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89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nabokov in a nutshell
This is a pretty good collection of Interviews with Nabokov and Nabokov's letters to editors and stuff like that. For people who want to find out more there's the comprehensive two volume biography of Nabokov by Brian Boyd.
Nabokov's opinions in a nutshell?
Thought everything written by James Joyce was completely mediocre except for "Ulysses," which...
Published on October 10, 2000 by TUCO H.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some (Really) Strong Opinions
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,...
Published on August 29, 2012 by A Certain Bibliophile


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89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nabokov in a nutshell, October 10, 2000
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This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
This is a pretty good collection of Interviews with Nabokov and Nabokov's letters to editors and stuff like that. For people who want to find out more there's the comprehensive two volume biography of Nabokov by Brian Boyd.
Nabokov's opinions in a nutshell?
Thought everything written by James Joyce was completely mediocre except for "Ulysses," which towered above the rest of his ouvre as one of the supreme literary masterpieces of the 20th century. Loved Flaubert and Proust and Chateaubriand, did not like Stendhal (simple and full of cliches) or Balzac (full of absurdities). Loved Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (considered it the greatest novel of the 19th century) and "Death of Ivan Illych," hated "Resurrection" and "Kreutzer sonata." Liked Gogol, despised Dostoevsky as a melodramatic mystic (he even once gave a student an F in his course for disagreeing with him). Loathed Conrad and Hemingway, but liked the description of the fish in "Old Man and the Sea" and the short story "Killers." Hated Andre Gide, T.S.Eliot, Faulkner, Thomas Mann and D.H.Lawrence and considered them all frauds. Thought Kafka was great, Orwell mediocre. Despised Camus and Sartre, considered Celine a second rater, but liked H.G.Wells. Loved Kubrick's film of Lolita (thought it was absolutely first-rate in every way) but later in the '70s regretted that Sue Lyon (though instantly picked by Nabokov himself along with Kubrick out of a list of thousands) had been too old for the part & suggested that Catherine Demongeot, the boyish looking 11 year old who appeared in Louis Malle's 1960 film "Zazie dans le Metro" would've been just about perfect to induce the right amount of moral repulsion in the audience towards Humbert (and prevent them from enjoying the work on any superficial level other than the purely artistic). Liked avant-garde writers like Borges and Robbe-Grillet and even went out of his way to see Alain Resnais' film with Robbe-Grillet: "Last Year at Marienband." Didn't care for the films of von Sternberg or Fritz Lang, loved Laurel and Hardy. Made a point of saying how much he hated Lenin when it was fashionable to blame the disasters of the Soviet Union on Stalin. Supported the War in Vietnam and sent President Johnson a note saying he appreciated the good job he was doing bombing Vietnam. Never drove an automobile in his life & his wife was the one who drove him through the United States on scientific butterfly-hunting expeditions, all through the many locales & motels & lodges that later appeared in "Lolita."
Seem interesting? You're bound to be offended even if Nabokov is one of your favorite writers. Genius or madman? I would say both, the 'divine madness' of the greatest of artists. Highly recommended for a peek inside the artistically fertile mind, and the tensions that need to be maintained to produce it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong opinions is the term, January 7, 2006
By 
Sirin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
This collection of interviews and articles is essential reading for lovers of Nabokov's fiction. Throughout he presents himself as a full blown iconoclast, presenting in lucid prose (Nabokov never answered interview questions without having time to prepare beforehand), delicious vignettes into his character and theories of literature.

Here you will find, a staunch defence of why he translated Pushkin literally (and a funny damning of his erstwhile foil, Edmund Wilson's misplaced criticism; reflections on the course of his triptych life (Russia, Europe America); how his literary inspiration comes (the complete novel wells up inside him before it is written then curls itself out); a refusal to allow any social message to his work; the pleasures of writing (the tingle in the spine); his condemnation of a host of cannonical authors - Faulkner, Hemmingway, Conrad, Dostoevski etc.; and most importantly, the leitmoteif that runs through his thought, an extended diatribe against the vulgarities and pervasiveness of 'poshlost' (see p.100 in the paperback edition). If you absorb this defintition, and agree with its tenets, you will start to notice instances of poshlost spreading like a rash all over contemporary letters, films and journalism.

