The Enchanter - Nabokov and Happiness


Discovering happiness in reading the work of an extraordinary writer.
The protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift playfully dreamed of writing "A Practical Handbook: How to Be Happy." Now, Nabokov's own creative reader Lila Azam Zanganeh lends life to this vision with sly sophistication and ebullient charm, as she shares the delirious joy to be found in reading the masterpieces of "the great writer of happiness."
Plunging into the enchanted ...

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The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness

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Discovering happiness in reading the work of an extraordinary writer.
The protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift playfully dreamed of writing "A Practical Handbook: How to Be Happy." Now, Nabokov's own creative reader Lila Azam Zanganeh lends life to this vision with sly sophistication and ebullient charm, as she shares the delirious joy to be found in reading the masterpieces of "the great writer of happiness."
Plunging into the enchanted and luminous worlds of Speak, Memory; Ada, or Ardor; and the infamous Lolita, Azam Zanganeh seeks out the Nabokovian experience of time, memory, sexual passion, nature, loss, love in all its forms, and language in all its allusions. She explores Nabokov's geography-from his Russian childhood to the landscapes of "his" America-suffers encounters with his beloved "nature," hallucinates an interview with the master, and seeks the "crunch of happiness" in his singular vocabulary. This beautifully illuminated book will both reignite the passion of experienced Nabokovians and lure the innocent reader to a well of delights as yet unseen.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Zanganeh, who has taught humanities at Harvard, presents an idiosyncratic appreciation of the life and accomplishments of Vladimir Nabokov. Although labeled as literary criticism, the book is more about Zanganeh's obsession with "VN" and her pursuit of his biographical and literary essence in places associated with him. Her theme is that Nabokov is the great writer of happiness, even though his are not happy stories. Each of the 15 chapters focuses on one type of happiness found in his works and how his life permeated his fiction. Zanganeh's own life story becomes entwined with Nabokov's as she sets out to emulate him. There are traces of Alice in Wonderland in her imaginings and adventures. VERDICT Nabokovians will be charmed by Zanganeh's single-minded pursuit of how Nabokov found happiness in the use of language and joyful imagery. Those not familiar with Nabokov may become confused between him and the author. They should, instead, read Speak, Memory, Nabokov's autobiography, as well as his major works. This slight but charming book treads ground familiar to many academics but may prove revelatory to general readers to whom it is primarily addressed. A flight of imagination that should appeal to anyone who has ever obsessively devoted him- or herself to a favorite author.—Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology Lib., CUNY
Kirkus Reviews

An odd, genre-bending tribute to Vladimir Nabokov.

Nabokov, the master of narrative trickery and literary puzzles, was known for, among countless other accolades and seminal works, his innovative autobiography,Speak Memory, which was less a straightforward memoir than a series of memories that blurred fiction and fact and past and present. It is only fitting then, that literary scholar Zanganeh, obsessed with Nabokov since finding a copy ofAda on her mother's nightstand long before it was appropriate reading material for her, uses a similarly vague structure in this work. The author intertwines her memories as a reader of Nabokov with scenes from his life and his books, as well as present-day visits with his son Dmitri. Zanganeh is not the first to wax philosophical about Nabokov, though her interrogation of his work and her own experiences with it is more scholarlyandless immediately compellingthan that of her famous counterpart, Azar Nafisi. Structuring the narrative around the notion of happiness, Zanganeh delves deeply into his feelings on love, both in his novels and inhis lifelong passionate relationship with his wife and unconditional affection for his only son. She muses on place, traveling through the American West that so enchanted Nabokov, and on nature, focusing on his absolute passion for butterflies. Though the author at times brilliantly captures Nabokov's calculated whimsy, some of her material feels gimmicky and detracts from her scholarship. The recountings of conversations with Dmitri, for example, are both lovely and informative, and arefar more effective than imagined conversations with his long-dead father.

There are moments of real beauty here, but emulating Nabokov is not a task to be taken lightly. Zanganeh's literary hero left behindsomeawfullybig shoes, which she just can't quite fill.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393079920
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/2/2011
  • Pages: 228
  • Sales rank: 1,017,463
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lila Azam Zanganeh was born in Paris. She has taught literature, cinema, and Romance languages at Harvard University. She now writes and lives mainly in New York City.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2011

    A love of words and living! Great read!

    If you were apprehensive about reading Nabokov, this is your perfect introduction into a world of magical words and the simple joy of living. Lila Azam Zanganeh convinces us that language is fun and the world is beautiful. She weaves fiction and non-fiction into a web of "delicious". Could not put it down!

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    This book is a great insight into genuine forms of happiness, and how one might seize them through the works and words of an extraordinary writer. I would highly recommend it even if you have not read any of Nabokov's novels yet. This will want to make you plunge right in. A real delight.

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