Sunday, November 15, 2009

Playboy features excerpt of a great novelist's final work

The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov:

For 32 years the heirs of Vladimir Nabokov safeguarded the literary giant’s last novel in a vault in Switzerland while they wrestled with his request to destroy the unfinished manuscript. The decision was ultimately left to son Dmitri and deferred till now: This month Alfred A. Knopf will publish The Original of Laura (or Dying Is Fun), an event for readers the world over. Playboy is proud to publish an exclusive excerpt and introduce another of Nabokov’s mystifying and mythic heroines, Flora, the subject of a novel within the novel.

[Flora’s] husband…was a writer… —at least, after a fashion. Fat men beat their wives, it is said, and he certainly looked fierce, when he caught her riffling through his papers. He pretended to slam down a marble paperweight and crush this weak little hand (displaying the little hand in febrile motion). (via)

It took an English professor to tell me I read Lolita wrong the first time. Without so much of explaining to me what I should be looking for when reading it, he turned me away and told me to come back when I read it right. So I did. I sat down a few years after first reading it, grabbed a cup of tea and cracked open the cover again. After that, there was no turning back. In fact, the novel became my go to, my beacon when hitting a block while writing. It's the what-would-Nabokov-do effect.

I have four copies of the book lying around in the house upon different shelves. I'm aware of how creepy that may sound to a few of you who only judged the novel by its content, rather than read it. But it was the book that introduced me to Nabokov's style of writing, and what set the foundation of what I want to write about the world. But don't get me wrong. I'm not attempting in anyway to style my prose in the mannerisms of a great novelist. No, I'm simply using him as a mentor, posthumously.

So when it was announced that Dimitri Nabokov was actually pushing forth with his father's final work, I got the shivers. First came the excitement, then came the fear: I've read incomplete works before (Hemingway, comes to mind) and they're either hit or miss (though I did love Hemingway's, even though it was frowned on by academia - shhh I won't tell if you don't).

Only time will tell if we love or hate the final work by Nabokov. Luckily, you can preview the book in the pages of Playboy (on newsstands now). You can ever get a little peek at porn-turned-mainstream star, Sasha Grey tapping into her inner Lolita.

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