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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Convergences: The Punctuation-Mark Exploits of Jack Pendarvis and Stephen King

I love Stephen King, and I love Jack Pendarvis, and the odds of finding anything in common between the two should be zilch. They're both huge fans of crime literature and crime movies -- they're notorious and encyclopedic in their appetite for undersung directors and authors in the genre -- but other than that their sensibilities seem pretty far apart. One does his own special brand of horror and works best when going long, the other writes short and funny. That said, they both do wonderful things with punctuation-mark abuse.

King's Mr. Mercedes features a creep whose messages are stuffed with character-revealing unnecessary !'s & "s:

And Pendarvis is the reigning champ of same:

King wants to creep you out, Pendarvis wants to you register the humor, but both do a pretty sweet job of assigning a kind of moral weight to the uses and abuses of punctuation, and to a certain clueless disjointed quality that comes with it.