The Plague has been getting more interesting. One part I enjoyed was, as the characters are now all quarantined inside the town, and death is all around, one character is sitting in his house trying to write a book, and rewriting the same sentence for days and weeks, trying to find just the right words. He’s asking his friends for advice, agonizing over it, switching out words for similar ones, and then putting them back, and so on. All while hundreds of people are dying all around him every day.
But we’re all dying, right? Even if these characters survive the plague, they’ll just die five or ten or twenty years later. So why not spend your time fussing over the first sentence of a book you’ll never write?
Life is strange…
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…
What did I just read? I’m not quite sure.
At the end it became slightly intelligible that the POV character was of some higher or lower form of consciousness, and had a brain procedure performed on him. So that sheds a bit of light on the bizarre and confusing way this story was told.
One way to describe it is as a stream of consciousness of someone who is mentally unstable.
Some of the descriptions and ideas are quite beautiful and thoughtful, but they take a bit of work and thinking to figure out what the heck is being described sometimes.
Definitely not a book you can read without some effort, but I found the trouble to be worth it in the end.