Olivia's Reviews > The Original of Laura

The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov
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's review
Nov 21, 2009

really liked it
Read in November, 2009

This is not really a novel in fragments, as so many reviewers have said, as a few notecards that he was planning to use in a book eventually. So I felt kind of dirty reading it, as it seems kind of wrong... and because his son is basically a nobody who, many cynics speculate, may have run out of money. What better way to make a fortune?

All that cynicism aside, it is really wonderful to read this and see what it is like to be a great writer who has lived through everything tragic int he 20th century and had a crazy life and written about ridiculous, dirty, and intense things. And to know you are dying, and that you can't beat it or run away. As a testimony to an intellectual exercise, the book is amazing - but I must be honest and admit it is because I love Nabokov, and feel this is a lot about him dying as well.

It has prompted some annoying reviews, including this one from Martin Amis, which I basically hated because I think it misses the point of his books, including Ada or Ardour, which I loved:


It is a long and kind of rambling review, but not without some love for the writer, and interesting to read. But still at points annoying.

Amongst the best reviews (or most in line with what I think) are the one in the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/boo...). The book is indeed beguiling to Nabokov fans (I am "involved" with him, so it is magic to me), and I feel his attempts at taking control of death are heart-breaking in their authenticity.

Or the one from the New York Magazine (http://nymag.com/arts/books/reviews/6...), which writes:

My inner Kinbote suspects, in fact, that Laura isn’t unfinished at all—that it’s actually a perfectly executed work of literary performance art, a carefully engineered posthumous spectacle that its author spent his entire career preparing us to receive. I imagine him reaching down, even now, to crank the recursion machine harder than it’s ever been cranked. Those 30 years of drama, perhaps, were part of the work itself. He may not have even wanted the manuscript destroyed: It’s possible he wanted it read at precisely this moment, under precisely these circumstances. Incompleteness is the book’s central theme, so it could only have been finished by being left unfinished. Like Philip’s body in the midst of one of his trances, Laura survives, ecstatically, with key parts missing. It could be Nabokov’s very last brilliant joke: a black hole of textuality that he conjured and then slipped into, pulling his pencil behind him.

And totally fine is the Christian Science Monitor review: http://features.csmonitor.com/books/2....

More annoying reviews:


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001... (although good on Dmitri's introduction)


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/peo... - but this is mosty annoying because it groups it with a story on Brangelina. It does quote Nabokov's comments on the book, though: 'He confesses that, "in my diurnal delirium [I:] kept reading it aloud to a small dream audience in a walled garden. My audience consisted of peacocks, pigeons, my long dead parents, two cypresses, several young nurses crouching around, and a family doctor so old as to be almost invisible"'.
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