I remember the first time I realized I could make myself see something that wasn’t there. I was ten years old, walking home from school. Some boys from my class ran by shouting and laughing. I wanted to be like them. And yet. I didn’t know how. I’d always felt different from the others, and the difference hurt. And then I turned the corner and saw it. A huge elephant, standing alone in the square. I knew I was imagining it. And yet. I wanted to believe.
So I tried.
And I found I could.
The History of Love. Nicole Krauss.
Photo by Colleen Plumb
New York: I’m going back tomorrow.
Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle, breakfast time, suppertime, lilac time, apple time. If heaven was to be this world purged of disaster and nuisance, if immorality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene, eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten.
Housekeeping. Marilynne Robinson.
…and the coincidence struck me as so outlandish it was all I could do to keep from laughing. I felt as if I’d tapped in to the inner hilarity of things, or else brushed up against a truth so overwhelmingly only a fit of hysterics could keep it at bay; but maybe it wasn’t a coincidence at all…The significance of a dream, we’re told, has less to do with its overt drama than with the details; a long time ago it struck me that the same was true of real life, of what passes among us for real life.
IN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION:
WHAT SCENES ONE WOULD
LIKE TO HAVE FILMED
Shakespeare in the part of the King’s Ghost.
The beheading of Louis the Sixteenth, the drums drowning his speech on the scaffold.
Herman Melville at breakfast, feeding a sardine to his cat.
Lewis Carroll’s picnics.
The Russians leaving Alaska, delighted with the deal.
Shot of a seal applauding.
This was taken from an excerpt of public prose by Vladimir Nabokov, from the book Vladimir Nabokov: Strong Opinions in an interview with Robert Hughes, dated 1965.
Nabokov was a dreamer. He thought up stories, he wrote them down and he passionately studied Lepidoptera. All of his butterfly drawings represent imagined species, and he drew these illustrations for his son Dmitri and his wife Vera. He theorized that a species of blue butterflies migrated from Asia to the New World over millions of years, and no one believed him. Only today, posthumously, he is credited with this theory.
For some reason, I cannot get over this thought—this idea of him as a real person. I find Nabokov melancholy, yet genuine, and I wonder how he managed to balance his unreal dreams of winged bugs with his grounded ideas about writing, literature and life.
Initially I became interested in Nabokov through my research of Salinger. Nabokov was one of the few critics and writers that valued Salinger’s unique perspective on the world, his place as a wartime writer, his sense of humor, the whole reclusiveness business. These thoughts coupled with Stanley Kubrick’s stark and troubling visual interpretation of Lolita is enough for me to think about for years. And yet, time and again, I am drawn back to his seemingly opposite life spent dreaming and collecting butterflies. These two contradictions, seemingly at peace with each other within his life, leave me in awe. What I love most about the impression he left on the world is how his life, his writings and through his quest to capture butterflies—there remains an enigmatic person that we will never know.
I’ve been thinking about this movie a lot today.