What if Lolita is the story of global anti-Semitism as much as it is Humbert Humbert’s molestation of a twelve-year-old girl? What if Pale Fire is a love letter to the dead of the Russian Gulag? What if forty years of Nabokov’s writing carries an elegy for those who resisted the prisons and camps that devastated his world? The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, Andrea Pitzer, xii
It’s banned book week! Or rather, it was last week. . . .Time to celebrate those books that have been challenged and banned. Many classics that have been a part of the literary canon for decades have had their merit questioned. We have days to commemorate what happened. And we have Banned Books Week to remind us of what could have happened. We could have lost so much art if brave publishers and booksellers did not protest censorship. Books were banned for their language and content. Anything remotely sexual was considered pornographic. Racial slurs used to indicate a racist society were challenged. Something slightly bawdy was banned. And books that reinterpret religious texts were burned. Why? They are all merely ideas. They are all just musings, just observations, just words. But people become so caught up in their personal beliefs that they want to force them on other people. It seems strange to me that books are still being challenged and banned to this day. Continue reading →
Your book collection is a reflection of yourself, your tastes, your intellectual pursuits, your career, and your circumstances. Your books themselves can be unintentional markers of where you were or what you were doing at certain points in your life. And the items you use as placeholders instead of bookmarks can reveal another level of who you were or are. I started a new project, going through all of my books and photographing what was left in each book. I went through all the books in my apartment but have yet to go through the books in storage at my folks’ house. I started because I found two safety pins in a book. I can’t recall the book (I wish it was something appropriate like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me but it wasn’t). Regardless, I began to wonder what else I would find in my books.
There were too many items to include in this single entry. I still have more books to add for future blog posts. It’s fun to see who I was and what I was doing when I was reading these books. It’s interesting that many of the placeholders indicate an active social life while I’m sitting at home or on the bus reading a book. I have spent so much time out and about because if I don’t get out of my room, I’ll read or worse, watch tv all night. These placeholders reveal so much more than I remember about myself. Forgotten people, phone numbers. But they also remind me of how long I’ve known some friends, and how many states we have known each other. Whether that be physical states and mental states. They also reiterate the people that I’ve been friends with for many, many years. The ones that have seen me through going to shows like the Toiletboys and going to clubs ten years ago. And the ones that accepted my being a book nerd in the midst of a raging social scene.
Books no longer mean the same thing they used to. In the past, books were read and reread, shared with trusted friends, and handed down to the next generation. In city life, with apartments being so small, a lot of friends have had to downsize their collections. I have tried to weed out the books I will never read: the ones I’ve owned for over a decade, the ones that remind me of former friends. One’s bookcase reflects a large part of who one is and chronicles who one was and who one would like to be. For example, all my Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite books indicate that I used to be a goth kid. And then you see who I’d like to be: the person who reads VladimirNabokov‘s translation of Pushkin or a study on medieval warfare. I plan on reading them one day. But there are also books I’ll never read. I keep them because of the sentimental value, the moments they represent, or their sheer beauty.
Tom Wolfe‘s The Bonfire of the Vanities is a contemporary naturalist novel and his protagonist, Sherman McCoy, evokes feelings reminiscent to that of Vladimir Nabokov‘s Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Wolfe allows the dialogue and plot to speak for themselves, and while concrete evidence of his voice is hard to be found, the novel’s presentation of society, justice, and media direct us to Wolfe’s opinion.