Former posting: “After a detailed rereading of V.Nabokov’s lecture on James Joyce… I let the epic “cotidian” slowly overwhelm me… [quote] There is nothing more tedious than a protracted and sustained allegory based on a well-worn myth; and after the work had appeared in parts, Joyce promptly deleted the pseudo-Homeric titles of his chapters when he saw what scholarly and pseudoscholarly bores were up to.

JM: A “sustained allegory based on a well-worn myth”… Could V.Nabokov be indicating, here, besides James Joyce’s novel itself, also T.S.Eliot’s article on “ ‘Ulysses,’ Order and Myth” published in “The Dial” (Nov.1923)?


Somewhat superficially I considered VN’s references to myths mainly in relation to Freud’s terminology, such as “the Oedipus complex.” (quote:  “Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.”) but now I realize that this was a lazy and over simplistic view, even for an amateur reader like me.


I found a trove of articles fanning out on “New Criticism”, T. S. Eliot’s “mythic method”,  or on Joyce and E. Wilson (the latter apparently (?) didn’t merit occasional mentions in VN’s interviews, writings and novels, like the two others) that now invites me onto further readings before I can consider once again my changeling interpretations of “Pale Fire” and the positive projects hidden behind his satire.


Meanwhile, since we are not too far away from V.Nabokov’s birthday, I’d like to bring up a few lines from Martin Amis’ 1999 homage [ Nabokov and Literary Greatness], worth quoting again:

“What inhibited Joyce was perhaps introversion. A failure of love for the reader. John Updike is surely right when he says that Nabokov's is essentially an amorous style – it longs to hold diaphanous reality in its hairy arms. But Nabokov wants to embrace his readers too. He comes across as this snorting wizard of hauteur, but he is the dream host, always giving us on our visits his best chair and his best wine. What would Joyce do? Let's think, he would call out vaguely from the kitchen, asking you to wait a couple of hours for the final fermentation of a home-brewed punch made out of grenadine, conger eels and sheep dip [  ] "That human life is but the first installment of the serial soul, becomes something more than an optimistic conjecture when we remember that only common sense rules immortality out." True, yet common sense also rules immortality in. Writers live on in the love and gratitude of their readers and Vladamir Nabokov is here tonight because our hearts are brimming with him.” *   

* Site manager's note: In honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Nabokov, PEN American Center, The New Yorker, Vintage Books and Manhattan's Town Hall brought together a group of authors on 15 April 1999 to read from and reflect on Nabokov's work. Martin Amis's remarks follow….






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