Who writes like Nabokov?


May 6, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

No one else I’ve ever read, that’s for damn sure. If I were keeping track of ‘number of times I’ve stopped and thought “wow, in a million years I would never have thought of phrasing it like that”‘ per page, he’d be the winner.

I wasn’t taking notes on Speak, Memory and I don’t write in library books – although given that this copy has what seems to be smears of blood on the pages (*fumigates hands*) a few pencil notations in the margins would hardly be a crime – so here are the only bits I remembered to quote:

I was always ready to sacrifice purity of form to the exigencies of fantastic content, causing form to bulge and burst like a sponge-bag containing a small furious devil. (Ch. 14)

[Note that things would go very wrong if there were a comma after ‘small’.]

the narrow lane, the cloistered lawn, the dark archway (ch. 13)

Cambridge in a nutshell.

and the sense of leaving Russia was totally eclipsed by the agonizing thought that Reds or no Reds, letters from Tamara would be still coming, miraculously and needlessly, to southern Crimea, and would search there for a fugitive addressee, and weakly flap about like bewildered butterflies set loose in an alien zone, at the wrong altitude, among an unfamiliar flora. (ch. 12)


3 thoughts on “Who writes like Nabokov?

  1. Horizon says:

    No body would certainly write exactly as him, but I’ve read recently something from an authors who uses the language like Nabokov, that is Marisha Pessl. Check out the Special Topics In Calamity Physics, beautifully written indeed.

  2. Mohit Parikh says:

    Just curious: why would things go wrong if there is a comma after small?

  3. Sean M. Price says:

    Perhaps John Updike is a close contender.

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Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.


CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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