Loving All These Thieves

This week I noticed a correspondence between the opening sentence to Great Expectations and the opening of Lolita. I’m interested in the idea of Nabokov stealing from Dickens, a writer he admired and about whom he lectured at Cornell.

Here is the opening of Great Expectations:

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

Here is the opening to Lolita:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

“She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

Note the correspondence between the two openings in terms of wordplay, the repetition of the consonant sound (p- and l-), READ MORE >

Random / 5 Comments
April 27th, 2011 / 4:43 am

Small Hours Time Difference Roundup

Hong Kong skyline w/ self-portrait & living room.

Hey it’s night time here but morning there–unless there is here for you, too, which if it is you should leave me a note and we should hang out. Anyway, here’s some stuff I’ve come across recently that might be of interest.

First, in honor of my being in Asia, here’s your weekly dose of Tao Lin- homeboy’s got “An Account of Being Arrested for ‘Trespassing’ NYU’s Bookstore” up at Gawker.

Hoist the blowhard flag! Ron Rosenbaum jumps a stack of sharks, and the moon too (jumps the moonshark? sharks the jumpmoon?)  propelled by nothing more than an endless current of his own hot air. If you thought that the Original of Laura was a tempest in a teapot, then his “next big Nabokov controversy” is, I don’t know, a cheerio on a baseball field or something. Basically, Rosenbaum takes the fact that the poem “Pale Fire” from the novel Pale Fire is going to be published as a de luxe essay-accompanied strand-alone by Gingko Press, in November, argues for a reading of the poem that boils down to “even when Nabokov was bad he was good,” and then flogs the fact with the argument like an octopus against a stone. When it’s over, four breathless screens later, he passes out in a sweaty heap of his own inane superlatives, leaving the Slate commentariat to communally shit the bed with rage, which they promptly do. In a fitting Kinbot(e)-ian irony, the most interesting piece of interesting and useful information in this article (to me, anyway) is the footnote-fact that the artist half of this art-book, Jean Holabird, was for many years a collaborator with the great poet, Tony Towle. Here’s a picture of the two of them together in 1981. You can see some samples of their collaborative work at Tony’s website (look down near the bottom).

You may or may not remember that I was also in Hong Kong this time last year, and my visit happened to coincide with the Hong Kong Book Fair. Well, it happened again- I came, and so did the Fair. So I went back. The line for entry was even longer this year, despite the controversial banning of the pseudo-models in effect for the first time. Once more the Kubrick bookstore/art-publisher booth won my vote for Best In Show. Unlike last year, where I just gawked, this year I came prepared to buy some art books–and I did. More on these later. I also made it over to the Hong Kong University Press booth and bought a few books about Hong Kong: Ken Nicolson’s The Happy Valley: A History and Tour of the Hong Kong Cemetery, after reading about it this morning in this article in the HK Weekly, and Ackbar Abbas‘s Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance.

In non-meatspace news, a preview of The Incongruous Quarterly #1 is now available. The new magazine will have fiction, poetry, and a section called “Kill Fee,” which will feature “Work that was originally meant for other publications gets a new lease on life. Featuring art, essays, fiction and articles that were supposed to belong to the New York Times, the Believer, the Globe and Mail, NPR, Daily News and Analysis India and more.” This is especially interesting, because I had been under the impression that the term “kill fee” was invented by the Paris Review two weeks ago, so I can only wonder where these guys heard it. Speaking of which, I’ll end this post in my least-favorite way possible, which is with a self-correction & apology. I contributed a piece of bona fide “shit talk” to the comment thread attached to this post of Blake’s. Without rehashing what it was I had a bug up my ass about, let me just say that I completely misunderstood what I read, and responded from a position of pure ignorance. So, you know–sorry.

Roundup / 11 Comments
July 27th, 2010 / 8:39 am



Every now & then I watch this interview purely for entertainment value.  Nabokov.  My dad gave me one of his books when I was twelve or thirteen, I think, and shortly thereafter I had a dawning-of-comprehension moment, like, this guy [my dad] might actually be pretty smart/have good taste. Which, while not quite a Nabokovian epiphanic moment, actually is a revelation to an adolescent.

I’ve long had the impression that a lot of folks in the HTMLGiant/indie lit crowd don’t care for Nabokov* or at least orient more toward Bukowski/Burroughs/Kafka & what I think of as the “Grits” (i.e. writers whose lifestyles are associated with gritty shit and/or whose writing prioritizes visceral response over sublimity), but I pretty much consider it axiomatic that VN was a genius and maybe the most skilled manipulator of the English language who ever lived.  Also, nobody has ever been more successful at translating synesthesia into art.  (Btw, do you know what “Martian colors” are?  I call that as a title for a book.)

Author Spotlight / 66 Comments
December 15th, 2009 / 1:28 pm


Life posted a bunch of photos of Nabokov goobin’ around back in the day. [via Rake’s Progress] Seems like a guy worth hanging around.


For some reason all I see is Jimmy Chen.

Hopefully this comparison will encourage Jimmy to parody the pictures by getting his partner to snap some shots of him in action. It’d be something to live for. Jimmy?


Random / 45 Comments
November 17th, 2009 / 6:37 pm