MORE CREATIVE SPARKS, FROM VLADIMIR NABOKOV
Sometimes when you’re reading a creative writer, just a few words set off the sparks in your mind. Here’s an example. Lately I’ve been reading Nabokov’s Letters to Vera (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), which, like everything Nabokov has written, is full of sparkling passages. At one point he mentions Joyce and Proust:
“Joyce met Proust just once, by chance; Proust and he happened to be in the same taxi-cab, the window of which the first would close and the second would open—they almost quarreled. On the whole it was rather tedious” (267). On this same page Nabokov gets into some fascinating macaronic word play, taking off on Joyce.
Here is my embellishment of that passage, which I recently inserted into a long novel I am preparing for publication:
“Joyce and Proust ended up by chance in the same taxi-cab one day. They had never met before. Joyce would open the window, Proust would ask him to close it. Drafts. This opening and closing and opening again and closing again went on for the whole of their life together (ten minutes). Then they climbed out of the taxi, thoroughly disillusioned with each other—and went their separate ways for all time.”
Is this plagiarism? No, this is creative borrowing plus embellishing. A pedantic reader might also object: but are you sure you have the facts right? Is this what actually happened? Aren’t you, to some extent, making up this scene between two great writers?
Yes, I am making up the scene, embellishing upon two great writers. But I’m not writing a scholarly work. I write fiction. I can make up Joyce and Proust if I like in my fiction. I can even make up Nabokov. I’ve already made him up once, in my short story called “Hobnob.” It’s a wonderful life, being a fabricator! "Эх ты, ужасный выдумщик!"