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Tag: Vladimir Nabokov

Rain: Too much and not nearly enough

Monday, 8 June, 2015 0 Comments

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards,” said Vladimir Nabokov. His comment is atypical as rain rarely earns a good punch line. Worse, in a rapidly urbanizing world, rain is regarded as a nuisance and few people have a kind word to say for it. The stuff that fills shoes, wrecks hairdos and allows unscrupulous umbrella sellers to practice a form of surge pricing that would make Uber envious lacks a lobby. But that should change soon thanks to Cynthia Barnett, author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. Using humour and science she examines rain’s role through the ages, and what emerges is a unifying force of nature that has nourished our planet for more than four billion years. Snippet:

“Rain brings us together in one of the last untamed encounters with nature that we experience routinely, able to turn the suburbs and even the city wild. Huddled with our fellow humans under construction scaffolding to escape a deluge, we are bound in the memory and mystery of exhilarating, confounding, life-giving rain.” Cynthia Barnett, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

Rain


How pay-per-view KOd boxing

Monday, 27 April, 2015 0 Comments

Why has boxing lost the popular touch? In this week of Mayweather-Pacquiao, it’s a valid question. One of the reasons, surely, is the paradox of the pay-per-view business model. On the one hand, it bestows vast riches on the best fighters, but on the other, it hastens the decline of the sport by taking it off free television, thus removing boxers from everyday conversation. Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg noted two years ago:

“HBO — and later Showtime — didn’t have to worry about satisfying advertisers; it could underwrite fights by making them pay-per-view events. This may have worked as a business strategy (Mike Tyson, in particular, was a cash cow for HBO), but it helped to turn boxing into a niche sport followed only by those willing to pay $59.95 or more to watch big bouts.”

One cannot imagine a Rocky or Raging Bull being made ever again, nor can one imagine a future author writing this:

“And so the match came to an end, and when we had all emptied out onto the street, into the frosty blueness of a snowy night, I was certain, that in the flabbiest family man, in the humblest youth, in the souls and muscles of all the crowd, which tomorrow, early in the morning, would disperse to offices, to shops, to factories, there existed one and the same beautiful feeling, for the sake of which it was worth bringing together two great boxers, — a feeling of dauntless, flaring strength, vitality, manliness, inspired by the play in boxing. And this playful feeling is, perhaps, more valuable and purer than many so-called ‘elevated pleasures'”.

Breitensträter — Paolino by Vladimir Nabokov


Keep. It. Short.

Monday, 10 November, 2014 0 Comments

“Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.” Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

In his blog, Faith and Theology, Ben Myers praises short sentences. “I have been encouraging students to aim for shorter sentences that say exactly what you want to say, not for longer sentences that sound the way you would like to sound,” he writes.

“There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child.” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Myers supports his argument with a quote from Tertullian of Carthage. In his treatise on the Trinity Against Praxeas, Tertullian cites a list of texts used by his critics and responds with a two-word sentence: ‘Legimus omnia‘ — ‘We’ve read all that.’ Impressed by this succinctness, Myers comments, “What a sentence! Sharp as a sniper’s shot.”

Ultimately, sentence length is a matter of style and the best writers know when to balance brevity with flow. The critical thing is knowing where to place the full stop.

“Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.” Truman Capote, In Cold Blood


The most magnificent pencil, ever

Tuesday, 20 March, 2012

Published in 1972, Transparent Things is a short novel by Vladimir Nabokov. It tells the story of Hugh Person, a young American editor, who makes four trips to a small village in Switzerland. His third trip involves murder and madness. At one point, in the drawer of the desk in his hotel room, Person finds… […]

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