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Strong Opinions

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  957 ratings  ·  86 reviews
In this collection of interviews, articles, and editorials, Vladimir Nabokov ranges over his life, art, education, politics, literature, movies, and modern times, among other subjects. Strong Opinions offers his trenchant, witty, and always engaging views on everything from the Russian Revolution to the correct pronunciation of Lolita.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 17th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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Glenn Russell
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing



“I have never seen a more lucid, more lonely, better balanced mad mind than mine.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions

Vladimir Nabokov lets us know directly that his every word recorded in these interviews was carefully and thoughtfully written out after having received, in writing, specific questions from the respective interviewers. In other words, in typical Nabokov fashion, his answers are the result of much reflection and written in solitude. The topics covered range from his childhood in Ru
...more
s.penkevich
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nabokov Fans
I know more than I can express in words, and the little I can express would not have been expressed, had I not known more.

Vladimir Nabokov is a lion of literature. His writing is sleek, menacing and beautiful as it confidently marches through the savannas of languages. His words have claws and deadly jaws, and when he pounces it is a jaw-dropping display of sheer powerful grace with devastating results. Strong Opinions is a collection of Nabokov’s interviews, essays and letters to editors that c
...more
TBV (on hiatus)
An interesting, thought provoking and highly entertaining (I laughed a great deal) account of various interviews in which Mr Nabokov talks about himself, his synesthesia, his love of lepidopterology, and of course his writing, his books and his critics (“criticules”), teaching, other authors, language and translation. He spells out loud and clear what his likes and dislikes are. Check the facts and don't mess with Nabokov! Whilst reading some of his responses to various interviewers I had a ment ...more
Eric
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nabokov
A book for cultists. Non-cultists hold this book up as Nabokov at his arrogant, disdainful worst. They miss the real human drama here: Nabokov's fierce adherence to the aristocratic ideal of his youth--an ideal of unflappable poise and "manly" composure--in the face of the death, exile, material deprivation and incalculable emotional loss that marked his adult life. Hold your head high, remember you're a nobleman. He admirably eludes all attempts to get him to complain, to Oprah-ishly broadcast ...more
Nathan
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it

"I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child." Thus begins the author’s introduction to this late life collection of exuberant l'esprit d'escalier.

The interviews are, as he rarely misses an opportunity to point out, ultimately another one of his creations. More revealing of his quotidian goings-on than his memoir, one is still presented the information in the same manner as in his novels and lectures: precise, lapidary, preserved, controlled. Nabokov's bo
...more
Liina Bachmann
The interviews are brilliant. In fact so good that the other two parts (letters to editors and articles) pale in comparison, although they are obviously well above average too.
Dhandayutha
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
[However, I could never explain adequately to certain students in
my literature classes, the aspects of good reading—the fact
that you read an artist's book not with your heart (the heart
is a remarkably stupid reader), and not with your brain
alone, but with your brain and spine. "Ladies and
gentlemen, the tingle in the spine really tells you what the
author felt and wished you to feel." ]
...more
John
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stubborn old man carried his bulk-dictionary everywhere.

Even when the newer edition came out.
Victoria Ray
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? The man is a genius... but with very “strong” = smart but slashing, grotesque, bizarre opinions:)
John David
I read this mostly to supplement my reading and, I was hoping, my understanding of “Lolita,” which I’ve also recently read. “Strong Opinions” is a good choice if you want to get an idea of Nabokov’s ideas and preferences and where he’s coming from as a writer of fiction. And “strong opinions” is really no joke. The man has some of the most unorthodox opinions, especially concerning the relative merit of other writers, I’ve ever read. The last third contains several “Letters to the Editor” of var ...more
Jeff Jackson
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Nabokov obsessives only
Shelves: nabokov
Nabokov as Mandarin, considerably less appealing than in his fictions, dishing out stentorian judgments from on high. The absolute worst place for a newcomer to start. For fans, there's no shortage of intentionally provocative opinions that should be taken with a barrel of salt (savaging such "mediocrities" as Doestoevsky, Thomas Mann, etc). He also offers the odd dazzling insight into his own work and brilliantly rips asunder decades worth of received wisdom. Worthwhile but proceed with caution ...more
Omololu Adeniran
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Strong Opinions indeed. Nabokov has a lot to say about his art, art in general, his process, his views on other writers and his literary feuds. One gets the sense that he's a highly intelligent, and openly eccentric man of many talents.

What makes this book especially great in my opinion is his unwillingness to pander to those less educated than he, and to the 'school of resentment' as Harold Bloom calls it i.e those whose sole passion is to take offense on the world's behalf.

