From the Toolbox of a Serving Library

Turns out Vladidmir Nabokov has been a slow reveal to me. Week five of the residency, this of the Crop tool, was inaugerated through Nabokov’s “Good Readers and Good Writers,” an essay which introduces his Lectures on Literature.

The metaphor of the Crop tool is somewhere between the struggle the say sensible things about good art and an articulation of the methods of close reading. Nabokov puts it thus: “We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know. When this new world has been closely studied, then and only then let us examine its links with other worlds, other branches of knowledge.” I know this is true, I can feel it in my bones, but I observe myself acting otherwise, drawing connections elsewhere before looking closely. It’s a fucking awful habit. I knew this already.

Nabokov has some suggestions for cultivating my listening/reading/speaking/writing otherwise, and it is by way of imagination, memory, a dictionary and some artistic sense. The proper instrument of these tactics is the spine, not the heart, not the mind. This is my new experiment.


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