VN COLLATION #6
by Suellen Stringer-Hye
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
Vanderbilt University
stringers@library.vanderbilt.edu

"Lentil, Len-til. Len. Til. Lennnnntillllllllllllll. Lentilita, Lovely luscious lentil. Okay so maybe it made more sense when Nabokov did it. Perhaps a man's love for his lentils isn't the stuff of great novels."

But who is Nabokov anyway? That's what British journalist Andrew Neil, who will soon take a job in New York as editor and chief reporter of a new television current affairs program on the FOX network, is famed by his countrymen for asking at a conference of senior editors. Proof of ignorance or feigned unawareness, "Fergie", as Charles Nevin of the Independent calls him, is a ferocious, bullying sort of guy who "puts himself across wittily and often savagely. Great TV".

Another Brit, John Osborne, author of John Osborne on England, who if the reviewer has portrayed him correctly seems to be a sort of British Rush Limbaugh, doesn't like, because he doesn't seem to know, who Nabokov is either. The reviewer says that Osborne reveals traits that he claims to despise in others,

"Contempt", "brutishness", bullying", "lustreless discourtesy" : they crop up again and again, these words - Nabokov is a brute and a bully - with...

The Guardian April 30, 1994

Lulu's zany new furniture shop opened this month in Ottawa,

"This is the tale of the Lolita couch, not quite what Vladimir Nabokov had in mind but still a great story: 'I have this friend Lolita, and she had this wonderful love affair, and together, she and her lover got this sofa with an oblong back and long seat, very deco, covered in this wonderful black damask. Well they broke up, and she phoned me to say, 'I just can't leave him the sofa, Will you take it? A few days later a very deserving...couple bought the Lolita couch.
Now the very fun thing about this story, the very Nabokovian thing about this story, perhaps the only item of interest in relation to this story, is the way THIS couch thematically echoes in tint if not in texture the black divan furnishing the burnished library of the Veen family estate, in Ladore County, located on the Atlantic panel of the U.S.A. Ottawa Citizen May 18,1994

"In his memoirs, the Russian emigre writer Vladimir Nabokov 'accidentally mentions that his family despised Faberge objects as emblems of grotesque garishness'." This at least is how Alexander von Solodkoff (of the Ermitage Gallery in London) puts it in a fascinating essay, "Tracing Fabergé Treasures after 1918. "

This essay is to be found in the book Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, which was published coincidentally with a recent Fabergé exhibition shown in London Paris and St. Petersburg. The editorial comment of the Christian Science Monitor's reviewer continues,

"But Fabergé is not to everyone's taste, however varied his styles may have been. One suspects that Nabokov's remark was hardly "accidental." It may have been incidental - an aside - but he clearly wanted it to be known by his readers that not all Russians automatically admired their famous court jeweler. The Christian Science Monitor May 9, 1994 after 1918. "

At a recent Antiquarian Booksellers conference in Los Angeles a pristine and rare letter in Russian from Nabokov to his friend Gleb Struve appeared. The sales blurb said it was,

" ...a letter to Struve criticizing several poems Struve had written for inclusion in a periodical on which Nabokov was employed. Nabokov letters of this vintage and with significant content rarely appear on the market." $4500

Also, a rare find from Ken Lopez, an antiquarian book dealer in Hadley Massachusetts, a first edition Olympia Press Lolita:

NABOKOV, Vladimir. Lolita. Paris: Olympia Press (1955). The correct first edition of Nabokov's masterwork, published in Paris. One of the highspots of 20th century literature. Two volumes in wrappers, this being the second issue-- distinguished from the first by the presence of a price sticker over the original price on the back cover of Volume II. A beautiful, fine set of this novel, with only the slightest rubbing on the joints, and extremely scarce in such condition. The first printing is stated by the bibliographer as being "probably 5000 copies". No indication is given of how many may have been in stock at the publisher's when the price was changed, but it should be noted that there is no variation between the first issue("issue a" of the bibliographer ) and the second ("issue b") other than the price sticker being added: these are the same sheets, bound at the same time, as the first issue; they were just sold at retail at a later date. In a custom quarter-leather clamshell box. $3000

Perhaps you have "searched" the computer, as I have, using Nabokov as a "keyword" and run into Peter Nabokov, anthropologist, author, and in the end relative to Vladimir Nabokov. I encountered him so many times and so insistently did his name require that I discover what connection, if any he had with our shared protagonist that, after a less than thorough investigation, I determined that:

  1. Peter Nabokov is the son of Nicolas Nabokov VN's cousin and Constance Holladay.

  2. He was born in Auburn, New York on October the 11th, 1940.

  3. After graduating from Columbia University where he received his B.S. in 1965 he led a life of adventure, scholarship and pedagogy which finally cumulated in a PhD from Berkely in 1990. He now teaches anthropology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where a sign on his door not so gently jests:

    1564-1994
    500 years of tourism.

  4. His primary interest is in Native Americans about whom he has written several esteemed and unique works. In a March 5, San Francisco Chronicle review, Nabokov is profiled against the background of an obscured family tree:

    "It may seem odd that a kid from the lower East Side of New York would grow up to become a leading expert on Native American history. But to former Berkeley anthropologist, Peter Nabokov, now 53, the path from Russian and Scots- Irish ancestry to his sixth book, Native American Testimony was 'clear and true' from early childhood.

    'I was six when my mother pointed out some bark-covered wigwams from the window of a train. The sight of them really struck me. "My God" I thought, "these people were here all along'

    In his ability to recreate a world through the slow steady cumulation of detail, in the fecundity of his scholarship and the accuracy of his prose and on many other vibratory vectors, I consider P. Nabokov to resemble, at least slightly, his distinguished cousin.

    In closing, you will find excerpts from a short story entitled "A New Lo; or Everybody into the Meme Pool" by Chuck Hammill published in (on?) the electronic journal Holy Temple of Mass Consumption. I have given a quick synopsis of the plot and included the parodic quatrains from the story. The closing lines from the author are abridged.

    This is the story of Charlie Holmes, one time boyfriend to Dolores Haze of Ramsdale. At this moment he is a Virtual Reality salesman who after hawking a five minute "ride" to a rich tourist just arrived from another planet, reminisces about his first love:

    "Like, he is just soooooo possessive, you know?" she would go on."I mean, OK, he takes me on cross-country trips, right? And, like, he buys me lotsa nice presents. But, Jeez, he's got all these rules, you know? He doesn't want me dating other guys. I can't smoke, I can't do amateur theater, I can't do this, I can't do that. I mean, honestly, he treats me like a child! I don't need this."

    I'd try to sympathize, of course, but it wasn't easy, because I still carried a torch for her myself.

    Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
    In your silicon circuitry, snoozin'? Your end-user's hot for some usin'. . .
    Charlie loses touch with his childhood sweetheart when he joins an officers training program but soon is called in to assist in saving her life when she nearly dies of childbirth in Grey Star, Alaska.

    Let's boot up--I'll jack in--sweet 'Lectronic Lo,
    Let me nibble your attribute bytes.
    Ne'er has a nanonymphet beckoned so,
    Giving wirehead! Erotic delights!

    "Mr. Schiller, Please sit down. I'm afraid I have to speak to you about your wife and child."

    Charlie goes on to accuse Schiller of neglecting his wife and out of stupidity allowing her to nearly die,

    Silicon is forever, Dolores Haze,
    Come sit on my interface.
    When Earth starts to craze in the end-time days,
    We'll be loving each other in space.

    Cyberpunk, cyberpunk, there they are,
    Dolores Haze and her lovers:
    Fifty million guys 'neath a yellow star,
    Sleep with holograms under the covers.

    Virtual Valerie's long in the tooth, Ellie Dee's a plain cyber-slut harlot. 'Lectronic Lolita, I tell you the truth, You're my fav'rite A.I. V.R. starlet.