In addition there are a couple of beautifully written pieces on butterfly hunting, a perfect subject for Nabokov's perceptive, aesthetic mind, and a lifelong passion of his.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of the artist as a man, April 13, 2007
By 
Gene Zafrin (Sleepy Hollow, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
The book includes interviews, literary essays and five short articles on Lepidoptera. Since the book covers the main themes in Nabokov's life on one hand and is carefully compiled by Nabokov himself on the other, it presents a kind of self-portrait. Its author was a remarkably relentless rewriter, who noted that "[he] rewrote several times every word that [he] has ever published" and that even his recounting of the last night's dream to his wife was "but the first draft", and so this book is the result of no less a meticulous labor than his novels are. It presents a carefully drafted portrait, at times blatantly revealing, at times guardedly mystifying, but always elegantly or freshly phrased.

In his "Lectures on Literature", Nabokov mentions a character in "Bleak House", a man appearing only for a sentence or two just to help carry in from the street an old man in his chair. He gets a tuppence for his labors, tosses it in the air, catches it over-handed, and leaves. Nabokov points out that this one word, "over-handed", makes all the difference: it is a drop of color which renders even an incidental character alive. It seems that Nabokov's own public persona is similarly brought to life with the stories of borrowing a television set (which otherwise he did not watch) to see the first man landing on the Moon, or of having driven a car twice in his life (both times disastrously).

Some of the essays presented in the book are real gems. The 4-page piece "On Adaptation" is a beautiful critique of Robert Lowell's unfortunate rendition in English of Mandelshtam's famous poem. The highly amusing penultimate sentence, where Nabokov applies to one of Lowell's poems the techniques Lowell used in his version of Mandelshtam's, makes the most expressive argument for literal translation and for preserving the writer's intent. In a way, this one sentence makes a better case for Nabokov's verbatim translation of "Eugene Onegin" than the much longer if very engaging article answering Wilson's critique of Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's masterpiece.

Another essay, "Inspiration", provides a rare glimpse into the writer's sanctum sanctorum: a detailed description of a writer's interaction with his muse. Nabokov presents here several examples of what he considers inspired writing and expresses hope that students will learn to recognize it in the books they read. The students of Nabokov will certainly recognize inspiration in his own writing, revealing itself in elegant phrasing and fierce independence of thought and making his answers even to the most mundane questions worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nabokov: Candid dissent with out fear, November 11, 2012
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This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
Living in a time where being genuinely disdainful of anything is somehow frowned upon, "Strong Opinions" is, very much, a needed exhalation. I found the interviews to be beguiling and delightful--a compendium of Nabokov's inclinations and literary acumen surpassed only by his autobiography "Speak, Memory", as well as his literary critiques.

For Nabokov (a Russian ex-patriot and a self-proclaimed American novelist, having first hand experience with the ironclad censorship of at-the-time Russia) candid dissent was a luxury to be exercised, not cast aside. And so he delighted in American frankness and was nothing but during interviews, for why shouldn't he be? These were parlays in which his opinions were being openly solicited; not your opinions, nor mine, but his. And how bewitching these interviews are because of that!

In some of the reviews concerning this book, so much useless emphasis has been placed on Nabokov's disenchantment of the world's most regarded writers and novels (in this text); however shocking, is authentic, but there's more meat to this book than their blind grievances imply: Fascinating notes on the book and film version of "Lolita". Relenting to articulated gems within books he cared little for. Reminiscence of his youth. His love of Pushkin, butterflies, his family, lecturing, Kubrick, the USA, transiency and so on.

Nothing contrived. Everything, quite real.

If anyone holds to the notions that their favored author should reflect their personal beliefs tit for tat--really, imbeciles of the most vapid sort (scroll down past some reviews for prime examples)! You will never agree completely with Vladamir Nabokov, but that was never his intent! This man was always a "party of one", his thoughts were his own and he could have cared less whether or not people acquiesced to him. He was faithful to his family, his art and his opinion. For him (as with ourselves) that's all that matters.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some (Really) Strong Opinions, August 29, 2012
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This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
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 various publications (most of which are negligible, in my much more pusillanimous opinion) and articles, a few of which cover his interest in Lepidoptera, which I assume most people will simply skip. I always read an entire book cover to cover before rating and reviewing it, but I openly admit to skimming over these contributions. In many of them, including an overly lengthy article on his opinion of Edmund Wilson's relationship with and translation of "Eugene Onegin," he delights in being particularly pedantic, tetchy, and cruel.

