Jason's Reviews > Invitation to a Beheading

Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov
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Feb 27, 2011

liked it

I think trying to pin down an indisputable interpretation of any book - let alone this one - is the silliest thing anyone can do. (The only way this can be done is if the author comes right out and declares to the world, in very precise terms, a given book's meaning.) Not that I care too much either, but I like to think that it's about the inevitable puppet show that society can play upon you, shoving it's hand through the flesh at your back and making you dance. And only then can individuality be rightfully assumed.
But aside from the interpretation nonsense, I thought the story was quite good, even if it is inundated with surreal events and pincered by a sometimes claustrophobic flow of wordplay. I doubt I'll be returning often to books of a surrealistic nature, but I found myself, in the latter 100 pages, liking it more than I expected from the impression I got from the initial 100.
I believe that at the least you should receive one morsel of knowledge about writing - or one pleasure from reading - that you were lacking before you began a book. With this, I found a few gems of phrases which showed different ways things can be expressed or how sentences can be formed. One such sentence read: "As he dried himself, trying to find some diversion in his own body, he kept examining his veins and he could not help thinking how he would soon be uncorked and all the contents would run out." I thought that was a fantastic way of wording the image.
To my mind, the best sentence in the entire book( in terms of the truths it revealed) read: "I am here through an error, not in this prison - specifically - but in this whole terrible, striped world; a world which seems not a bad example of amateur craftsmanship, but is in reality calamity, horror, madness, error - and look, the curio slays the tourist, the gigantic carved bear brings its wooden mallet down upon me. And yet, ever since early childhood, I have had dreams..." This sentence suggests a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the world, an understanding of its complete absurdity, but yet still admits that, as humans, we are perpetually handicapped by the grasp of dreams and wants. I can't remember the last time a sentence in a book sang with such a frequency that I might have been its only hearer, that figuratively called out, 'you are not the only one,' but that sentence might just have been the pinnacle. And that's where my position of not caring about interpretations comes from. Different experiences shape people in different ways, and so what strikes me as profound might seem like gibberish to someone else. Make of this book what you want. The author wants you to.

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Reading Progress

February 27, 2011 – Started Reading
February 27, 2011 – Shelved
February 27, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Orlaith (new)

Orlaith Have you tried sending book reviews to newspapers or magazines?


Jason That's a terribly nice thing to say, but I haven't. I'm not much of a newspaper/magazine consumer, and I genuinely wouldn't know how to approach such a thing, or where specifically to direct myself towards. The idea is nice - anything to pass those hours - and it's pleasing to know that words you write don't go unnoticed by the world. But I thank you for the thought. It's a pleasant boost of confidence.


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