Skip to main content

View Diary: Books Go Boom!   'Elizabeth Costello' - J. M. Coetzee on the Problem of Evil (54 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  I dunno. (7+ / 0-)

    Pale Fire had its moments of brilliance but I wasn't swept away as many are.  I should note, however, that it is  the only Nabokov I have read.  Periodic Table has a lot going for it: Italy in the run-up to the war, a young man's love affair with chemistry, his coming of age in turbulent times, and, of course, the terrible things that followed.  His Survival in Auschwitz , on the other hand, is pretty tough to take.  I wouldn't recommend it to the faint of heart.

    Oh, and here is one I forgot:  Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl."
    It is exquisite in its language and in its ability to overwhelm the reader with sorrow.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:10:03 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Someone mentioned 'The Puttermesser Papers' just (5+ / 0-)

      this week. Never read Ozick.

      "The Shawl" is considered one of Cynthia Ozick's best works. See, for one, William Abrahams' introduction to Prize Stories: O. Henry Awards, 1981, where he predicts this story will endure. "The Shawl" is a short short story, a stream of consciousness magical realism piece that will burn in the memory of many people.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:20:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm a Pale Fire partisan; (9+ / 0-)

      I have some problems with it (Nabokov's relationship with homosexuality is a little queasy, just as his real-life relationship with his gay brother), but on the whole, it blows me away every time.  

      Some of his easier gateways are Invitation to a Beheading, which is very Kafkaesque (a comparison he resented, but it's true) and The Gift, a very immersive portrait of the Russian expat community in Berlin.  It's also surprising to me that his short stories aren't more highly regarded: "Music" is a favorite of mine, as is the much underrated "Lance"; but "Spring in Fialta", "Signs and Symbols", "A Russian Beauty", all classics, so many to choose from.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:37:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Invitation to a beheading (9+ / 0-)

        Yes, I agree about it being a good place to start. Laughter in the dark is an earlier novel with an obsessive love story that is something of a precursor to Lolita.

      •  Thanks for the Nabokov tips. Short stories might (7+ / 0-)

        be the perfect place to dive in.

        I think I've kept away from him because of his enormous cleverness. Lolita's all I've read that I really felt the heart in. And his Russian Literature Lectures, in another fashion, had much heart.

        But I can see so many writing skills there, and the ambition. So if I read a collection of short stories, and found many small and perfect hues there, that might dissolve my wariness, and enchant me a little to try more.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:55:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's definitely NOT a good gateway, (7+ / 0-)

          but I've taught "Lance" a few times and it never fails to move me, tremendously.  

          But... it takes a lot of work.  The students always hate it on first read, because damn, for such a short story (six or seven pages), it is dense, and it seems unnecessarily elliptical and confusing.  

          It's a stunning work, though.  Poetic allegorical science fiction:

          Deep in the human mind, the concept of dying is synonymous with that  of  leaving  the  earth.  To  escape  its gravity  means  to  transcend the grave, and a man upon finding himself on another planet has  really  no  way  of  proving  to himself  that  he is not dead-- that the naive old myth has not come true.
          Full text here.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:01:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  dense, seems unnecessarily elliptical & confusing (4+ / 0-)

            Yep, that sounds like the Nabokov I know and . . . admire from a distance.

            But seven pages of dense just takes some chewing. And Poetic allegorical science fiction works. Thanks.

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:43:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Part of the problem with getting into (4+ / 0-)

              Nabokov is that he's usually parodying two or three other works of literature, so if you haven't read those, you might be missing ... everything.

              That's true of a lot of writers, but most (I'm thinking Borges here) are more generous about letting the readers in to roam freely.  Nabokov's work can feel a little constrained by comparison.  Take "Music", one of his best and most popular short stories.  It's fine enough.  But you really need to have read Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata" first.

              By the way, a really good short story for unlocking a lot of Nabokov's work is "Signs and Symbols", and the full text is here.  It's less superficially difficult than most of his work, but it's the most heavily analyzed, because it involves his most frequent obsessions and yet no one seems to have "solved" it successfully.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:37:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I just started "Signs and Symbols". Like it muchly (4+ / 0-)

                but I'm to bed soon, and up early tomorrow. I'll save it for later, when I shall savor it.

                I've long enjoyed Borges' "Collected Fictions". Recently read "Selected Non-Fictions". I was impressed at the huge collection of eclectic titles he'd read by the time he was 20. And it was interesting to see, in his reviews and thought-pieces, how many of his later story ideas he was starting to work out.

                Also, recently reread Library of Babel. At his best, Borges has a gemlike brilliance, each detail mentioned starting ripples in the reader's imagination.

                "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                by Brecht on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 11:14:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  I prefer the short stories... (5+ / 0-)

          Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

          by No Exit on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:01:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site