Apparently this is what Nabokov had originally intended to name his memoir but "was told that 'little old ladies would not want to ask for a book whose title they could not pronounce' " (per the foreword in said work). I suppose from a marketing perspective that it was a valid criticism, but beyond that, I think Speak, Memory just falls more rhythmically on the ear and makes the idea of a writer exploring recollections of his childhood more accessible to the common reader. There's something about invoking a Greek muse that just feels more highflown. Of course, there's a place for that too, but when talking about the self? Let's not take ourselves too seriously ...
Nabokov is, as you may have guessed, the author of the week in my seminar. So far, so good, but his prose requires concentration. The end of a sentence often reaches places far from its beginnings, and any kind of distraction that draws your attention from its progress leaves you wondering a few words later, "Wait, how did we get here?"
I guess that's the underlying question in writing memoir too. "Neither in environment nor in heredity," writes Nabokov, "can I find the exact instrument that fashioned me, the anonymous roller that pressed upon my life a certain intricate watermark whose unique design becomes visible when the lamp of art is made to shine through life's foolscap." That pretty much describes what the last few weeks of writing have proved to me! The quest, perhaps, is to find the path the watermark traces -- the revisiting of all the pressures that have left their prints upon us, nudging us forward into the present. But how to organize all that into a coherent narrative?
I have to wonder what this man, who was an avid collector of butterflies, thought of the butterfly effect.
I'm playing around with structure as I'm writing but it's still unclear what's working best. The response to the essay on Thursday from workshop was encouraging enough that I sent the work to my thesis advisor -- we'll see what suggestions she has. Hopefully over Thanksgiving, I'll have time just to sit and think. That's partially what today is for too, but several days like this without interruption will be helpful. If holiday shopping and cooking don't take over, that is ...
1 day ago