oneiro: (Default)
Just wanted to make a quick post to celebrate the birthday of my favorite wordsmith. I actually think his birthday was yesterday, but it doesn't matter.

I owe much of my literary passion to Nabokov. He showed me the true power of words, and how much you could really do with them. His usage of language blew my mind in ways that I can only compare to listening to Beethoven. Really. Others have had similar effects, and there are many authors that I deeply admire, but Nabokov is the author to whom my literary heart is most devoted to.

One of my favorite excerpts, from Lolita:

"There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: "honey-colored skin," "thin arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita)."

And this passage is from the final pages of Lolita. It is long, but it stirs something in me that, again, I can only compare to the effect of something like Beethoven's 7th. It is just beautiful, and if you are a writer, or if you care about the power of words, you should read it.

"One day, soon after her disappearance, an attack of abominable nausea forced me to pull up on the ghost of an old mountain road that now accompanied, now traversed a brand new highway, with its population of asters bathing in the detached warmth of a pale-blue afternoon in late summer. After coughing myself inside out I rested a while on a boulder and then thinking the sweet air might do me good, walked a little way toward a low stone parapet on the precipice side of the highway. Small grasshoppers spurted out of the withered roadside weeds. A very light cloud was opening its arms and moving toward a slightly more substantial one belonging to another, more sluggish, heavenlogged system. As I approached the friendly abyss, I grew aware of a melodious unity of sounds rising like vapor from a small mining town that lay at my feet, in a fold of the valley. One could make out the geometry of the streets between blocks of red and gray roofs, and green puffs of trees, and a serpentine stream, and the rich, ore-like glitter of the city dump, and beyond the town, roads crisscrossing the crazy quilt of dark and pale fields, and behind it all, great timbered mountains. But even brighter than those quietly rejoicing colors - for there are colors and shades that seem to enjoy themselves in good company - both brighter and dreamier to the ear than they were to the eye, was that vapory vibration of accumulated sounds that never ceased for a moment, as it rose to the lip of granite where I stood wiping my foul mouth. And soon I realized that all these sounds were of one nature, that no other sounds but these came from the streets of the transparent town, with the women at home and the men away. Reader! What I heard was but the melody of children at play, nothing but that, and so limpid was the air that within this vapor of blended voices, majestic and minute, remote and magically near, frank and divinely enigmatic - one could hear now and then, as if released, an almost articulate spurt of vivid laughter, or the crack of a bat, or the clatter of a toy wagon, but it was all really too far for the eye to distinguish any movement in the lightly etched streets. I stood listening to that musical vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of separate cries with a kind of demure murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord."

Thank you, Vladimir Nabokov, for always fighting for the pure beauty and aesthetic of the written word. Thank you for championing the art, the structure, the technical mastery and stylistic devotion when it comes to books, over all else. Also, thank you for being an endearing asshole at times. :)

It's pretty much Nabokov and Beethoven that are the two answers to the "Who would most like to meet" question.

oneiro: (jennifer beals)
Recently I've had the pleasure of reading Aleksandar Hemon. Two short stories by him were assigned in my Creative Writing class, and I instantly fell in love with his style.

Since I'm sure most of the people I am friends with are literary people to some degree, I figured I'd spread the joy. :]

A little bit about him: He is Bosnian and was a published writer in former Yugoslavia by the time he was 26. He learned English in 3 years, and published his first English story in 1995. For more info: wiki.

So what struck me immediately upon reading him was his wonderful use of the English language. His prose is great. And whenever someone proves themselves to be a masterly wielder of language, I of course immediately think of Nabokov, the king of all words. And then when I went to his wiki page, it said he's been compared to Nabokov, so that got me excited.

But it's not about being like Nabokov - that's just an incidental comparison. His stories are great, his descriptions, his dialogue, his humor, his structure... everything. I love it. He's definitely an original. He stands out.

This is a great article on Hemon full of some really interesting things that I'm going to pluck out and post here:

“Even then, his prose was full of small surprises and had a wonderful and profoundly meaningful tension between a dark subject material and a manner that can seem playful or even offhand,” said Reg Gibbons, a poet and Northwestern University literature professor who at the time was editor of TriQuarterly, the literary magazine that published that first story, “The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders.” “It wasn’t just the angle at which he sees things, but the language itself, which had a kind of hyper, acute sense of the possibilities of English that a native speaker wouldn’t necessarily have.”

I find it very interesting that the foreign perspective can affect how you use the English language, and introduce possibilities that native speakers may not have considered. The concept totally makes sense, I just never thought of it before.

Critics have tended to assume that Mr. Hemon’s use of such techniques is a result of his writing in a language that was originally foreign to him. But he says it’s not, and relates it to his broader distaste for minimalism: “I do it in Bosnian just as much, if not more, because it’s part of my sensibility, because I respond to the sensuality of adjectives.”

This made me like him even more because I too have a distaste for minimalism. It isn't all-encompassing though. Any approach to writing can be genius. I just generally don't like sparse prose. But I love Vonnegut, so there you go.

Partly because of his émigré origins and Slavic background — his father, an engineer, is of Ukrainian descent and his mother, an accountant, is Serbian — Mr. Hemon is often compared to Vladimir Nabokov. He readily acknowledges the influence, saying that he considers “Lolita” “the greatest American novel” and Nabokov a master stylist.


The stories I read were "Good Living" and "Szmura's Room", both part of the book "Love and Obstacles." "Szmura's Room" literally made me laugh out loud.

Really, this is an extremely talented author, and... just check him out if you're in the mood for something new.


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April 2012

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