Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Think about a conversation between yourself and friend. Whether you are talking a mile a minute or are talking slower about something more serious. Now think about the shortcuts in conversations, or the slang words you insert here and there, or even the expressions you make as you speak. Now put all of that on paper and make it sound real and natural.
But when it’s done well it feels like the easiest thing in the world. Your mind smoothly sails over every word without getting caught on a phrase or punctuation that doesn’t belong.
To do this requires skill, talent, and practice. It also requires mastery or close to it of language. When someone makes a play on words right under your nose, you have uncovered a true artist of words.
Vladimir Nabokov is one such artist. I first read Lolita a few years back. I didn’t know anything about Nabokov and was simply reading Lolita for my bookclub. The story itself was alright. Some people get appalled by the subject matter and freak out, thus all of the notoriety surrounding it. The story didn’t bother me, because, that’s exactly it-it’s a story. Just because you read something doesn’t mean you a hundred percent agree or disagree. But if you solely focus on the story of Lolita, you are missing the forest for the trees. The beauty of Lolita comes from the writing itself and how Nabokov uses it. Although the story revolves around a forty-something creeper being in love with a twelve year-old girl, there is not a single obscene term. Nabokov is an aesthetic writer and is able to manipulate language to achieve a poetic sensibility in the context of the forbidden.
Nabokov was born in Russia and studied at Cambridge. He was fluent in three languages, Russian, French, and English. He knew language and he knew how to use them to his advantage. I have often wondered if he purposely chose to write his stories about topics that would typically bother or irritate some people simply to see who could and couldn’t see what he was doing behind the scenes.
For instance, although Nabokov spoke English, some of his words still carried a heavier Russian accent. The book in the above picture is Ada or Ardor. When the name Ada is said by someone with a heavy Russian accent, it comes out sounding closer to “ardor.” If you are familiar with AOA then you know the book is quite heavy with ardor all throughout. I find that, and things of that nature fascinating.
Below is the Amazon synopsis:
• It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat •
This book was published two weeks after Nabokov’s seventieth birthday and is considered one of his masterpieces.
There are several other Russian writers I have yet to read, but are on my short list. Authors like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and of course more of Nabokov. Russia produced some literary mega-stars. If I could go back in my studies, Russian lit is a subject/area I would jump head first in to.
Ah-hindsight is twenty-twenty.
PS. I don’t think there are many career options for Russian lit majors, so it probably wouldn’t have been a good choice anyway.
On that note, I gotta go. I need to stop writing about Russians and get back to reading so I can have more than two books read for the month of September.
“A wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It it there that occurs the telltale tingle.”