Amis on Nabokov

 

A superb essay on Nabokov by Martin Amis.

Lolita, Pnin, Despair (1936; translated by the author in 1966), and four or five short stories are immortal. King, Queen, Knave (1928, 1968), Laughter in the Dark (1932, 1936), The Enchanter, The Eye (1930), Bend Sinister (1947), Pale Fire (1962), and Transparent Things are ferociously accomplished; and little Mary (1925), his first novel, is a little beauty. Lectures on Literature (1980), Lectures on Russian Literature (1981), and Lectures on Don Quixote (1983), together with Strong Opinions (1973), constitute the shining record of a pre-eminent artist-critic. And the Selected Letters (1989), the Nabokov-Wilson Letters (1979), and that marshlight of an autobiography, Speak, Memory (1967), give us a four-dimensional portrait of a delightful and honourable man. The vice Nabokov most frequently reviled was “cruelty”. And his gentleness of nature is most clearly seen in the loving attentiveness with which, in his fiction, he writes about animals. A minute’s thought gives me the cat in King, Queen, Knave (washing itself with one hindleg raised “like a shouldered club”), the charming dogs and monkeys in Lolita, the shadow-tailed squirrel and the unforgettable ant in Pnin, and the sick bat in Pale Fire – creeping past “like a cripple with a broken umbrella”.

Incidentally, I no longer read Amis. I did however enjoy this photograph. Notice the full set of Oxford English Dictionaries.

4 thoughts on “Amis on Nabokov

  1. >Yes. Loved that article as well. Tweeted it immediately upon finishing. And Amis managed to remove his own presence from the tribute for the most part. So close to rushing out for the new Nabokov despite my numerous reservations. I know everything it is not but still am drawn to seeing an example of how he structured and began a novel. Nabokov junkie I suppose.

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  2. >I'll click through to read the article right now, but I'm curious why you no longer read Amis? I read him for the first time with House of Meetings and loved it, then I read The Rachel Papers and just wanted to roll my eyes (but in fairness, that was a first novel, so….) And then I read Time's Arrow and was sufficiently impressed with the concept to put up with where the execution of it might not have been so smooth…

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  3. >Amis's Money is his masterpiece, his only novel with an almost fully-rounded character, John Self. With that exception, Amis creates unmemorable, two-dimensional characters (his female characters barely reach two dimensions), who then proceed to over-act like pantomime villains. His prose is over-stylised and aspires to achieve depth whilst only demonstrating that Amis spends hours poring over a good thesaurus.I persevered with Amis after Money, lost confidence with London Fields and weakened considerably after the dire Night Train. Yellow Dog ended any sympathy I had with Amis. I never made it to House of Meetings.

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