Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

Reading Lolita for the first time some years ago I thought to myself that it could have done without the last hundred pages. Then I read the afterword from Nabokov and he writes that some idiots think the book is a hundred pages too long! I felt pretty stupid, but not as stupid as if I had read his 999-line poem Pale Fire and omitted the forward and commentary. It could have happened. I’m sure it’s happened to some people.

I love Nabokov. I love his bleak humour, and I love that he wrote in English as a Russian to rival the great English-language authors. In fact, he is for me one of the great English-language authors. But most of all I love him for his use of unreliable narrators. It’s a feature in pretty much all his novels, all the ones I’ve read so far anyway, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. I’m about half way through.

Speak, Memory is supposed to be an autobiography. It probably won’t but I hope it also turns into an unreliable history! (I also love punctuation in titles.)

-Reading the Why

“But I am told this manner of thinking is taught in high school?” “That’s where the broom should begin to sweep. A child should have thirty specialists to teach him thirty subjects, and not one harassed schoolmarm to show him a picture of a rice field and tell him this is China because she knows nothing about China, or any thing else, and cannot tell the difference between longitude and latitude.”

-Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

And he was a very dear friend indeed! The calendar says I had known him only for a few short months but there exist friendships which develop their own inner duration, their own eons of transparent time, independent of rotating, malicious music.

-Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire