- File Size: 967 KB
- Print Length: 460 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0141197196
- Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (February 16, 2011)
- Publication Date: February 16, 2011
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004KABE1A
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,446 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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.
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.