reading: Nabokov, Stein, France, tennis, babies….


Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle, Nicholas Day – Babies are fascinating, and this provides much evidence to support that. Myth debunking, history of oft misguided babycare, multicultural perspective, weird/cool data.

Strokes of Genius:Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, L. Jon Wertheim – Outlines in elaborate detail, with superb orientation, the 2008 men’s Wimbledon final. I haven’t read that much sports writing, admittedly, but I think this is great sports writing. I was already into tennis when I read this…and it got me more into tennis.

Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, Nabokov – Nabokov improves your vocabulary and forces you into new cerebral flexibility. I think he is phenomenal.

Paris France, Gertrude Stein – Lately I will give just about any book on France a go. This is good (many of them are not good), sort of slippery and fluid and fast-reading, though her style gets in your head. Weirdly I am reading a lot about France and babies. And babies in France.

On Lies, Secrets, and Silence, Adrienne Rich – This is a collection of searching and riveting essays, all to do somehow or another with women and feminism. So many beautiful and true moments in this. Recommend.

weekend distraction: recordings of Woolf and Nabokov

Came across these recordings and found them both, each in their own way, so intelligent and funny. Both writers I admire tremendously.

The Nabokov interview I find fantastically eloquent, almost unbelievably eloquent. His pronunciation is resonant, with a peculiar cadence that gives the sense of savoring his own words.

“When about to fall asleep after a good deal of writing or reading, I often enjoy, if that is the right word, what some drug addicts experience — a continuous series of extraordinary bright, fluidly changing pictures. Their type is different nightly, but on a given night it remains the same: one night it may be a banal kaleidoscope of endlessly recombined and reshaped stained-window designs; next time comes a subhuman or superhuman face with a formidably growing blue eye; or — and this is the most striking type — I see in realistic detail a long-dead friend turning toward me and melting into another remembered figure against the black velvet of my eyelids’ inner side. As to voices, I have described in Speak, Memory the snatches of telephone talk which now and then vibrate in my pillowed ear. Reports on those enigmatic phenomena can be found in the case histories collected by psychiatrists but no satisfying interpretation has come my way. Freudians, keep out, please!”

And Virginia Woolf’s voice, her deep, sonorous vowels, I love.

“It is not a word indeed until it is part of a sentence. Words belong to each other, although, of course, only a great writer knows that the word “incarnadine” belongs to “multitudinous seas.”