Friday, November 20, 2015

The ten best Vladimir Nabokov books

Brian Boyd, University Distinguished Professor of English, University of Auckland, wrote an MA thesis that Vladimir Nabokov called “brilliant” and a PhD thesis that Véra Nabokov thought the best thing written about her husband to date. His biography of Nabokov won awards on four continents; his criticism has been translated into eighteen languages. He has edited Nabokov's English-language novels, autobiography, butterfly writings, and translations from Russian poetry. Boyd is the editor of Letters to Véra.

One entry on his list of the ten best Vladimir Nabokov books, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Pale Fire (1962)

Crystalline perfection within fractured form makes for what has been called the world’s first and best hypertext novel, and the greatest novel of its century. An Appalachian campus poet’s long autobiographical poem is commandeered and annotated line by line by his insanely egoistic neighbour, whose notes foreground himself and Zembla rather than poem and poet. A torrent of stories, a magic whirl of opposites, poetry and prose, realism and untrammelled fancy, solid homeliness and wild exile, stasis and haste, sanity and madness, serenity and despair, hilarity and heartbreak. Beneath the radiant surface that dazzles from the first lie endless depths and echoes, sunken cities with trapdoors into more mysteries and wonders.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pale Fire's John Shade is among John Mullan's ten best fictional poets. The novel appears among David J. Peterson 's five best books with invented languages, Jane Harris's five best psychological mysteries and Edward Docx's top ten deranged characters. It is one of Tracy Kidder's six best books as well as the novel Charles Storch would save for last. It is one of "Six Memorable Books About Writers Writing" yet it disappointed Ha Jin upon rereading.

--Marshal Zeringue