Categories
Nabokov, Vladimir

The Vane Sisters, Vladimir Nabokov

It had been some years since I’ve read any Nabokov, which I can only blame a youthful use of mind-shrinking substances or a two-mile-long to-read list. But recently, I made a full-length audiobook of Dustin Long’s Icelander, whose completion set me on a mission. I’m not going to shill Icelander too much (ahem, only five bucks! And I get a piece!), but there was no way for any reasonable person — or even myself — to finish it and not start thumbing through the old master’s treasures, all of which I’ve loved plenty at some point or other. You’ll see what I mean if you listen to Icelander (ahem: Iambik Audiobooks, who released it, features plenty other Miette-approved titles in its inaugural selection).

So there I was, splayed out on the floor surrounded by cracked copies of Pnin and Pale Fire and Ada and all the rest, just madly paging through a title, locating its place within the vast underworld of my memory, enjoying the moment of recognition, then putting it aside and grabbing the next… and then I reached for the stories.

One of the nicer books in my library of the beaten and battered is a lovely hard-cover of the collected stories, and toward the end of it, the Vane Sisters, which proved to be the reminiscent equivalent of a half-ton of Madeleines force-fed by aliens. Not only had I forgotten how imbued this story was with everything I love about literature, but in its way, it seemed to be a sort of Ur-text for Icelander. No fooling: if you’ll pardon the connect-the-dots of the subject matter, this was not unlike being poked in the neck by the very ghosts the story conjures. Spooky stuff, for a girl on the floor of her own dusty library.

Two clues to solving the story’s puzzle:

1> You may need to listen to it twice.
2> You may need to see this, the final paragraph, to make sense of things:

I could isolate, consciously, little. Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible. Her inept acrostics, maudlin evasions, theopathies – every recollection formed ripples of mysterious meaning. Everything seemed yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.

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PS: Wanna hear some of Icelander
by Dustin Long? The entire first chapter is ready for your ears.

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Okay, done shilling. Back to Nabokov:

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Categories
Nabokov, Vladimir

Gods

This is both perhaps just-too-long and read by a just-too-tired head; maybe just assume the intent is to separate the yolks from the hen’s asses… or something. Kudos to you if you make it…

Despite not wanting to overwhelm the Internet(s) with too many Russians in too short a time, Vlad is really a nomad, as we all know, no more or less a Russian than I am a humvee. And yes, I can refer to him as Vlad, just as I can spin that obscene metaphor: this is how tired I am, and these are the liberties bestowed on me by the potentate of the podcast alone. If not here, then where?

So then, Nabokov, the book can be found here if you want to buy it. The first hardcover edition came out, what, six, seven years ago, the jacket featuring the title (The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov) in blockish paper-cut-out letters, lepidoptery-pinned to a pale blue background. It was a fantastic effect, and I was sure it hadn’t been achieved digitally– it was that good. So good, in fact, that this was going to be the basis for a tattoo. But, elas, the jacket’s long-gone, before ink could be set to skin, and further printings have abandoned this design, and I can’t reproduce it. That said, the pages are all intact, and every word worth marking on my person, if only I had the girth (maybe one day). This, with the disclaimer noted that it’s too long to be read aloud (over TWENTY MINUTES!) and that I was too tired to try (but there’s nobody to stop me), is among the best.

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