Maijabeep's Reviews > Speak, Memory

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
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Jan 21, 14

bookshelves: memoir, russia
Read from January 16 to 21, 2014

4.5 stars. I think this memoir could really use some footnotes. If this edition did I would have probably given it five stars.

So it's official. I would read Nabokov writing about anything. I even liked the chapter about butterflies. I don't know how he manages to write so beautifully and with so many claws simultaneously. And oh it made me laugh.

I've been thinking that the memoir-narrator Nabokov is actually an unreliable narrator - and he hints at this at the foreword of my edition. It makes sense to me that the creator of so many unreliable narrators would create one in himself. Or maybe he thinks we would believe that because of the type of books he writes, and is thus deliberately toying with us. I am definitely over-thinking this, aren't I? Stupid Nabokov. He continually plays with the idea that he's not to be relied on in the book in different ways. The one that leaps to my mind is his insistence that he can't recall the name of his childhood beach girlfriend's (Nabokov is a little creepy with the nymphet thing) dog, but as he sinks into the seat of a movie theatre with her in the course of the story - aha! The dog's name appears. It's such a theatrical trick I can't help but think Nabokov is just laughing at his audience.

I also liked that the memoir wasn't bound by time (the chapters were essays written separately) but are divided by theme, although they do tend to follow chronology. I find Nabokov to be an intensely evocative but unpredictable writer. I would get swept up in something and then boom - there'd be a hilarious throw away line or bit over which I'd have to stop and have a good chuckle. In some ways his humour is very Thurber-like to me. I wish I could read the non-existence second half of this memoir, about his life in America.

Also the Vera Nabokov biography has jumped right up my TBR list.
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Reading Progress

01/16 marked as: currently-reading
01/17 page 33
9.0% "I can see why this isn't everybody's cup of tea but ugh I am completely in love with Nabokov's writing." 1 comment
01/20 page 173
51.0% "In a flowing silk gown and net mitts, a period piece rather than a live person, she spent most of her life on a couch, fanning herself with an ivory fan. A box of boules de gomme, or a glass of almond milk were always within her reach, as well as a hand mirror, for she used to repowder her face, with a large pink puff, every hour or so, the little mole on her cheekbone showing through all that flour, like a currant."
01/21 marked as: read
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