Stalking Nabokov

Overview

At the age of twenty-one, Brian Boyd wrote a thesis on Vladimir Nabokov that the famous author called "brilliant." After gaining exclusive access to the writer's archives, he wrote a two-part, award-winning biography, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (1990) and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (1991). This collection features essays written by Boyd since completing the biography, incorporating material he gleaned from his research as well as new discoveries and ...

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Stalking Nabokov

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Overview

At the age of twenty-one, Brian Boyd wrote a thesis on Vladimir Nabokov that the famous author called "brilliant." After gaining exclusive access to the writer's archives, he wrote a two-part, award-winning biography, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (1990) and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (1991). This collection features essays written by Boyd since completing the biography, incorporating material he gleaned from his research as well as new discoveries and formulations.

Boyd confronts Nabokov's life, career, and legacy; his art, science, and thought; his subtle humor and puzzle-like storytelling; his complex psychological portraits; and his inheritance from, reworking of, and affinities with Shakespeare, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Machado de Assis. Boyd offers new ways of reading Nabokov's best English-language works: Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada, and the unparalleled autobiography, Speak, Memory, and he discloses otherwise unknown information about the author's world. Sharing his personal reflections, Boyd recounts the adventures, hardships, and revelations of researching Nabokov's biography and his unusual finds in the archives, including materials still awaiting publication. The first to focus on Nabokov's metaphysics, Boyd cautions against their being used as the key to unlock all of the author's secrets, showing instead the many other rooms in Nabokov's castle of fiction that need exploring, such as his humor, narrative invention, and psychological insight into characters and readers alike. Appreciating Nabokov as novelist, memoirist, poet, translator, scientist, and individual, Boyd helps us understand more than ever the author's multifaceted genius.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this collection of essays, lectures, and book reviews spanning 20 years since the publication of Boyd's two-volume biography of Nabokov, Boyd demonstrates that he continues to be our leading interpreter of this brilliant but enigmatic writer. With remarkable critical insight, Boyd reflects on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the art and craft of the biographer and Nabokov's famous love of butterflies to the novelist's humor, metaphysics, and the influence on him of other writers—from Shakespeare to Tolstoy. For example, Nabokov's "humor springs from "the comedy of life's mismatching our expectations.... Nabokov loves and laughs at life even amid loss." In a centennial toast, Boyd captures lovingly Nabokov's enduring appeal and the essence of his genius: "He believes that the fullness and the complexity of life suggest worlds within worlds within worlds, and he builds his own imagined universes to match... he allows us to find our own way to them, just as he thinks whatever lies behind life invites us to an endless adventure of discovery in and beyond life." Boyd's graceful style and passionate advocacy achieves the goal of the best literary criticism: it compels us to pick up Nabokov and read, or read again, the work of a master. (Sept.)
Booklist
Essential for everyone interested in the Russian master.
Times Literary Supplement

Stalking Nabokov, in the end, is a tribute not just to an extraordinary literary animal, but also to the size, force, and stamina of an extraordinatory brain.

— Martin Amis

New Yorker
There is plenty of sensible and revealing stuff here.
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

Absolutely excellent.... there is much here that will inform, enliven, and enlighten the work of one of the greatest novelists of his century.

New York Times Book Review
There is much here that will inform, enliven, and enlighten the work of one of the greatest novelists of his century.
Choice

Required reading for serious students of Nabokov.

San Francisco Chronicle - Eric Naiman
Absolutely fascinating.... Uniquely compelling.... This is Boyd at his best.
Slavic Review - Stephen H. Blackwell
Boyd is always a pleasure to read...and this collection does not disappoint.
The Listener - David Eggleton
Substantial.... Impressive.... Enlightening.... Best of all, his enthusiasm for Nabokov's verbal pyrotechnics, for his comically deluded heroes pursuing elusive objects of desire, for the ability to depict life itself, joyously 'swarming with inexhaustible diversity and delight,' sends you back to read the books... of one of literature's great masters.
Times Literary Supplement - Martin Amis
Ambitious.... Fervent.... Epiphanic.
Boston Globe - Larry Hardesty
Advances a consistent and intriguing reading of [Nabokov's] work.... a powerful corrective to a prevailing view of Nabokov.
Australian Book Review - Paul Morgan
Boyd's deft analysis of the novels is superb.... genuinely exhilarating.... Brian Boyd is not only Nabokov's biographer but also his pre-eminent critic. This is a valuable and delightful collection of essays on one of the twentieth century's most significant novelists.
The Russian Review - Jason Merrill
Boyd's sophisticated use of texts and contexts, close readings informed by archival materials and decades of experience, and wonderful writing style mean that all Nabokov scholars and fans will enjoy.
Slavonic and East European Review - U.H. Dematagoda
Boyd is, without a doubt, an incredibly exacting and rigorous scholar — his tireless research and collection of a vast array of materials is something which coming generations of academics will continue to be grateful for.
Choice
Required reading for serious students of Nabokov.
Library Journal
This appealing (albeit unfortunately titled) collection of essays, addresses, and introductions written for an assortment of audiences by a noted Nabokov biographer and scholar is a delight. Boyd (University Distinguished Professor of English, Univ. of Auckland, New Zealand; Vladimir Nabokov) does more than an able job of exploring Nabokov's varied intellectual interests—beyond what he could convey in his two-volume biography—from examining Nabokov's lepidopterological pursuits to trenchant assessments of Nabokov as a writer. Boyd dissects several major novels and offers comparisons between Nabokov and writers as diverse as Tolstoy and Machado de Assis. VERDICT As is common with such collections, there's a degree of repetitiveness, with some facts, anecdotes, and quoted passages found in more than one piece. But readers can skip around among the aspects of Nabokov that interest the most—or, for example, they can read the several chapters on Nabokov's scientific interests to broaden their own understanding. A readable collection on one of the 20th century's greatest writers, this will be enjoyed by Nabokov fans and students of 20th-century literature.—Sharon E. Reidt, Marlboro Coll. Lib., VT
Leland de la Durantaye
It is always the case that different things interest different readers, but this will be particularly so here. The specialist reader is likely to be drawn to sections on archival holdings and critical debates, whereas a more general reading public will be more apt to find fascination in the sections on Nabokov's butterflies, his metaphysics and the (surprising) point where the two converge. But for all those interested in tellers and tales, there is much here that will inform, enliven and enlighten the work of one of the greatest novelists of his century.
—The New York Times Book Review
Boston Globe
...plenty rewarding.

