August 23, 2007

Opening Moves

Roger Boylan has a nice little appreciation of Vladimir Nabokov in the Boston Review. The occasion, I suppose, is the 30th anniversary of his death. Or, perhaps anytime's a good time for an appreciation. In any case, the usual temptation here is to quote some particularly lovely passage or other, but my favorite thing Nabokov-related--and I'm stealing this conceit from Anthony Lane--is still the various opening lines of his stories:
When the curved tip of one ski crosses the other, you tumble forward. ("Wingstroke")
The last streetcar was disappearing in a mirrorlike murk of the street and, along the wire above it, a spark of Bengal light, crackling and quivering, sped into the distance like a blue star. ("Details of a Sunset")
In front of the red-hued castle, amid luxuriant elms, there was a vividly green grass court. ("La Veneziana")
My charming, dear distant one, I presume you cannot have forgotten anything in more than eight years of our separation, if you manage to remember even the gray-haired, azure-liveried watchmen who did not both us in the least when we would meet, skipping school, on a frosty Petersburg morning, in the Suvurov museum, so dusty, so small, so similar to a glorified snuffbox. ("A Letter That Never Reached Russia")
Actually, his name was Frederic Dobson. ("The Potato Elf")
In the second place, because he was possessed by a sudden mad hankering after Russia. ("The Circle")
The growth of his power and fame was matched, in my imagination, by the degree of the punishment I would have liked to inflict on him. ("Tyrants Destroyed")
Do you remember the day you and I were lunching (partaking of nourishment) a couple of years before your death? ("Ultima Trufle")
Dear V.—Among other things, this is to tell you that at last I am here, in the country whither so many sunsets have led. ("That in Aleppo Once…")
And so on.
-- Brad Plumer 11:44 PM || ||