Thursday, September 05, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Pnin

I have difficulty with Nabakov.  I read Pale Fire, and hated it, and I read his biography of Gogol, and I couldn't get into it.  I have the uncomfortable feeling that I'm too stupid for Nabokov.  I feel the same way about Faulkner, but with Nabakov, I have an additional and paranoid suspicion that he wouldn't want idiots like me to read his books.  Of course, he's dead, so who cares, but still.  Elephant in the room: WHAT ABOUT LOLITA?  I haven't read it, okay? I included Pnin on my list of fifty classics because I'd heard it was funny and because I wanted to give Nabakov one more try.  Pnin is funny, but it still left me feeling somewhat inadequate as a reader.



Timofey Pnin is a Russian-born professor who teaches at "Waindell," a university vaguely placed in upstate New York or New England.  Sound familiar?  It's generally accepted that Nabakov based this novel on his own experiences teaching at Cornell and Wellesley.  Pnin is not the stereotypical absentminded professor.  He's fussy and detail oriented which leads to comical mishaps.  There are also the usual elements of the academic satire.  I liked Pnin, but I think I am done with Nabakov now.  Sorry.

6 comments:

  1. I liked Lolita. I'll have to give him a read. You know how I feel about Faulkner.

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  2. I read Pnin so long ago that I have a vague memory of liking it but don't remember why. This is, unfortunately, very common for me. But Lolita is one of my favorite books and I've read it enough times to remember it. I've tried reading Ada and Pale Fire and failed.

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  3. Do read Lolita. It is uncomfortable and funny; the prose is glorious.

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  4. Lolita is in some ways odious but it is well written.

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  5. How curious. I read all of Nabokov when I was 14-15 and found him glorious. I think what happened was that I didn't EXPECT to understand him, since I was a kid, and so I didn't mind:). He made me feel smart, since I probably understood then exactly as much as I would understand now.

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