Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Penguin Paperback Variations on Nabokov's Dozen


Nabokovilia: Nabokov's Creepy Bathtub in Gibson's Spook Country

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney spotted the reference and posted it in the Nabokov-L forum: Gibson's character, Milgrim, Sweeney explains, "is traveling in a Zodiac, an inflatable motorized boat." The quote follows:
He was bouncing along at some insane speed on something that reminded him of a creepy folding rubber bathtub that he'd once seen Vladimir Nabokov posing with in an old photograph. (344)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Clotheshorse: David Foster Wallace's The Pale King

David Foster Wallace's final, unfinished novel contains some astute observations on style and men's clothing, of which these two were my favorites.

On the narrator's father:

He looked good in a suit -- like so many men of his generation, his body seemed designed to fill out and support a suit. And he owned some good ones, most single-button and single-vent, understated and conservative, in mainly three-season worsteds and one of or two seersucker for hot weather, in which he also eschewed his usual business hat. To his credit -- at least in retrospect -- he rejected the so-called modern style's wide ties, brighter colors, and flared lapels, and found the phenomenon of leisure suits or corduroy coats nauseating. His suits were not tailored, but they were nearly all from Jack Fagman, a very old and respected men's store in Winnetka which he had patronized ever since our family relocated to the Chicagoland area in 1964, and some of them were really nice. At home, in what he called his "mufti," he wore more casual slacks and double-knit dress shirts, sometimes under a sweater vest -- his favorite of these was argyle. Sometimes he wore a cardigan, though I think that he knew that cardigans made him look a little too broad across the beam. In the summer, there was sometimes the terrible thing of the Bermuda shorts with black dress socks, which it turned out were the only kind of socks my father even owned. One sport coat, a 36R in midnight-blue slubbed silk, had dated from his youth and early courtship of my mother -- she had explained -- it was hard for her to even hear about this jacket after the accident. (175-6)

On the narrator's 70's sartorial proclivities:

I can't think of this period's hair without almost wincing. I can remember things I wore -- a lot of burnt orange and brown, red-intensive paisley, bell-bottom cords, acetate and nylon, flared collars, dungaree vests. I had a metal peace-sign pendant that weighed half a pound. Docksiders and yellow Timberlands and a pair of shiny low brown leather dress boots which zipped up the sides and only the sharp toes showed under the bell-bottoms. The little sensitive leather thong around the neck. The commercial psychedelia. The obligatory buckskin jacket The dungarees whose cuffs dragged on the ground and dissolved into white thread. Wide belts, tube socks, track shoes from Japan. The standard getup. I remember the round, puffy winter coats of nylon and down that made us all look like parade balloons. The scratchy white painter's pants with loops for supposed tools down the side of the thigh. I remember everyone despising Gerald Ford, not so much for pardoning Nixon but for constantly falling down. Everyone had contempt for him. Very blue designer jeans. (159)

(Clotheshorse is an occasional series on the intersection of literature and men's fashion.)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Sighting: Nabokov's Flamboyant Footnotes in the New Yorker


More recently, footnotes have been employed to postmodern effect: Vladimir Nabokov and David Foster Wallace used them flamboyantly; writers such as Nicholson Baker applied them from a softer palette. 

From Nathan Heller's "Save Footnotes" in the New Yorker

Friday, August 29, 2014

Nabokovilia: Edward St. Aubyn's Lost for Words


"It's lucky Proust or Nabokov aren't competing this year," said Vanessa, "or Henry James, or Tolstoy, or anyone who sold a novel because word got put that it was worth reading, like Dickens or Thackeray, or..."

"All right, all right," said Jo, "we all know you've read every book under the sun, but I think Malcolm has a very good point. If I had my way I would add, 'No pseuds and no aristos.'" (P. 83)

More on Edward St. Aubyn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Convergences: What We See When We Remember Keyholes in Covers

I'm very much looking forward to reading Peter Mendelsund's What We See When We Read. Mendelsund is a terrific book designer, so his thoughts on what happens to our brain on books -- what we visualize -- should be fun. (Here's an excerpt that touches on Anna Karenina.) I was also surprised when I saw the cover for his book:


Because here's the first thing it reminded of:


About which you can read here or here

The keyhole motif is not that uncommon -- here's what Google Images pulls up when you do the search -- but to the question, What do you see when you look at the cover for What We See When We Read? The answer is: A former ballerina's book-length memoir about a particular sexual act.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nabokovilia & Nabokomaybilia: Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics & Night Film


Marisha Pessl's first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, features a pretty clear case of Nabokovilia:
"You're a sick, sick liar! You're evil!" 
I threw Lolita (Nabokov, 1955). 
"I hope you die a slow death riddled with unbearable pain!"
Although deflecting the books with his arms, and sometimes legs, Dad didn't stand up or try to restrain me in any way. He remained in his reading chair. 
"Get a hold of yourself," he said. "Stop being so melodramatic. This isn't a miniseries on AB --" 
I hurled The Heart of the Matter (Greene, 1948) at his stomach, Common Sense (Paine, 1776) at his face. (461)

I'm nearly done reading Pessl's sophomore (and excellent) Night Film, which doesn't have anything quite so clear, though there's a strong possibility of some Nabokovian nods:
She was Beckman's latest housekeeper. Ever since his beloved wife, VĂ©ra, had died years ago from cancer, Beckman, totally unable to take care of himself, hired a multitude of petite Russian women to do it for him. (48)
And another possible Nabokov nod:
"Need some help?" 
"Yes," said Nora, setting a book she'd been leafing through -- Signs, Symbols, & Omens -- back down on the stand. "We were hoping someone could help us identify some herbs and roots that we found in strange patterns in our friend's room." (229)

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sighting: Nabokov in "Finding the Words"

By that time, Gabriel had developed a series of tics. “He had a cough that was a tic,” Hirsch said. “And a way he used to run his hands over his face.” His parents took him to a psychiatrist, who sent them to a colleague, “a specialist who had the Nabokovian name Dr. Doctor,” Hirsch said.

From Finding the Words, a profile of Edward Hirsch and the book-length poem about his son Gabriel, in the 4 August 2014 New Yorker.