There's no shortage
...more
Hamish
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Strong Opinions is an excellent barometer of someone's level of Nabokov fandom. It's a collection of his interviews and articles (mostly the former). If you've learned to tolerate or even love his personality through frequent and obsessive readings of his novels and stories, chances are you'll really enjoy this. If you haven't, chances are you'll want to throw this book out the window and vandalize N's Wikipedia page in retaliation for being forced to sit through even a little of the aristocrati ...more
Lee Kofman
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Nabokov is such a true individual, such a wonderful grump. I found myself agreeing with so many of his opinions – on identity politics, on Death in Venice, on the stupidity of extreme left in America and even on what he calls ‘soft music’. Although I’m sure if I met him in real life I’d not have liked him much – his lack of modesty, his lack of hedonism. But then he’s hilarious and his humor is wonderfully redemptive. The book is terribly serious, particularly when it comes to word-by-word issue ...more
Lee Klein
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Wholly worth it for variations on Vlad's representative themes (especially the sovereignty of specificity over abstraction, theories, ideas) always expressed in playful, oft-alliterative, exquisitely composed rhythmic (ie, Nabokovian) prose. Memorable aphorisms aplenty. Lepidoptera emphasis gets a little presh. Toward the end, editorials settling old scores with critics and nitpicking re: translation literalism paint VN as a bit of an aspergerian twit. Highly recommended WC reading, regardless. ...more
Richard
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Nabokov freaks only.
In this book we learn that Nabokov was kind of a self-absorbed asshole. What a bummer. It's too bad he didn't live long enough to see the rise of the blog -- I'm sure he would have enjoyed ranting about whatever on index cards and having his wife type them into LiveJournal for him. ...more
Deary Darling
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
No really, Dear N., tell us what you really think!

This is priceless for those fools among us who insist upon trying to know more of the author. Does he relent and allow us even a peek? Ever?

No.

It's fun, however, watching him NOT let us in. He is, and always shall be, the Master!
...more
MJ
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is intellectual BDSM at its very best (make no mistake--as the grateful rereaders, not readers, of the genius, we’re the masochists here). Considering how vulgar this review is so far, Nabokov would surely disapprove and is probably spinning like a figure skater doing triple axels in his grave as I type--but that’s besides the point. Within this book you can find: unyielding, strong opinions on literature (thus the title) and 1001 ways to colorfully insult the book populace at large (noveli ...more
Connie
Nov 07, 2020 added it
When he slagged off Tolstoi’s Kreutzer Sonata I knew my relationship w Nabokov was officially over. He comes across as an absolute wanker who should have kept his mouth well and truly shut. Stick that shit on a couple of index cards and toss them straight in the bin hun.
Katie
Feb 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am two-thirds of the way through this book and I have determined two things: Vladimir Nabokov is a complete asshole, and he is hilariously funny.

EDIT: I have now finished the book, and I stand by my earlier conclusion. The book is divided into three parts: interviews, letters to the editor, and articles. The interviews were the best part. The letters to the editor were okay only because they were short, and some of the articles I didn't even read. Specifically, the one that extensively describ
...more
aya
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
nabokov always has something interesting to say- he is so exacting in the way that he insists on being presented to the world, so final his opinions. once i look past his ego, however, there is so much.
Ryan White
May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: necessities
Nabokov is an Old Testament God with New Testament romanticism. How can you review a collection of interviews curated by himself? I tremble and weep every time I accidentally notice the book's spine on my shelf. ...more
Asif
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, nabokov
Great fun! The Master had some strong opinions (not always ones I share) but he is always a joy to read!
Jeena Mary Chacko
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This man is such a genius and a delightful snob! Wish I lived inside his head.
Greg Smith
I read and re-read this book in my early twenties, keenly desirous to know what to admire and what to disdain.
Mary Catherine
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Nabokov the most when he is at his high-brow bitchy worst (which this deliciously is.)
Rachel Jackson
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
It had been far too long since I last read a Vladimir Nabokov book, and Strong Opinions was one of the few on my bookshelf that I’d never read, so it was time to crack it open. Nabokov is his usual ridiculous self in this collection of interviews, essays and letters to the editor; he’s hilariously pretentious yet indulgent in his self-deprecation, a regular Pnin in how he views his interviews; he also never dims his intellectual and literary prowess by eviscerating other authors and standing fir ...more
Ben Guterson
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I glanced at the first sentence of the foreword Nabokov wrote for this volume--"I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child."--and scooted the book to the top of my TBR pile. Not a mistake. Each page of this mostly-interview collection was a pleasure (even as I shook my head at Nabokov's legendary arrogance), because the man writes such luscious sentences while remaining hilarious and insightful throughout. Strong opinions, indeed--but Nabokov has given m ...more
mobydickens
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
"My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting."

Nabokov's books make my spine tingle, and I really enjoyed this carefully cultivated peek into his mind. He would not do interviews off the cuff, but had three absolute conditions for his interviews. The questions must be sent to him in writing, answered in writing, and reproduced verbatim.

"I have always been a wretched speaker. My vocabular
...more
Angus
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
He repeats himself; he's terribly mean. The Nabokov that hides in the alcoves of his literature now struts about as if searching for a mate with his poisonous plumage. I used to enjoy the way he crushes his enemies, and creates with such confidence his own Canon - even now, it's still funny at times to see him sling insults. But that isn't good criticism, and nor does it tell us anything useful either, except that as a man he had his opinions. Better to stick to the lectures for the intersection ...more
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Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков .

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery, and had a big interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequ
...more

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