The works of Vladimir Nabokov—full of games, puns, parodies, literary allusions, and mad or otherwise untrustworthy narrators—have long been a hunting ground for literary scholars. Robert Roper wants to reclaim them for civilians. The best, he thinks, are products—in whole or part—of Nabokov’s two American decades: the novels Pnin, Lolita, and Pale Fire, and the memoir Speak, Memory (my favorites, as it happens). Nabokov in America asks, engagingly, how they arose from a love affair with America.

Roper writes well and, mercifully, makes no attempt to mimic Nabokov’s don’t-try-this-at-home prose style. (Symptoms of the mimicry syndrome afflicting many commentators include obsessive alliteration and fondness for the word “palpate.”) He acknowledges debts to “foundational” biographies—Brian Boyd’s of...

 

A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

Popular Right Now