If I were still in school, I would be in 20th grade. Ten years ago, in tenth grade, our teacher assigned us SSR – sustained silent reading. To get full credit, we had to read 600 pages each six weeks. For me back then, this was a chore. Most grading periods, I struggled to get to 600, usually because the books I was reading were boring.
These days, I read a lot more. And a lot more voluntarily. I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if I had discovered the kinds of books I like to read back when I was forced to read.
Earlier this week, I read Twilight based on the raving recommendation of my friend Brie. Five-hundred pages in three days. I admit, this isn’t college-bound literature. I was even concisely mocked by my (English major) sister for stooping to read it. BUT I AM NOT ASHAMED.
Snow Crash is a favorite among several of my friends, and Jackie happens to be reading it right now. I bought it a few years ago, read about 50 pages, then put it aside in favor of a different book.
New Moon is the sequel to Twilight, and I am very tempted to continue my momentum with this series.
Ada, or Ardor has been on my shelf for a few years. I bought a handful of used Nabokov books after I discovered and devoured Lolita. I feel drawn to return to Nabokov as a pendulum swing away from the "lightweight" prose of Stephanie Meyer. Depth. Intensity. Passion. English! All perfected by Nabokov.
I took Ada with me this morning on the bus. Chapter two starts off innocent enough:
Marina’s affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen’s birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty.
I began reading the next sentence while still in Seattle. I did not move past it until we were two towns away. Behold:
As an actress, she had none of the breath-taking quality that makes the skill of mimicry seem, at least while the show lasts, worth even more than the price of such footlights as insomnia, fancy, arrogant art; yet on that particular night, with soft snow falling beyond the plush and the paint, la Durmanska (who paid the great Scott, her impresario, seven thousand gold dollars a week for publicity alone, plus a bonny bonus for every engagement) had been from the start of the trashy ephemeron (an American play based by some pretentious hack on a famous Russian romance) so dreamy, so lovely, so stirring, that Demon (not quite a gentleman in amorous matters) made a bet with his orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N., bribed a series of green-room attendants, and then, in a cabinet reculé (as a French writer of an earlier century might have mysteriously called that little room in which the broken trumpet and poodle hoops of a forgotten clown, besides many dusty pots of colored grease, happened to be stored) proceeded to possess her between two scenes, Chapter Three and Four of the martyred novel).
That was one sentence. Now, I know that Nabokov likes words. And likes to weave allusions in his writing. And likes to sneak in his own musings disguised as asides from the narrator from time to time. But all in one monstrous sentence? This sentence makes me curious whether Nabokov’s used an editor, particularly at this later stage in his career. (And if he did, what a challenging job he must have had, since Nabokov was one of the most certain and defensive authors I’ve ever encountered … he would even respond to his critics in print…)
I am not sure now whether to forge ahead or retreat to New Moon.