Posting will be slow and spotty as I refamiliarize myself with the process of waking before noon and facing a new work week.
Vladimir Nabokov embarked upon his first English-language novel midway through his career. Nervous at first about the finer points of grammar and idiom, he ultimately disregarded a copy editor’s advice, noting that “any good English writer commits just as many grammatical imprecisions” and that even his Russian novels had “birthmarks.” Posterity affirms his decision: “Lolita” stripped of its elegant and unusual turns of phrase would be a lesser novel.
Like Nabokov, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak is a known talent in her native language — praised by fellow Turk Orhan Pamuk, no less — but unlike the Russian author, Shafak, in her debut English effort, overtly challenges the idea of orthodox language. In “The Saint of Incipient Insanities,” she calls attention to the artificiality of English, to the ways Americans cheerfully botch their own idiom but mock the immigrant who does so.
A few more quick things:
- Nadine Gordimer discusses the new short story collection she’s edited to benefit victims of AIDS. Contributors include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Susan Sontag, John Updike.
- James Wood calls Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead
a beautiful work — demanding, grave and lucid — [that] is, if anything, more out of time than Robinson’s book of essays, suffused as it is with a Protestant bareness that sometimes recalls George Herbert (who is alluded to several times, along with John Donne) and sometimes the American religious spirit that produced Congregationalism and 19th-century Transcendentalism and those bareback religious riders Emerson, Thoreau and Melville.
- Pneumonia, not alcoholism, may have killed Dylan Thomas.
- From Twain to Fitzgerald to Roth, authors apparently have flocked to Connecticut. (I believe that’s a stretch of land between here and my sister’s place in Massachusetts.)
(If you’re wondering: nope, I still haven’t gotten to your email.)