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!
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…
I got to the end of the Glass Bead Game, finally! And boy… did it disappoint.
The final 20% of the book is several poems and three short stories written by the character whose life we just got a long, tired account of. Two of the three stories were actually really good and I thought the book was going to redeem itself with these, since a lot of what made them good was what you learned about the character who supposedly wrote them. But then.
The third and final story, and finale of the book ends with
IT WAS ALL A DREAM
Yes. Seriously. The climax of the story is that a huge portion of the characters life was all a dream/vision and he had some kind of epiphany from this that life itself is pointless and nothing but struggle and pain, so he recedes from life to be a hermit and focus on inner peace.
But come on! Any storyteller should know that this as a climax is awful. If it had not been the FINAL story, and literal end to this book, it wouldn’t have been a terrible story. But as a climax, this is very disappointing and I’d expect an experienced writer to know better.
Yes it was written in the 40’s, and maybe this kind of end wasn’t such an overused trope at the time, but that doesn’t excuse it, as it is just as annoying the first time you experience it.
Anyway. Now it’s finally over and I can stop complaining about it. On to the next thing!
As some of you may know, my other hobby besides writing is playing Go, or Baduk, and there are several sayings or ‘proverbs’ that players hear when learning the game. One of them is something like ‘a move that only does one thing is a bad move’.
I had an epiphany one day, when having extra trouble with a certain scene–this saying can be applied to writing, too!
My scene, which involved several characters introducing themselves, felt empty, hollow, like filler, and I didn’t know why. Then I realized that it could be because it was only doing one thing: getting the characters to meet each other. There, it’s done, check the box, move on. That’s no way to write! So I wen’t back over it and added another layer to it, another reason for what was happening. It still got the characters introduced, but it also showed the reader something about the protagonist, and her way of perceiving the world. Suddenly, it seemed less empty.
Now I try to use each scene to do multiple things whenever I can. It makes my writing feel more thick, and solid. At least in my own eyes, which is the most important thing at this stage!
Try it yourself!
As you may or may not know, I’ve been obsessed with the board game ‘go’ for the past year or so. Posts about it seem somewhat out of place on this blog, though, so I’ve started a new blog for all my go thoughts.
If you have any interest in complex board games like chess, or if you are a go fanatic like me already, please check it out! It’s not a teaching blog, as I’m at no level to be a teacher, but mostly just will be ideas and thoughts on the game and maybe some moves or games of mine that I thought were especially good or bad.
Check it out here!