The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov

Another terrific read by Nabokov, I have yet to be disappointed by his novels. This one follows a chess player, but you don’t have to know a single thing about how to play chess in order to enjoy it. It’s more about the mental states, and how imagining all the possible outcomes in a game can send your brain down an unending maze of possibilities.

Aside from Nabokov’s usual wonderful prose and lovable characters, I found the slow, creeping insanity that Luzhin endures to be very believable and a bit unsettling. And even though I saw the end coming, that didn’t lessen the impact and effectiveness of it.

Another great read, and anyone who hasn’t read Nabokov please pick up one of his books, you won’t regret it!

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A cool glass of sweet water

Every time I finish a particularly difficult book, be it bad, or odd, or just confusing, I take a break with a Nabokov novel. They are always so clear and crisp and enjoyable, it’s like drinking a nice glass of cool water after a tiring time in the sun.

This time I’m reading the Luzhin Defense, the story of an anti-social, obsessive chess player who goes mad. As all Nabokov novels I’ve so far read, it is just a joy, and the prose is so delicious, my brain thanks me in much the way in thanks me for a good meal. And it always makes me smile, with little bits like this for example:

Little Luzhin would go away, trailing his satchel over the carpet; Luzhin senior would lean his elbow on the desk, where he was writing one of his usual stories in blue exercise books (a whim which, perhaps, some future biographer would appreciate), and listen to the monologue in the neighboring dining room, to his wife’s voice persuading the silence to drink a cup of cocoa.

Can you not just see that so clearly… the over optimistic father, the pouty child and coddling mother… all in just a few sentences.

Something about the way he writes is just very enjoyable and smilingly good for me…

 

Always make the best move possible

When I was a kid we had a chess set, and the little booklet that came with it had a list of tips. I only remember one of them, the first one: “Always play the best move possible.” We always thought that was hilarious, because, of course you want to play the best move, you just don’t always know what it is. But now thinking back on it I wonder if it had a different meaning. Maybe some people, seeing a good move, would hold on to it, save it for later, and the booklet was trying to say ‘no, just play it when you see it!’

I think people do the same thing when writing, I know I did. You get a great idea, one you love, one that inspires you and fuels your passion to write. And then hold on to it, waiting for the right time, waiting till you’re better, or any other number of reasons to not use it.

Well, I say, ‘always use the best idea possible!’ You’ve had a million ideas before and you’ll have a million more, ideas are infinite in your wonderful brain!

Use all your ideas as you get them. Because, like anything, if that idea sits there too long it will go stale. You’re always going to find something newer and more interesting to write, so you need to write the idea you have while it is still exciting to you, instead of saving it for later.