Vladimir Nabokov on What Makes a Good Reader


Vladimir Nabakov asks his students:

Select four answers to the question what should a reader be to be a good reader:


  1. The reader should belong to a book club.
  2. The reader should identify himself or herself with the hero or heroine.
  3. The reader should concentrate on the social-economic angle.
  4. The reader should prefer a story with action and dialogue to one with none.
  5. The reader should have seen the book in a movie.
  6. The reader should be a budding author.
  7. The reader should have imagination.
  8. The reader should have memory.
  9. The reader should have a dictionary.
  10. The reader should have some artistic sense.

The students leaned heavily on emotional identification, action, and the social-economic or historical angle. Of course, as you have guessed, the good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense–which sense I propose to develop in myself and in others whenever I have the chance.

via Brainpickings

A Life With Books

To own a certain book – one you had chosen yourself – was to define yourself.

Author Julian Barnes reflects on a life of bibliomania, collecting books, winning books, completing sets and gathering as much by a single author as possible.

For Mycroft this seems especially amusing since we share his habits and obsessions.

Especially that of the completist; scrounging through shelves and drawers, disassembling double-stacked volumes, in search of editions that differ perhaps only by an author’s preface or the inclusion of a new essay, or rare pamphlets, poetry in old journals, things that the author themselves may have forgotten or wished forgotten.

And, of course, time (and reading) changes a person so that your old obsessions might not withstand the scrutiny of advancing years. So, what to do with these former treasures on the shelves?  Perhaps, we can follow the example set in the film, High Fidelity (adapted from the Nick Hornby novel), in which the protagonist spends an evening reorganising his record collection autobiographically.

Or start a bookstore.

The first Holden Caufield story in print


Holden Caufield’s first appearence in print was in a short story ‘I’m Crazy’ published in Collier’s Magazine on 22 December 1945.

It was about eight o’clock at night, and dark, and raining, and freezing, and the wind was noisy the way it is in spooky movies on the night the old slob with the will gets murdered. I stood by the cannon on the top of Thomsen Hill, freezing to death, watching the big south windows of the gym – shining big and bright and dumb, like the windows of a gymnasium, and nothing else (but maybe you never went to a boarding school).

I just had on my reversible and no gloves. Somebody had swiped my camel’s hair the week before, and my gloves were in the pocket. Boy, I was cold. Only a crazy guy would have stood there. That’s me. Crazy. No kidding, I have a screw loose. But I had to stand there to feel the goodby to the youngness of the place, as though I were an old man. The whole school was down below in the gym for the basketball game with the Saxon Charter slobs, and I was standing there to feel the goodbye.

I stood there – boy, I was freezing to death – and I kept saying goodbye to myself, ‘Good-bye, Caulfield. Good-bye, you slob.’

Stephen at Booktryst has a full post on the story.

The week in writing – October 18

Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant, is interviewed by The AV Club. Beaton has also written more Wuthering Heights comics.

Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek appears at Occupy Wall Street: Part 1, Part 2. And The Chronicle looks at the philosophical origins of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Author James Bradley provides a form guide for the Booker Prize.

In an ambitious project researchers have collected over 6,000 personal letters of Ernest Hemingway. They expect to publish them across 16 volumes and the first,  The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907-1922, is now available. Although Hemingway did not want his letters published his surviving son has said that the letters “will elucidate his humanity, which is what people are always looking for in a writer”.

Caffè Florian


This is a beautiful photograph of Caffè Florian a Venetian cafe that is one of the oldest coffee houses continuously in operation.

It attracted notable guests including Carlo Goldoni, Goethe, Casanova, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens, Rousseau, Stravinsky, Modigliani, and Antonio Canova.

Click the image for the original.