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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Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov

This is the epitome of genius. Nabokov must have some kind of freak literary gene that makes him so good with words. This is one of the few books I’ve wanted to start reading again the moment I reached the end. (I think Lolita was another…)

On the surface, Pale fire is a 999 line poem book-ended by an introduction and commentary by it’s editor and publisher. But between the lines, it is a hilarious journey into the mind of a delusional narcissist.

It’s hard to say much about this book other than it is brilliant, subtle, and such a wondrous feat that I sometimes wonder if Nabokov was not a plain old mortal human like the rest of us, but instead an incarnation of writing itself.

I feel lucky to be alive in a time when this book exists. Read it!

Obsession

Since the current thing I’m working on has a lot to do with obsession, I was recommended to read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. I got the audible version and so far am impressed by both the writing and the reading of it (narration by Jeremy Irons).

It’s always been interesting to me how people justify their actions to themselves. Rarely does anyone perceive themselves as a monster or a villain, yet people do monstrous and villainous things every day.

I’m only just at the beginning, and don’t know what terrible acts await, but so far Humbert Humbert comes across as awkwardly pitiable. An ordinary child doing ordinary childish things sends him into an internal frenzy he can barely contain. It’s humorous, in a sinking kind of way, imagining him tensing and sputtering as she sits innocently on his knee. Yet in his own words he paints such a dramatic picture of these events–every turn of her head, every look, every move, is impactful and powerful in his eyes. It’s very similar, actually, to listening to an adult extol the deep and powerful meaning and effect on them, of a child’s cartoon show(you know the one)–in a word: embarrassing.

I’m enjoying it a lot, and just from the start I can already tell why this is near the top of so many ‘best books’ lists. Quite a refreshing breath after my last read.