From the Publisher
Since its first publication in 1948, one of Vladimir Nabokov's shortest short stories, "Signs and Symbols," has generated perhaps more interpretations and critical appraisal than any other that he wrote. It has been called "one of the greatest short stories ever written" and "a triumph of economy and force, minute realism and shimmering mystery" (Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years).
Anatomy of a Short Story contains:
• the full text of "Signs and Symbols," line numbered and referenced throughout
• correspondence about the story, most of it never before published, between Nabokov and the editor of The New Yorker, where the story was first published
• 33 essays of literary criticism, bringing together classic essays and new interpretations
• a round-table discussion in which a screenwriter, a theater scholar, a mathematician, a psychiatrist, and a literary scholar bring their perspectives to bear on "Signs and Symbols"
Anatomy of a Short Story illuminates the ways in which we interpret fiction, and the short story in particular.
Signs or symbols, satire or realism, closure or no closure, soluble or insoluble riddle? Responding to the challenge presented by this enigmatic short story, aware that Nabokov did not believe in what he called 'the symbolism racket', the contributors to this excellent collection of articles have mobilized a wide spectrum of hermeneutics. Convinced, with John V. Hagopian, that 'no legitimate artist produces randomness', they gamely attempted to quiz the author's elusive figure, developing a brand of creative paranoia, yet never claiming, except in one case (Dolinin), to play the part of the oracle. The result is a challenging exercise of 'Practical Criticism' which touches upon the bone and structure of Nabokov's work.
The critical anthology is called "Anatomy of a Short Story" not accidentally. What we have here is not a marauding or exhuming of a senseless body, but a study of a living artistic organism. Collective dissection presupposes using various methods, diversified optics and descriptive procedures… Yuri Leving's own array of scholarly interests turns "Anatomy" from a potentially dull registrar's compendium into a collection of peculiar and often unexpected utterances about Nabokov's text… This book will prove handy to anyone interested both in Nabokov as well as in studying literary texts in general.