Shuffling the deck

In today’s NY Times: Michiko Kakutani’s review of the soon-to-be released posthumous “novel” by Vladimir Nabokov, The Original of Laura. (For those who are unaware, I’m using scare quotes on “novel” because the unfinished book consists of a stack of 138 punch-out index cards, from which Nabokov would hypothetically be able to “deal himself a novel.” Weird and weirdly intriguing working methods.) Don’t quite know what to make of most of Kakutani’s comments, seeing as how I’ve yet to read T.O.O.L., but she does mention a handful of things that, for me, make Nabokov’s novels so enjoyable to plow through: the wordplay, the alliteration, the intermittently understated-and-then-overstated sense of humor, the framing and layering devices, etc.

But what I like most about this review is Kakutani’s description of Nabokov’s literary career as an “endlessly inventive pursuit of complication.” Complication is precisely the word that I’d use to describe the ontological effect of the efforts of artists like Nabokov (as well as Godard, Joyce, Sonic Youth, etc.) upon the ultimate order of things. A great artist is one whose work shuffles the deck of human consciousness, drastically transforming our experience of the world as well as the world’s experience of us. The greatest authors are those whose stories produce tangible shifts in our thinking: who can read Nabokov and not come to understand the world in a much more obtuse, poetic, ironic, colorful way? Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to getting my paws on The Original of Laura… at some point.


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3 Responses to “Shuffling the deck”

  1. Kyle Szarzynski Says:

    A note on the scare quotes and index cards: Nabokov wrote all of his novels in this way; it helped him organize his ideas into sequential passages. And considering that his prose in these other works is among the best ever written in English, the scare quotes are probably not necessary.

  2. Kyle Szarzynski Says:


    Good to see you’re expanding into literature, by the way.

  3. Dan Sullivan Says:

    Right, the quotes were used to emphasize the fact that T.O.O.L. is, at best, a far-from-finished manuscript—not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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