    Lamenting the near disaster, Charlie moans,

    Way too close to the truth. We almost lost her. Honest to Christ, we almost lost her. My God.

    Remember: almost. Only almost. Lo is OK. Girl-child is OK. Gave birth on the chopper enroute to hospital. Better than the snake pit they found her in--but there were complications.

    Let me shower you with goodies, Dolores Haze,
    Gigabytes for your memory banks.
    Would you like some new circuits? 440 - 3 phase?
    I love how you wire me your thanks.

    Ma chère Lolita, dans le soleil d'été,
    Ma chère Lolita, en plein hiver,
    En automne, au printemps, je te jure de t'aimer
    (A moins, jusqu'à l'on cesse d'être fruit
    vert...)

    And tell me that ain't funnier and truer than that throat-chokin' gargle that other cheap bastard wrote ya'. CLIFF's NOTES TO ADD TO SURREALITY BUT READ THE STORY FIRST

    The story is intended as a weird cyberpunk riff on Nabokov's Lolita, with distinct quantum-relativistic overtones.

    First, much of the reminiscing in A New Lo is done by a character who actually appears in Lolita, but gets maybe four sentences all together. His name is Charlie Holmes (Galactic Coincidence Control gets credit for the first name and last initial), he does take Lo's virginity, and is (in the book) killed in the war. The point at which one realizes that Lo = Lolita makes her "boyfriend problems" with Humbert and Quilty sort of mind-tickling, and even Joycean. (Nabokov himself pays homage to Joyce with phrases like "portrait of the artist as a younger brute" and "internal combustion martyr"--and to surreality generally with Quilty's observation, "Really, Mr. Humbert, you were not an ideal stepfather." ) One gets a single clue with the reminiscence about Lo going home from camp to "Ramsdale," but it's a thin one.

    The doggerel poetry generally matches the rhyme pattern of that in the original novel, part 2, Chapter 25, and even reproduces the key line "Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?" which is another clue to who Lo is.

    We then pick up the plot of the novel, since, even though Lolita and her deaf, stupid husband are awash in cash, they do (in the book) trek to the godforsaken Alaskan wilderness outpost of Grey Star in her ninthmonth for her to give birth. Charlie Holmes--Lo's first lover, recall--departs now from his negligible role in the actual novel to check this out.

    Weirdness begins to escalate, as the fat, crazy mercenary he works with is also an ex-boyfriend of Lo's (which is possible, since she does spend a couple years traveling around the USA) and so he takes a personal interest in his job.

    Straightforward plot development, and the "check also first name Lolita" made explicit for the not-too-swift. And a key observation that Lo's husband may be so stupid as to be dangerous.

    Ever-more-obscene poetry, introducing the phrase "giving wirehead" into cyberspeak, and the key word (nano)nymphet for those who still maybe puzzled about who's who.

    Cut back to Lo. Doesn't look good for her. Stupid mates can killya', it seems ever more clear. As in the novel itself, Lo and her girl-child do endure a very unlucky childbirth on Christmas Day.

    More obscene poetry. Suggests maybe something survived, though.

    Couple more quatrains, one using actual first two lines of one poem in the actual book, one cutely mentioning a couple of currently sexy cyber-ladies.

    GOTCHA!

    Still weirder. Tying up loose ends. The bit about her age as 5,300 days comes from one of Humbert's poems in the book.

    Quatrain in French, like in original, but got a great rhyme for French term for nymphet. Quite proud of that.

    Still weirder.

    Really put out enough relativistic physics to blow 'em away.

    Covered a lot of territory, n'est-ce pas?

    [ previous | index | next ]


    Zembla depends on frames for navigation. If you have been referred to this page without the surrounding frame, click here.

    THE LOLITA EFFECT | VN COLLATIONS | BUTTERFLIES
    AFTER VN | EVENTS | SEE ALSO
    CONTACT THE EDITOR