being a true
>> professional is all about -- and Nabokov was obviously that. GD**
>> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
>> I think influences can be easily exaggerated ('Without Flaubert there
>> would have been no Marcel Proust in France, no James Joyce in Ireland.
>> Chekhov in Russia would not have been quite Chekhov'), but the strongest
>> 'influences' on VN were, I believe, Browning, Flaubert, Pushkin and, of
>> course, Pushkin. I don't think VN maintained that he was totally without
>> precursors, but what he did (legitimately) protest against was
>> influence-mongering for its own sake. Interestingly enough (One thinks of
>> Borges), this works both ways: I cannot read (say) 'Porphyria's Lover',
>> 'Pippa Passes', or 'Andrea Del Sarto' (with its wonderful tint of
>> silver-gray) without thinking of VN, especially since in my own journey,
>> Browning came a long time after Lolita. Similiarly, I cannot read Thomas
>> Browne's 'Urn Burial' without thinking of (the disappointingly
>> underestimated) De Quincey. Pleasant as those associations are, I am
>> sceptical regarding how much they have to offer by way of understanding.
>> On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
>>> From: Rodney Welch <rodney41@mindspring.com>
>>> Since reading Proust, I've found it hard to believe that Nabokov was totally
>>> invulnerable to influence. I don't know if "Lolita" could have been created
>>> by someone who had not read Proust, and not just because of the allusions;
>>> it's hard for me to read "Lolita" without sensing distant echoes of
>>> Albertine, Gilberte, et al. The same goes for Nabokov's first novel, "Mary."
>>> Indeed, "In Search of Lost Time" could serve as a title for "Lolita" had it
>>> not already been taken. Aren't both novels testaments to the recreative and
>>> inventive possibilities of memory?
>>> I don't think that there is a "Citizen Kane" connection with "Lolita,"
>>> except in one rather obscure coincidental sense: the rose/vagina connection.
>>> "Rosebud," as most fans of the Welles film know, was a bit of a dirty trick
>>> on the part of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, since he had known Kane's
>>> model, William Randolph Hearst, personally, and knew that "Rosebud" was his
>>> pet name for the pudenda of his lover, the actress Marion Davies.
>>> Dolores Haze, too, is constantly connected with the image of a rose --
>>> beautiful but temporary -- and Humbert refers to her pubis as her "brown
>>> rose."
>>> This is not, however, an uncommon literary image, and I doubt one had much
>>> to do with the other.
>>> Rodney Welch
>>> Columbia, SC
>>>> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
>>>> Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
>>>> Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:27:19 -0800
>>>> Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)
>>>> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
>>>> I usually accept Nabokov's insistent denials of influence (Ignoring them
>>>> has led to some rather dreadful errors in the past: Someone's - Her name
>>>> escapes me - essay on Kafka comes to mind; Influence, as Appel
>>>> acknowledges, is a troublesome question), and I agree that there is no
>>>> reason to doubt his denial. However, I hadn't read the book since I
>>>> couldn't find it at our library, and I presumed that it was no different
>>>> from the essay. Still, as with Stravinsky, there are some interesting
>>>> similarities.
>>>> On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
>>>>> From: Brian Walter <bdwalter@artsci.wustl.edu>
>>>>> Appel's essay "Nabokov's Dark Cinema" may not mention Welles, but his book
>>>>> *Nabokov's Dark Cinema* (OUP, 1974) certainly does. Appel does in fact
>>>>> verify that Nabokov loved *Citizen Kane*; apparently, Nabokov described it
>>>>> as "Extraordinary! A masterpiece" (p. 57). Appel even asks Nabokov about
>>>>> the famous "'Rosebud' ending," which Welles labeled "dollar-book Freud";
>>>>> by
>>>>> way of reply, Nabokov apparently "shrugged his shoulders, and the
>>>>> conversation turned to soccer" (57-8).
>>>>> Unfortunately for this line of inquiry, the same passage has Nabokov
>>>>> rejecting any possibility of influence or allusion, as he informed Appel
>>>>> that he had seen *Citizen Kane* only in 1972, on Swiss television (57).
>>>>> It's probably a good idea to take any of Nabokov's insistent denials of
>>>>> influence or allusion with a grain of salt (apart from Freud, few things
>>>>> seem to have sparked Nabokov's competitive zeal more readily than a
>>>>> suggestion that he was not self-engendered as a writer, one who
>>>>> effectively
>>>>> skipped the gestation of apprenticeship and imitation that so many other
>>>>> artists acknowledge; see, for instance, just about any interview in
>>>>> *Strong
>>>>> Opinions*). But in this case, there seems no reason not to take Nabokov
>>>>> at
>>>>> his word.
>>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>>> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
>>>>> Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 10:40 AM
>>>>> Subject: Rosebud (fwd)
>>>>> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
>>>>> It just occured to me that in the following sentence (Part 1, Chapter 7,
>>>>> Page 23 in the annotated edition):
>>>>> "Next day, an asthmatic woman, coarsely painted, garrulous, garlicky, with
>>>>> an almost farcical Provencal accent and a black mustache above a purple
>>>>> lip, took me to what was her own domicile, and there, after explosively
>>>>> kissing the bunched tips of her fat fingers to signify the delectable
>>>>> rosebud quality of her merchandise, she theatrically drew aside a curtain
>>>>> to reveal what I judged was that part of the room where a large and
>>>>> unfastidious family usually slept."
>>>>> Rosebud could be interpreted as a reference to Orson Welles' Citizen
>>>>> Kane. Of course, allusions cannot really be discerned from single words,
>>>>> but Welles, like a number of other great artists, has a fascination with
>>>>> vulgarity (though in Citizen Kane, the vulgarity is closer to kitsch
>>>>> than poshlost'). Ada (especially Dan Veen, the dream chapter - Part 2,
>>>>> Chapter 3, and the dozen elderly townsmen of Part 1, Chapter 39, which
>>>>> reminds me of the dozen vacationers in the west wing of Xanadu) suggests
>>>>> Citizen Kane much more strongly. However, I find that Appel's essay (which
>>>>> among other things is remarkable for its appreciation of Stravinsky's
>>>>> Oedipus Rex), 'Nabokov's Dark Cinema' (collected, if you cannot find it by
>>>>> itself, in 'The Bitter Air of Exile') makes no mention at all of Welles,
>>>>> and neither, I notice, does Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Still, I
>>>>> think it would be a fascinating area of research, and would be delighted
>>>>> to hear other views on this subject.
>>>> Cheers!
>>>> yours
>>>> Kiran
>>>> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
>>>> - Vladimir Nabokov
>>>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
>>>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy
>> Cheers!
>> yours
>> Kiran
>> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
>> -Vladimir Nabokov
>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy
> Cheers!
> yours
> Kiran
> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
> -Vladimir Nabokov
> http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
> http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy