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Vladimir Nabokov - Speak, Memory (Discussion)

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Ok, is this the Nabokov book that I should start with.

 

Believe it or not, I also have Jane Eyre on my TBR list, primarily due to the Jasper Fforde book on Thursday Next's adventure into Jane Eyre. :)

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Yes, Muggle, this is it. Its a lovely read.

 

And yes, I have to say that Jane Eyre is one of my earliest favorite books ever. I can't count the number of times I've reread it. :)

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Pontalba I have read Lolita and it certainly was beautiful. I felt however, that it was so thick with layers and meanings that it was dificult to enjoy as a single read through. Of course the intricacies are what true Nabovka fans relish. I wished I'd read it in college with someone to help dissect and interpret.

 

How does Speak compare? Can I enjoy or will I need a handholding?

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Dogmatix,

Its true what you have said about Lolita, but Speak, Memory is fairly straight forward compared to Lolita. Nabokov is not ambiguous here as in his novels. The prose is beautiful...my signature line here is the first line of Speak, Memory.

In my review, when I spoke of his not sharing his entire relationships with his family with his reader, I meant that, not ambiguity.

Nabokov was, in spite of using his life and surroundings in his novels, an intensely private person, and only went to a point in sharing same.

 

There is a section near the beginning that he goes into some history of his family that, for some is hard to get through, but it all has its place in the biography, and is necessary. All in all, if you enjoyed the structure and prose in Lolita this is a safe bet. :badmood:

 

Plus hand-holding is always available. :)

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Okay I'll get a copy, maybe muggle will too and we can have our own little reading group :)

Shoot, I thought we were going to hold hands....and maybe sip a little wine. :badmood:

 

8-) Sounds like a good plan to me. :roll:

Muggle?

Anyone else?

Ok, I will put a hold on the book at the library. You all must give me a head start though since I am such a slow reader.

It would be nice if a few others on the forum joined in. 8-)

 

I am having second thoughts. I intend on reading the book but I don't think it is such a good idea to give the impression of it being a reading group. There already is a Reading Circle and would not want to give the impression of "going-off-on-our-own" circle.

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Michelle,

What happened to the other posts in the thread?

 

I don't think anyone else has read it as of yet.

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Everything looks fine to me. I checked out a copy of the Nabokov - Speak Memory book at the library this afternoon. I doubt that I will be able to start much reading soon though as next week is pretty busy with getting "house move" stuff done plus I have an appt at the hospital Monday morning.

 

Thanks Michelle. :)

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I'm in but I also need about 1 1/2 weeks I'm finishing Jonathan Strange and I want to read The Decapitated Chicken (Horatio Quioga) and a very short chidren's book first. I'll place my One Click with Amazon this weekend.

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Muggle,

I wondered if you'd moved yet or not. LOL I've said the next move I make all I'll bring are the books, computer and bed. Period. Everything else, Garage Sale!

And don't go and short out all the machinery at that hospital! :)

 

Dogmatix,

Good. I have to refresh my memory anyhow, its been a few months since I finished it.

 

Paul,

Glad you checked in again.

 

I thought maybe we could concentrate on a chapter at the time. Just to consider, and keep it straight. If anyone has any other/different ideas on a method go ahead and post it. OK? :badmood:

 

And, er....Sophiaaaaaa...........h-e-l-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-oooooo 8-)

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no, haven't moved yet. The buyer is having our house put through an inspection next Thursday, a 3 hr thing. Next Wednesday we are driving to NC to meet with the builder and cabinet maker of the house we are buying.....we have serious problems with the cabinets. Seems like we are constantly busy with related things to the sale and buying of the houses...headaches.

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The thread won't go anywhere, so it doesn't matter if no one has it yet. :badmood:

 

I used to have an afiliate link for Amazon US, but it never got used. Unfortunately they keep it seperate from my UK account, so I doubt I'd ever make the minimum payout anyway! :)

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Well, bright and early, day one of the new week, and page 1 para 1 of Speak Memory. Page 1, that is, of the Introduction to the 1999 Hardcover Everyman Edition, which is something I don't ordinarily read, but it turns out the Introduction is interesting. For a freebie we get Boyd's opinion of Nabokov's four best novels out of all those he wrote: The Gift, Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada. I had often wondered. And we also find Boyd saying that Speak Memory is the "most artistic" of the famous autobiographies that have been written and a masterpiece fully equivalent to those four great novels. He restrains himself from calling it "the best" autobiography ever written only because, with admirable restraint, he recognizes that "best" can be very much a matter of personal opinion and how one looks at things. A different critic did, however, call Speak Memory "her book of the century." So it sounds like a truly momentous book in front of us

A little later on, Boyd discusses how the book is arrayed into more or less chronological individual chapters on separate topics, but that the narration will not be chronological. Instead the narration will flow back and forth in time as Nabokov's and our own memories do, so it sounds like we will be reading something not only momentous but also having a fascinating style.

And then, almost as a reward for reading the Introduction, something I usually skip as boring, there is an excerpted description in Nabokov's own words of his own Frst Love, which we will get to later in the book. A wonderful early treat!

I now see that, unfortunately, the Vintage Edition does not have Boyd's Introduction, so perhaps I can continue to include exceprts as we go along, if not everyone has the hardcover.

It sounds like an absorbing story of Nabokov's life ahead.

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Oh!, Now I want to buy that version! As though I needed to buy another book! 8-) :) I only have the Vintage edition with the foreword by Nabokov himself.

It sounds wonderful! But Brian Boyd is so marvelous for...I don't want to say "interpreting" Nabokov...but it almost amounts to the same thing. Anyone that is interested in learning more about VN would do well to find copies of Vladimir Nabokov, The Russian Years and Vladimir Nabokov, The American Years. Each one chronicles Nabokov's life, but obviously the two major sections of that life. Plus Boyd gives details of Nabokov's writing of his novels, the difficulties of selling same, and results of publicity both personally and professionally. All of this was written with Nabokov's approval and help. I have both books, and while if you buy the first copy you come across, they are expensive, but be patient, and Powell's every so often has a wonderful sale copy. Trade paperback.

 

Now VN says in the foreword:

The present work is a systematically correlated assemblage of personal recollections ranging geographically from St. Petersburg to St. Nazaire, and covering thirty-seven years, from August 1903 to May 1940, with only a few sallies into later space-time.

I like the bit about "geographically" arranged. And in a way it is systematic, but systematic implies sterile order (to me at any rate) and there is nothing sterile about this autobiography.

Now everyone has heard of St. Petersburg, but I at least had not heard of St. Nazaire, so that was a sort of mysterious and romantic place to end up, how did he end up

there? We'll see.

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I have the Vintage International Edition dated 1989. It is from the library which brings up a problem. I will have to return the book probably while the discussion is going on and will not be able to refer to the book.

 

Oh yeah, another potential problem. What if I don't like the book. :)

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I have the Vintage International Edition dated 1989. It is from the library which brings up a problem. I will have to return the book probably while the discussion is going on and will not be able to refer to the book.

 

Oh yeah, another potential problem. What if I don't like the book. :roll:

 

If you like it, the solution is simple...buy it :wink: , if you don't like it :) ..thats the end of that. :badmood:

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No renewals allowed by your meanie old librarian? :?

Sounds like I better get to chapter one in a hurry then.

Or else you alls just plow on ahead, and I'll follow along.

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I so love the way that right off the bat VN brings out his undying hatred for all things Freud.

I have ransacked my oldest dreams for keys and clues--and let me say at once that I reject completely the vulgar, shabby, fundamentally medieval world of Freud, with its crankish quest for sexual symbols (something like searching for Baconian acrostics in Shakespeare's works) and its bitter little embroys spying, from their natural nooks, upon the love life of their parents.

Ouch!

Nabokov loves to bring things to a complete circle, as on p.27 the matches. Nabokov connects incident when he was a child still in St. Petersburg...a General Kuropatkin made an amusing game with matches (not lit :) ) to a time 15 years later when VN's father was fleeing Russia and he happened to meet the General who asked him for a light. The matches. The magic ones shown that disappeared as a child, and the armies of the General that disappeared as well. Nabokov says this about it.

The following of such thematic designs through one's life should be, I think, the true purpose of autobiography.

And that is exactly what VN does in his autobiography.

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Wow, Pontalba!

Not there yet, but what a quote -- the final one! That certainly suggests that he was a very deep thinker about life, and a very astute observer to remember and notice such connections. :shock:

 

Boyd in the Introduction puts it this way:

In his novels, Nabokov ... can have all the freedom his formidable imagination allows to invent incidents, characters, names, relationships ..... But in his meticulously accurate autobiography, Nabokov can draw only on facts, memories and reflections, on his powers of selection and expression. He has been rated the finest stylist of our times, and in Speak, Memory more than in any other of his works, he has to rely on sheer style.

 

It looks like you found a perfect example of that. And it is factual not imaginary!

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The thing I appreciated about the circular bit was that it seems to me that life is like that in general...it (life) seems to have a symmetrical balance to it, and Nabokov is able to express that in the most beautiful way. But all of his books are like that. At least the ones that I have read balance out in the end. Not always to one's liking, but balance all the same.

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