It had been some years since I’ve read any Nabokov, which I can only blame a youthful use of mind-shrinking substances or a two-mile-long to-read list. But recently, I made a full-length audiobook of Dustin Long’s Icelander, whose completion set me on a mission. I’m not going to shill Icelander too much (ahem, only five bucks! And I get a piece!), but there was no way for any reasonable person — or even myself — to finish it and not start thumbing through the old master’s treasures, all of which I’ve loved plenty at some point or other. You’ll see what I mean if you listen to Icelander (ahem: Iambik Audiobooks, who released it, features plenty other Miette-approved titles in its inaugural selection).
So there I was, splayed out on the floor surrounded by cracked copies of Pnin and Pale Fire and Ada and all the rest, just madly paging through a title, locating its place within the vast underworld of my memory, enjoying the moment of recognition, then putting it aside and grabbing the next… and then I reached for the stories.
One of the nicer books in my library of the beaten and battered is a lovely hard-cover of the collected stories, and toward the end of it, the Vane Sisters, which proved to be the reminiscent equivalent of a half-ton of Madeleines force-fed by aliens. Not only had I forgotten how imbued this story was with everything I love about literature, but in its way, it seemed to be a sort of Ur-text for Icelander. No fooling: if you’ll pardon the connect-the-dots of the subject matter, this was not unlike being poked in the neck by the very ghosts the story conjures. Spooky stuff, for a girl on the floor of her own dusty library.
Two clues to solving the story’s puzzle:
1> You may need to listen to it twice.
2> You may need to see this, the final paragraph, to make sense of things:
I could isolate, consciously, little. Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible. Her inept acrostics, maudlin evasions, theopathies – every recollection formed ripples of mysterious meaning. Everything seemed yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.
PS: Wanna hear some of Icelander
by Dustin Long? The entire first chapter is ready for your ears.
Okay, done shilling. Back to Nabokov:
4 thoughts on “The Vane Sisters, Vladimir Nabokov”
Sorry Miette can’t play or download The Vane Sisters by Vladimir Nabokov. Only 4 seconds comeS across (no need to pulish this) thanks for your work
Hmmm… it plays well here. Maybe try this link, or let me know what your browser and operating system is, and I’ll do my best to geek it into shape for you:
I had no idea why you typed out the last paragraph until I heard you read it. Now I feel like a genius for figuring it out. I love it. More like this!
MIette, good catch! You’re right on about it being the “ur-text.”