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Nabokov Studies, 1 (1994), 1-7. JOEL J. BRATTIN (Worcester, Mass., U.S.A.) THE INTERSECTION OF McEWEN AND WHEATON : A NABOKOVIAN LOCUS IDENTIFIED In the second chapter of Book Two of Lolita, Humbert Humbert speaks of his relationship with Lolita, saying "We had rows, major and minor,"' and then identifies the geographical sites of these fights, alluding to specific locations in Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The final sentence of this lengthy paragraph offers one final location: "And on McEwen St., corner of Wheaton Ave., in a Michigan town bearing his first name."2 Alfred Appel Jr. correctly observes that the word "'his' refers to [ClareJ Quilty," noting that "Clare, Michigan" is "an actual town."n Not only is Clare, Michigan an actual town, but McEwen Street and Wheaton Avenue form an actual intersection—and the building at the intersection to which Nabokov alludes is identifiable, and still stands. Readers may find the implicit mystery created by Nabokov's allusion to this intersection particularly intriguing, because this intersection functions as the crescendo or climax to a remarkable paragraph recreating Humbert Humbert's fantastic tour of America with his nymphet, Lolita; the mystery is significant, too, in the light its solution sheds on some central points (geographically, structurally, and thematically) in Nabokov. Whether or not Lolita is Nabokov's first great novel in English,4 it is his first great book that takes place in what Brian Boyd calls "a very accurately observed America."5 In his interview with Alvin Toffler for Playboy magazine, Nabokov says "I did not know any American 12-year-old girls, and I did not know America; I had to invent America and Lolita."6 But if in Lolita Nabokov invents America, that is surely subsequent to his 1. Vladimir Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, revised and updated edition, ed. Alfred Appel, Jr. (New York: Vintage, 1991), p. 158. 2. Ibid., p. 159. 3. Ibid., p. 392. 4. Stephen Jan Parker suggests as much in Understanding Vladimir Nabokov (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1987), p. 69. 5. Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991), p. 246. 6. "Playboy Interview: Vladimir Nabokov," Playboy 11 (Jan. 1964), p. 38. Nabokov Studies prior discovery of America, which took place, in large part, in his trips throughout the United States collecting lepidoptera. Precise geographical description is extremely important to Nabokov. His Lectures on Literature reveal his concern with the specific layout of Mansfield Park and Sotherton Court in his treatment of Jane Austen; the many maps and diagrams of Dublin in Nabokov's lecture notes on Ulysses—only five of the original seven are reproduced in Fredson Bowers 's edition—demonstrate how central such details were to Nabokov's appreciation of James Joyce. (Two additional maps, offering detailed views of Bloom's perambulations around Dublin, appear in Nabokov's manuscript.7) Time and again in interviews, Nabokov mentions the significance of specific geographical detail: in the Playboy interview, Nabokov suggests that without an understanding of "a map of James Joyce's Dublin" Ulysses does not make sense,* and in a 1965 interview with Robert Hughes, Nabokov mentions that his literature students "had to know the map of Dublin for Ulysses. I believe in stressing the specific detail ; the general ideas can take care of themselves."9 In his Lectures on Literature, Nabokov exhorts his readers to "notice and fondle details,"10 and in his "Anniversary Notes" to the Triquarterly special issue of 1970, Nabokov praises "specific information" as "the highest and to me most acceptable function of literary criticism"," in an attempt to offer literary criticism Nabokov himself would appreciate, I suggest that identification of the "specific detail" which constitutes this Nabokovian locus is, finally, of significant value. McEwen Street, old U.S. 27, runs through Clare, Michigan in a northsouth direction. Wheaton Avenue runs east-west, and four buildings presently stand at the intersection. At the northeast corner is an old stone house, formerly a parsonage, never used for any commercial purpose. At the southeast corner is St. Cecelia's Catholic Church, built on the site of Beck's Standard gas station. At the southwest corner...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 1-7
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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