I’ve been surprisingly motivated to work on my coursework a lot more lately. My professor was very understanding when the topic of me not having turned in a lot of assignments (that he didn’t even really ask for, anyways!!!- i digress). I’m in the middle of a long Madman piece, and I’ve started reading some of Nabokov’s The Original of Laura as extra credit for The Real Life of Sebastien Knight. Being another excursion into his well tended garden of concise biographies, the style remains his inimitable blend of fairy tale victorianism, of course filtered through the dirty old man lens he had begun to acquire in his old age. “pinaforing” a young teenager’s “stomach with kisses” might read as a little beautiful, but not when the novel’s voice then remarks this is “all perfectly acceptable when one’s lips remain dry”, implying a scene of displaying too much affection for an infant.

The rest of the novel continues to describe the Lolita character grown up a couple more years older than Nabokov’s memorable archetype. She lost her virginity at fourteen to an older tennis instructor, she can’t stop thinking about sex, even when she “closes her daintly painted eyelids”. Sometimes, it reads like Charles Dickens narrativizing a forever twenty one catalogue, and Nabokov’s own dips into the main character’s psyche often involving her working hard to avoid a surly older man’s attempts to grope her. It’s a bizarre novel that on one hand attempts to relate to its young female main character’s psyche and draw truth from it, and then on the other it exploits her for prose dipped in lurid paint, stained with inappropriate affection, and somewhat turned on by its own taboo. I’d list descriptions, but, please, I don’t want to ruin the reputation of one of my favorite authors.

Yea, there was good reason this wasn’t published until now.  Not the “complete distillation of its author’s creativity” as noted Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd said in his biography of the displaced literary aristocracy’s latest novel, this reads mostly as what it looks like: an old man’s tawdry scrawlings on index cards as he passes through the world on his way to the great beyond, content to let his oddities finally wander without worrying about manicuring them for prying eyes. “It’s fun to die”, the inside jacket says. Being able to write such a lurid novel, and remain a master of the form. It must take death for such a singular event to occur.

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