Dying Art


In Lolita, monstrous pedophile Humbert Humbert feels nothing but contempt for Charlotte Haze, the woman he intends to marry because doing so will give him access to her nymphet daughter, Dolores, aka Lolita. One of the primary signs that Charlotte is a philistine and an idiot HH need not feel bad about duping and exploiting is her admiration for the work of Vincent Van Gogh, a painter both HH and Vladamir Nabokov detested and despised.

I mention this because it really sort of freaked me out when I read some of Nakobov's tirades about how overrated and awful Van Gogh is, and how a sign of our culture's idiocy is the fact that most people like his work. Because the truth is, most people do. Van Gogh is revered not just by college students who put posters of Starry Night up on their dorm room walls, but by critics and by art collectors who pay outrageous sums for his work.

I confess to long having loved Van Gogh. I liked his work until I went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam in 1984; at that point, I fell in love with both his work and him. I remember standing in front of Wheatfield with Crows or Crows over a Wheatfield, his final painting, and weeping. It sounds cheesy, but there's something in the actual brushstrokes of his works that speaks, very eloquently, of pathos and confusion and curiosity and interest. I mean, there's always something different about seeing an actual painting and mere reproductions, but with Van Gogh, there's REALLY something different.

Which is why I would really like to see, in person, this display of his letters, which include illustrations and drawings--there's even a sketch for the painting he did of his room in Arles. Translations have been published online, but they're, you know, translations, in print, not the letters written by his hand.

I love email, I do. But I miss letters. I've written about this before, about how a good letter is art that fits in an envelope. I wish art in an envelope was something we still sent each other.


Nabokov had lots of opinions. He hated Dostoevsky, for example.

I adore Nabokov. I also love Dostoevsky. Like matter and anti-matter, I think they would spontaneously annihilate each other they ever were in the same room. :-)

Nabokov's send up of university English departments that you see in both Lolita and Pale Fire is just wonderful. Nabokov may have been a tough guy to please, but my god is his satire brilliant!

Hi Mohohawaii:

I wouldn't say that I adore Nabokov or Dostoevsky, but I admire them both. I think you're right about what would happen if they both ended up in the same room--it would be very fun to watch!

I have yet to read Pale Fire, though it's been on my list of things I MUST get to for ages. I need to hurry up with that.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on October 8, 2009 6:53 AM.

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