Sunday, July 10, 2016
Robert Roper, NABOKOV IN AMERICA
This is not a book review; just a few comments on Roper's book.
He gets two or three things badly wrong. Examples: (1) At one point he has Nikolai Gogol dying in Rome; Gogol died in Moscow (2) He buys James Laughlin's tale about how he and Nabokov climbed a mountain in Utah and were nearly killed during their precipitous descent. Laughlin apparently made this story up, as a way of getting back at Nabokov, for the the way he mocked his publisher (Laughlin) in the book, Nikolai Gogol, made him a comic character in that book, and the way he consistently disrespected Laughlin, patronized him.
Roper makes a few telling remarks about Nabokov's prospects for future readers: "Readers of Nabokov-style books are not increasing in numbers the way video-game players are." Too true.
Roper comes up with an interesting take on the episode of the "burning" of the manuscript for Lolita, suggesting that maybe the whole thing was contrived, a dramatic gesture that links Nabokov up with Gogol--who was known for burning his manuscripts and, famously, burned the continuation to the first part of Dead Souls in 1852, before taking to his bed and starving himself to death.
Roper imagines Vera waiting in the wings, rushing out just in the nick of time to save Lolita from the flames, and from the author who was playing at Gogol. Nikolai Gogol, unfortunately, never had a wife to intervene, so all his burnings were successful.