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VLADIMIR NABOKOV: A Tribute by Peter--Ed. Quennell



Pub Date: June 18th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow

Six critical essays, three bits of reminiscence, and the transcript of a last, short interview with the writer himself--a somehow quite dry and disappointing ""tribute"" to the much-misunderstood author of Pale Fire, Ada, and Lolita. Alex de Jonge writes on VN's ""Uses of Pattern,"" and Mark Lilly catalogues VN's levels of game-playing--strongly argued but essentially pedantic exercises that emphasize the most obvious and off-putting Nabokovian trademarks. And though Martin Amis (it's ""the time to point out. . . that Nabokov spins a jolly good yarn"") and Robert Alter (reaching for the genuineness within the baroque contortions of Ada) try to get past the dazzling Nabokov surfaces, they too bog down badly. Only John Bayley really rises above the term-paper level--in his perceptions of Nabokov as the Pushkin-based writer combatively insisting that art has ""only one proper end result--the purr of beatitude"". . . while generating, almost against his will, ""vulgar human responses like laughter and tears."" The personal memoirs are equally uneven: a detail-rich but stiff and overwritten portrait of VN's last years by son Dmitri; bland memories of Prof. Nabokov by a former Wellesley student; and ""Remembering Nabokov,"" Alfred Appel, Jr.'s rollicking, allusively baroque, Nabokovian/Joycean recollections of punning Prof. Nabokov at Cornell. Plus: a few morsels of great charm in VN's own words--coaching his interviewer on the correct pronunciation of Nabokov, confirming his lifelong loathing of ""Viennese quack"" Freud, mock-celebrating his demonic powers (""my characters cringe as I come near with my whip. I have seen a whole avenue of imagined trees losing their leaves at the threat of my passage""). Overall--pale fire indeed, with only a few sparks peeking out through the academic cloud-cover.