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Can you name all the trees, flowers and birds around you? According to legend, the great novelist Vladimir Nabokov once met a Cornell University who asked Nabokov for writing advice. The writing student received this curt reply:
Nabokov looks up from his reading he points to a tree outside his office window. ‘What kind of tree is that?’ he asks the student. ‘What?’ ‘What is the name of that tree?’ asks Nabokov. ‘The one outside my window.’ ‘I don’t know,’says the student. ‘You’ll never be a writer.’ says Nabokov.”
Debut novelist Brian Kimberling published Snapper this week, a novel drawn from his own experience as a bird researcher. His book is filled with careful and unexpected descriptions of nature, so we caught up with Kimberling for some nature writing advice…
First, if you, like me, are still feeling a bit down because of Ray Bradbury’s death, go spend some time with him in his Paris Review Interview and some reminiscing from the intern who had to fact check it. In the interview he talks of his beginnings, his career, his thoughts on science fiction and writing, who his influences are, his love of poetry, libraries, writing the screenplay for Moby Dick, his dislike of ereaders, and so much more.
Second, thanks to my marvy sister for sending me the link, watch a 40 minute “movie” of actor Christopher Plummer recreating Nabokov’s lecture on Kafka’s Metamorphosis (via)
Bradbury did not think much of Nabokov or Proust, Joyce, and Flaubert. They put him to sleep, he says. Bradbury much preferred George Bernard Shaw, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Steinbeck, Huxley, Shakespeare, Hopkins, Frost, and Thomas Wolfe. Bradbury was also an admirer of Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty and Katherine Anne Porter.
Bradbury also says he was completely “library educated” and calls himself a librarian:
I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.
So I am sure he would really appreciate Bookyard. Bookyard is a joint art installation and library book sale in Ghent, Belgium. It will be up through September 16th with all proceeds from the sale of books going to local libraries. While I would like to visit Ghent someday, this summer will not be the time. If, however, you will be in Ghent this summer, be sure to visit the Bookyard!
With the recent release of Vladimir Nabokov’s never-before-published and not-quite-finished novel, The Original of Laura, I thought it might be interesting to touch on the debate that was brought about because of its publication.
After having written the incredible Lolita, and some of my all-time favorite short stories, Nabokov was working on The Original of Laura at the time of his death, in 1977. With strict instructions for his yet-to-be-finished novel to be burned upon his death, the manuscript was not burned, but rather placed in his wife’s hands, and then, upon her death, passed on to his son, Dimitri. A great article on the matter was written by Ron Rosenbaum for the New York Observer back in 2005, pleading for Dimitri Nabokov to allow the manuscript to either be published or gather dust, but to never let it burn. I suggest you read the article to see just how passionate some people are in the literary world--the poor guy is at the point of panic towards the end of his article. So, I’m gathering he’s pleased now that Nabokov’s unfinished, semi-unauthorized work has finally been released.
Message boards have been filled with comments regarding the publication, and the topic was touched upon in morning news shows as well as in blogs and newspaper columns. Rosenbaum stated that Nabokov’s son, Dimitri, had a "responsibility to the literary world” to publish the “last fragments of his father’s genius."
Many questions arise from this debate: Did Dimitri really have a responsibility to publish his father’s work, despite being told not to? In Leland de la Durantaye’s Boston Review article, "Last Wishes," he writes that Vladimir Nabokov’s wife had to stop her husband from burning a draft of Lolita. Lolita! Was his son, then, afraid of a possible new masterpiece being overlooked, never to be appreciated?
With all these thoughts filling my head, I tend to get a little philosophical and start to wonder about the ethics of the situation. It’s certainly sad to think that another masterpiece could have stayed locked up in a safety-deposit box forever, but was it ok to go against Nabokov’s final request?
How much say or ownership can an author really have upon their death? And, do you think it’s ok to go against an author’s wishes for the sake of art?
Flavorpill has collected the doodles of famous authors, including Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, Mark Twain, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jorge Luis Borges.
The drawings ranged from insect portraits to nightmare images. Wallace drew one of the funnier pieces, doodling glasses and fangs on a photo of Cormac McCarthy.
Vonnegut (pictured with his artwork, via) incorporated many of his drawings into his books. He even had his own art gallery exhibitions. What author should illustrate their next book?