As I said, the most important part of this will be, for most people, the interviews. While the themes of the interviews tend to become a little repetitive, I found them important in thinking about Nabokov's fiction. He hates the classical "novel of ideas" with a passion. He thinks many of his Russian novelist confreres have been guilty of the moralism that so often accompanies these ideas, especially in the cases of Gogol and Dostoyevsky. (He abhors Gogol's fascination with religion, and Dostoyevsky's clunky, bumbling characters.) He thinks that Hemingway and Conrad are "writers of books for boys," and he thinks that Faulkner is horrible - and this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding authors on whom he has rather unusual opinions. He thinks that "Anna Karenina" can't be understood apart from a thorough knowledge of the shape of a particular kind of trolley car, and "Ulysses" is meaningless if you don't have a detailed mental map of Joyce's Dublin at the ready. Ideas and history are for the birds as far as fiction is concerned; heightened, unadulterated aesthetic enjoy is what really fascinates him. His politics, if you're interested in them at all, he describes as "liberal," yet seems to be a rather ardent defender of intervention in Vietnam and American interests broadly speaking. He thinks Freud is a joke, and constantly makes him of him in his fiction. (Okay, perhaps at least a few people can agree on that last point.)

What's most surprising about this collection is that the pieces were chosen by Nabokov himself, and he obviously couldn't care less about coming off as a caviling, bitchy curmudgeon, or advertising that he didn't mind ending a decades-long friend over differences in translating a nineteenth-century Russian poem. If you don't share his opinions, he has no problem calling you a philistine. But why should he care? "What's your position in the world of letters, Mr. Nabokov?" "The view is pretty good from up here," he replies. It's good to be the king.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very apt title, August 21, 2011
By 
MV (East Bay, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
Nabakov has an incredibly strong personality and reading this book of essays/interview after completing Pnin and Lolita led some insight into how he would like his books read. He has quite a sense of humor mixed up with an enormous dose of narcissism, which, after a while, got very tiresome. It seemed once I'd read several of the scripted interviews, it was the same thing over and over again.

Nabakov clearly details how he does interviews: the questions are sent to him, he types out the answers, he then reads the answers to the interviewer word for word and there are no follow ups. Then, on top of that, he edits the interview and for this collection edited them even further. What the interviews show is that Nabakov believes he is creating art for himself--that's what literature is (at least good literature of which many writers are incapable of, according to him because they get caught up in politics or social criticism which is NOT the purview of the author). What the reader thinks is not really relevant and most critics are stupid anyway.

He makes some points which I did think worth considering: what is the role of the author/reader/text? He calls into question sloppy questions like: what is your idea of the "real world". he does not tolerate fools gladly. He does talk about some of his novels and his intentions. But his personality is very abrasive and dogmatic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a Man, June 12, 2008
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This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
The title says it all. The last section of the book, some twenty pages consists of primarily lepidoptera papers which may or may not interest fiction devotees of N's fiction. His generous use of the epithet "philistine" may rouse some prejudice against N.'s apparently pharisaical and insolent notions on literature, psychology, politics and such, but he always is sure to qualify those strong opinions as solely his own; in large, he abstains from truth claims that would make his book little more than the exegesis of a Pharisee. Besides, one doesn't read a book of opinions for the author's Truth (with a "T!"), unless that is, you are a Kurt Vonnegut follower. Great insights, humor and opinions from a great author. Minus a star or two for a certain degree of repetitiveness.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For fans of the man, November 26, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
An entertaining read for fans of the man, but probably not for others. Learn what it was about VN that to this day causes well-meaning fans to rave in such affected (and misspelled) tones. See below and you'll know what I mean.
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18 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Nabokov fan, disillusioned by this book, July 8, 2007
This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
Before I first encountered STRONG OPINIONS, I was a Nabokov fan. Reading this collection, however, changed my view of him for good. The man's weird animus against literally hundreds of major authors (Cervantes, Camus, Balzac, Mann, Stendhal, Lorca, Faulkner--you name 'em!) is terribly mean-spirited and small. His attacks on Freud get tiresome, and one begins to wonder if he ever did read much Freud in any depth. He also goes after other leading thinkers and even lets fly against, in his words, "Einstein's slick formulae" (I'm really quoting). And his defense of the U.S. war on Vietnam is incredibly ignorant and simplistic, even stupid. Nabokov the artist was a major presence who altered the shape of literature. Nabokov the man, by contrast, was a nasty, dogmatic, narrow-minded little fellow who couldn't countenance any aesthetic but his own.
I'm not the only Nabokovophile who has had this "conversion." I know several others who've had the same experience.
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9 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Universe's Greatest Writer Sounds Off, August 15, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Strong Opinions (Paperback)
Probably, or better yet most definitely, Nabokov was and is the greatest thing with flesh huddling by its bones and peeping with two ice-cube eyes this miserable little golf-ball of a planet will ever see. This is that man sounding off and checking the dunderheads and charletons who plague or lives with false sympathy and athletic stupidity
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Strong Opinions
Strong Opinions by Vladimir Nabokov (Paperback - March 17, 1990)
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