I just searched t
he Nabokov-L archives to see if I missed someone's allusion to this book. They are full of references to Robert Michael Pyle, principally due to his volume co-edited with Brian Boyd: Nabokov Blues. In addition to being a lepidopterist and Nabokov scholar, Pyle is a creative writer in his own right: a very good one. A few months ago he published what must surely be his magnum opus: Mariposa Road. The book is a tour de force on many levels: it is the first "Big Year" for butterflies (a phenomenon heretofore restricted to birds: where someone spends a year to seek out as many bird species in America as possible). Pyle dedicated 2008 to locating as many butteflies across America as he could. As one might expect, there are references to Nabokov throughout,
including a chapter epigraph and many allusions to Nabokov blues (as he revisits the San Juan haunts that inspired the last scene in Lolita and the many references throughout to Nabokov's Karner Blue Butterfly, which was first described by Nabokov and has become a cause celebre in butterfly conservation.) The references to VN are so think that i
t almost constitutes another monograph in Nabokoviana.
In addition to being an intense account of butterflies, Mariposa Road is a wonderful piece of creative literature in its own right. Channelling Kerouac as well as Humbert Humbert, Pyle revisits Nabokov's technique in Lolita of criss crossing the-States, but with a nobler aim than either of his predecessors--alluding to HH of course rather than VN. The self portrait he paints of the Lepidopterist (his version anyway) is very compelling, and he encounters a large proportion the Lepist community on his quest: they are a winsome bunch!. For the non butterfly-obsessed reader, the book is full of the richest brew of Americana (quite literally: one of the subthemes is microbrews)
, and well worth wading through the seas of colorful butterfly names and sitings to experience our amazing country through the eyes of a first class naturalist (something all Nabokovians should relate to). Caveat: the conservation and environmental themes are sobering throughout.
As I read through this book, I often thought about Nabokov, and imagined how much he would have enjoyed it. I also marvelled that the science and hobby of Butterfly study has been both avocation and vocation for two of the greatest writing talents in the United States in the last century: something worth noting on this list, I believe.
I have written another review of this book as a blog for my workplace, Denver Botanic Gardens:
The book is ridiculously cheap for a hardback via Amazon: I suspect it would fit quite comfortably on most of your bookshelves.