A Job Well Done

Edmund White's The Burning Library contains "Nabokov: Beyond Parody". It is a literary essay well worth an extensive visit (for the particular relation plot and language have with one another).

The function of mythology in Nabokov is not (as it is in Joyce's Ulysses) to limit the neural sprawl of a stream of consciousness. Nor is it to provide a ready-made plot (as in the neoclassical drama of Anouilh or Giraudoux). Nor is it to lend false dignity to an othewise dreary tale, as in the plays of Archibald MacLeish or Eugene O'Neill. In Nabokov the vocabulary of religion, fairy tales, and myths is the only one adequate to his sense of the beauty and mystery of the sensual, of love, of childhood, of nature, of art, of people when they are noble. It is this language that metamorphoses the comic bedroom scene in Lolita into a glimpse of paradise. [quotation from the novel] Nabokov's novels are not of this world, but of a better one. He has kept the romantic novel alive by introducing into it a new tension — the struggle between obsessive or demented characters and a-seraphic rhetoric. Given his inspired style, no wonder Nabokov chose to write about not the species nor the variety but the mutant individual. Only such a subject gives his radiant language something to do, to overcome — a job to perform.
And well done too White's felicitous enumerations &mdash the pile-up is joyous. I am intrigued as to what an "a-seraphic rhetoric" might be. Heavenly angel-less prose?

And so for day 733
15.12.2008