— Larry Hardesty

Australian Book Review

Brian Boyd is not only Nabokov's biographer but also his pre-eminent critic. This is a valuable and delightful collection of essays on one of the twentieth century's most significant novelists.

Michael Wood

This book is a real treasure. It represents a considerable range of work by the author of one of the great biographies of the late twentieth century, who is also a lucid and consistently engaged and engaging critic. A remarkable read—all readers and scholars of Vladimir Nabokov will need this book.

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney

Brian Boyd is, without question, the foremost single authority on Vladimir Nabokov's life and art and has been generally considered such ever since the publication of his magisterial two-volume critical biography, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Not only is anything that Boyd writes about Nabokov significant, but his study of Nabokov is remarkably dynamic -- there's just no other word for it. Stalking Nabokov tells a fascinating story of continual intellectual rediscovery and of Boyd's own development as reader, student, literary sleuth, biographer, critic, colleague, collaborator, mentor, and, best of all, rereader.

Stephen Jan Parker

At the end of the twentieth century, Vladimir Nabokov was judged as one of the ten greatest writers in the world of that century. And I can confirm that the two best works ever written on Nabokov—anywhere in the world—are Brian Boyd's two-volume account of Nabokov's life and work. In these volumes, the specifics of Nabokov's life are thorough and precisely correct, and the description, evaluation, and interpretation of all of Nabokov's writings remain to this day the finest ever written. All Nabokov scholars must use Boyd's work and interpretations as a basis in order to go forward from any other perspective. So without question, he is the greatest Nabokov scholar in the world

San Francisco Chronicle

[Boyd's] range, like Nabokovs's, is impressive, but his strength is in close reading.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231158565
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Boyd is University Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Auckland. His work on American, Brazilian, English, Greek, Irish, New Zealand, and Russian literature, from epics to comics, has appeared in seventeen languages and has won awards on four continents. He is the author of Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, books on Pale Fire and Ada, and the enormous AdaOnline. He has edited Nabokov's English fiction, autobiography, butterfly writings, and verse translations and is now editing a collection of the author's letters to his wife. Also known for his evolutionary and cognitive work, he is the author of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction and the forthcoming Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare's Sonnets and is coeditor of Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader. He is currently working on a biography of the philosopher Karl Popper.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsList of AbbreviationsIntroductionNabokov: The Writer's Life and the Life Writer1. A Centennial Toast2. A Biographer's Life 3. Who Is "My Nabokov"? Nabokov's Manuscripts and Books4. The Nabokov Biography and the Nabokov Archive5. From the Nabokov Archive: Nabokov's Literary Legacy Nabokov's Metaphysics6. Retrospects and Prospect/s 7. Nabokov's Afterlife Nabokov's Butterflies8. Nabokov, Literature, Lepidoptera 9. Netting Nabokov: Review of Dieter E. Zimmer, A Guide to Nabokov's Butterflies and Moths Nabokov as Psychologist10. The Psychological Work of Fictional Play Nabokov and the Origins and Ends of Stories11. Stacks of Stories, Stories of Stacks Nabokov as Writer12. Nabokov's Humor 13. Nabokov as Storyteller 14. Nabokov's Transition from Russian to English: Repudiation or Evolution? Nabokov and Others15. Nabokov, Pushkin, Shakespeare: Genius, Generosity, and Gratitude in The Gift and Pale Fire 16. Nabokov as Verse Translator: Introduction to Verses and Versions 17. Tolstoy and Nabokov 18. Nabokov and Machado de Assis Nabokov Works19. Speak, Memory : The Life and the Art 20. Speak, Memory : Nabokov, Mother, and Lovers: The Weave of the Magic Carpet (1999)21. Lolita : Scene and Unseen 22. Even Homais Nods: Nabokov's Fallibility; Or, How to Revise Lolita 23. Literature, Pattern, Lolita ; Or, Art, Literature, Science24. "Pale Fire": Poem and Pattern25. Ada : The Bog and the Garden; Or, Straw, Fluff, and Peat: Sources and Places in Ada 26. A Book Burner Recants: The Original of Laura Notes Bibliography Index

Columbia University Press

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