- From the editor
When reading these essays for the seventh and final time, it occurs to me that what really separates them from those essays that were not selected for publication is that they are less formulaic, less swollen with the type of quotation from Nabokov that authorizes one’s own reading while simultaneously making Nabokov sound far more platitudinous than he really is. After all, Nabokov could get away with certain archness of tone that most of us have not earned.
A final look also reveals that, although it was not the Advisory Board’s goal, this volume offers essays that could easily be paired: figured bodies standing for Nabokov’s blissful real readers (Kitzinger) pair up with figured spaces standing for the real horror of historical diminutions of living room (Metzger); translation (Spieker) speaks to untranslatability (Maleuvre); fiction sometimes mimics and sometimes mocks biology (Meyers), memory (Tedesco), and biography/letters (Karshan); thoughts on the complexity of reading (Kokinova) are elegantly mirrored by thoughts on the difficulty of writing by a prize-winning practitioner (Livings). So without setting out to create these particular thematic foci, the specialist readers who vetted these essays for Nabokov Studies had contributed to the creation of a vibrant set of clusters and a certain communal ethos. Once the layout editor put in the “Thank You” notices, the editors and the specialist readers were not surprised to learn that some of the contributors had known each other even though they had come from six different countries.
In Eric Goldman’s commissioned essay, Nabokov Studies reaches a moment in which it celebrates its own involvement in the development of the field. To demystify that statement, all I need note is that I had such an essay in mind ever since I learned in 2006 that Project MUSE could provide statistics on the most often downloaded essay from Nabokov Studies. I hatched a plan: even though we strictly follow the anonymous submission double blind peer review process, the author of the most downloaded essay over the next ten years would be invited to reflect on the use other critics had made [End Page v] of his or her essay. Professor Goldman was kind enough to take me up on the invitation.
More than the previous thirteen, this volume invited its specialist readers and its editors to contemplate their respective roles in making the prose of the essays accessible to nonspecialists. While all could agree that in any field, a complex argument may require a specialist’s language, there was little agreement on the precise point when such language crosses the bounds of intelligibility. For advice and for ideas of a common vocabulary in which to carry out our discussions, we all read a few editorial columns written by Joel Conarroe, the editor of the PMLA at the height of what we now call Theory or Culture Wars. Thanks to Joel’s sturdy common sense and incorrigible but disarming humor, we found a way to preserve precision and complexity without watering down ideas or cutting too many sinews in the respective styles of the writers whose essays were under review. And this volume is all the better for it. [End Page vi]