Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nabokov's lists

In a documentary I remember or seem to remember, Nabokov is asked about his likes and dislikes; he conveniently has his notebook nearby, and turns to a page with the appropriate lists...I haven't been able to find this amusing episode in Strong Opinions—did I imagine the whole thing? The one dislike I recall was "music" (or perhaps something more specific: "elevator music," "jazz"). Here's a list of dislikes (or indifferences) from the intro to Bend Sinister (the 1963 Time-Life books edition):

I have never been interested in what is called the literature of social comment (in journalistic and commercial parlance: 'great books'). I am not 'sincere', I am not 'provocative', I am not 'satirical.' I am neither a didacticist nor an allegorizer. Politics and economics, atomic bombs, primitive and abstract art forms, the entire Orient, symptoms of 'thaw' in Soviet Russia, the Future of Mankind, and so on, leave me supremely indifferent.

In Strong Opinions, we find:

Still there must be things that move you—likes and dislikes.

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music [!]. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.

There are also numerous instances where he lists authors he likes and dislikes, which I'll spare you for the moment...

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Blogger mattbucher said...

I think that Updike quotes Nabokov (in a book review) as saying that he (Nabokov) dislikes all forms of music, including classical and opera (sorry Dmitri!), and in fact prefers silence to any form of noise/sound. Maybe it's in the Brian Boyd biography.

I know Nabokov liked baths and bathtubs and disliked driving.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Interesting! Also—doesn't he like squeezing a sponge full of water on top of his head? (I did a cursory scan of the Boyd, but couldn't find what I was looking for...)

4:07 PM  
Blogger mattbucher said...

Yes! I have to find this quote. Looking through the Nabokov-Wilson letters hasn't produced it yet, but these gems might be relevant.

Dear Miss Stephens,
My husband asks me to tell you, in reply to your kind letter of Aug. 22, that he is fairly indifferent to gastronomic matters. However, he detests 1) underdone meat, 2) all inner organs, such as kidneys, brains, liver, tongue, sweetbread, etc., 3) sea food other than fish.
Sincerely yours,
Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov
(in response to a projected book of celebrity recipes).

Also, there is an anecdote about Rachmaninov lending Nabokov a dinner jacket and giving Dmitri a Philco radio.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

This is great!

I searched for Nabokov and YouTube, did not turn up this mysterious documentary that I saw, but did turn up a short film apparently based on VN's...Lectures on Literature?!

...with Christopher Plummer as His Nabs.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Sarah Weinman said...

More on Nabokov's antipathy towards music can be found in Oliver Sacks' MUSICOPHILIA, where the good doc speculates that Nabokov may have suffered from some form of amusia.

5:13 PM  

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