Fifty pages in, I feel like I've given this a good shake and I can move on. You have to care about something when you read a book: the story, a character, maybe even the technique. Something, at any rate. Nothing comes to mind for this one. While Nabokov stated in an interview that of all his novels he held the greatest affection for Lolita, it was Invitation to a Beheading that he held in the greatest esteem, he said at the same time:
My advice to a budding literary critic would be as follows. Learn to distinguish banality. Remember that mediocrity thrives on "ideas." Beware of the modish message. Ask yourself if the symbol you have detected is not your own footprint. Ignore allegories. By all means place the "how" above the "what" but do not let it be confused with the "so what." Rely on the sudden erection of your small dorsal hairs. Do not drag in Freud at this point. All the rest depends on personal talent.
What a wanker.
I know I'm in the wild here, not kowtowing to the idea of Nabokov, but the time will come where he is reassessed and found wanting. As far as I can see, he is too clever by half. One needs more than intellect to make writing work, to make it other than banal. He's not only a wanker, but a darn smug one and one wonders why. It isn't enough to pepper everything you write with corny sexual metaphor. Speaking of which, I feel like, as a consequence of reading the first pages of this, my dorsal hairs couldn't get it up with a dose of viagra now.
Tim Winton, get me over this unhappy affair. Cloudstreet
is my recovery play.