I am so fucking excited about my next review assignment. So excited, it merits swearing, something I rarely do here on the blog. Having just finished A. S. Byatt’s disappointing The Children’s Book, I was ready to move onto my next anticipatory read: a beautiful fat bio on Robert Altman.
Yet fate & book fairies intervened to present me with this:
A copy of Nabokov’s unfinished novel The Original of Laura. Read by few, intended to be burned after Nabokov’s death & kept in a safe deposit box for years & years.
I will say that my anticipation is struggling against my sympathy for Nabokov & his family. I believe that if an artist did not intend for his work to be finished or published in the event of some mortal accident, then his estate has an obligation to honor those wishes. There’s a part of me that has always been fascinated by authors like Hawthorne who made his friends & associates burn any correspondence with him. It was a habit he held throughout his life; he was very concerned about controlling his words.
But, think about the scraps, mistakes & juvenilia that are published for other authors. Do you really think the Brontes intended for the world to see their secret worlds and codify them as some stage of development or indication of potential? No, those pieces were written for themselves for the thrill of doing it.
In any case, The Original of Laura, for better or for worse, will now be revealed to the world. & whether you agree with Dimitri Nabokov’s decision or not, I must admit that I’m infatuated with the package. I’ve mentioned here & elsewhere my love for the book-as-object. The Original of Laura tugs on those heartstrings big time.
Each page is a reproduction (front & back) of the 130+ notecards that the manuscript is written on. They’re even perforated:
Even if the cards aren’t much to speak of, their presentation will definitely dazzle you for awhile. Either Dimitri Nabokov is trying really hard to make up for going against his father’s wishes or he’s creating an unforgettable product that will entice bibliophiles. & I must admit, it does the trick. Part of me is like, “What? Controversy? Hmm, so pretty. . .”