Saturday, 23 April 2011

Authors' Birthdays (The Booklovers)...

Today marks the birthday of two of my all-time favourite authors - J.P. Donleavy (seriously, read him.  He can make you laugh out loud and bring a tear to your eye, often during the course of the same paragraph) and Vladimir Nabokov (look at those beautiful covers to the Vintage editions.  Having read the first paragraph of Nabokov's autobiography, "Speak, Memory" at my first English class at Boston University in 1994, I thought the prose was so beautiful I went to the bookstore immediately after class and purchased 4 of his books - the aforementioned, "Despair", "The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight" and "The Gift" - this last being the most beautiful book I have ever read).  And of course it's Shakespeare's birthday as well.

I do like this song but always cringe at the "Nab-a-koff" pronounciation of Nabokov's surname. Being of Russian descent, it just doesn't sound right to have the second syllable of a name not begin with a consonant sound.  Here's Nabokov on the pronounciation of his name.

In a January 1964 Playboy 'interview' with Alvin Toffler (Nabokov always insisted upon having the questions ahead of time and then simply, if the interviewer chose to visit, the author would read out his answers from notecards), Nabokov is quoted as saying:

I have no ear for music, a shortcoming I deplore bitterly.
When I attend a concert-- which happens about once in five
years-- one endeavors gamely to follow the sequence and
relationship of sounds but cannot keep it up for more than a
few minutes. Visual impressions, reflections of hands in
lacquered wood, a diligent bald spot over a fiddle, these take
over, and soon I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the
musicians. My knowledge of music is very slight; and I have a
special reason for finding my ignorance and inability so sad,
so unjust: There is a wonderful singer in my family-- my own
son. His great gifts, the rare beauty of his bass, and the
promise of a splendid career-- all this affects me deeply, and
I feel a fool during a technical conversation among musicians.
I am perfectly aware of the many parallels between the art
forms of music and those of literature, especially in matters
of structure, but what can I do if ear and brain refuse to
cooperate? I have found a queer substitute for music in chess--
more exactly, in the composing of chess problems.

J.P. Donleavy's Desert Island Discs can be found here.


And while we're here, which version of "Books" do you prefer? The Teardrop Explodes or Echo & The Bunnymen?

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