David Treuer, The Translation of Dr. Apelles

The Translation of Dr. Apelles by David Treuer My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Translation of Dr. Apelles (2006) interleaves two stories: a semi-fantastical romance between two Indian youths apparently set in the nineteenth century, and a piece of sad semi-realism about a translator of Native American languages living a life of quiet desperation in … Continue reading David Treuer, The Translation of Dr. Apelles

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 4 of 5 stars Lolita, if you don't know, is a novel cast in the form of a murderer's confession. The self-named Humbert Humbert, a European scion of a wealthy Riviera hotel owner, tells of his erotic obsession with certain young girls who seem to him daemonic … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars VN's first pass at the Lolita subject matter, The Enchanter was written in 1939—making it one of the author's last works composed in Russian—but not published until 1986, in this translation by Dmitri Nabokov, who details the novella's origin and complex textual history in … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

Is David Mitchell the William Faulkner of the Twenty-First Century?

Clickbait title, I know, but please bear with me. I think I'm onto something; call it— An Essay on Fiction and Reality, Eternity and Time In the mid-1970s, Hugh Kenner wrote an essay on William Faulkner entitled "The Last Novelist" (you can find it both in Kenner's book on American modernism, A Homemade World, where it forms … Continue reading Is David Mitchell the William Faulkner of the Twenty-First Century?

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars Despair, Nabokov's seventh novel, written in Russian, dates from the mid-1930s (begun in 1932, serialized in 1934, published as a book in 1936, translated into English by the author in 1937); Nabokov revised the translation—and, as he notes in his preface, the book itself—for its … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Roberto Calasso, Literature and the Gods

Literature and the Gods by Roberto Calasso My rating: 5 of 5 stars Literature and the Gods is a short, dense essay rather than the more literary-historical or conspective account the title might lead one to expect. In fact, Calasso has a refined Continental theorists’s contempt for mere literary history, which he seems to regard … Continue reading Roberto Calasso, Literature and the Gods

Three Conflicted Notes on “Against Lolita

Roxana Robinson has drawn the bill of indictment against Nabokov’s classic. Her charge, in sum, is that the novel is merely a dispossessed aristocrat’s howl of rage against the philistine land of his exile, which he allegorizes as a crass juvenile he is “forced” by his homeless circumstances to seduce and then to exploit. Given this … Continue reading Three Conflicted Notes on “Against Lolita