Finding Inspiration in Nabokov

So there’s not really any secret in me saying that I’ve been floundering for words lately. I’ve been uninspired, depressed, and basically just loafing around my apartment doing a lot of nothing. I’ve spent a decent amount of time and money crocheting so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something after spending the finding what Jon Stewart has to say about the Pope’s twitter.  Because apparently a scarf added to my pile will make me feel good about not reading or writing anything worthwhile in weeks. I was wrong. Completely wrong.

I don’t know that I blamed my lack of inspiration on anything. I didn’t think about it. My writer’s block was just there, weighing down on me, every time I climbed into bed after yet another day of doing nothing. I thought I needed something to jumpstart it. I hadn’t gone out since Halloween, and I figured a good night of drinking, meeting new people, and feeling fun, charming, and fabulous would make me feel better. So last weekend I told Andrea that I needed to go out once she was done with finals.

Well, we went out last night. I hosted a small Christmas party with a few of my friends. We drank sangria and ate some pretty decent food, some of which I was able to have for breakfast this morning. The menu was surprisingly satisfying, so good that I have to share: ever-classy mini wieners in crescent rolls, gala apple slices with prosciutto, and an apricot-almond cheese, blackberries, nutella and sea salt fudge, jordan almonds, chips with pineapple and peach salsa, mini pastries, honey-drizzled cheese with apples and crackers, and holiday sangria (white wine, sparkling apple wine, orange slices, cranberries, and crushed mint). By the time Andrea and I got out, it was around midnight, so we just went to Jekyll’s – a bar that has a reputation for being a hipster bar.

I realized I was surrounded by people far cooler than me – guys in studded jackets who could name 50 Descendents songs at the drop of a hat, svelte girls with pixie haircuts and dangly earrings, and about 40 pairs of ironic glasses. As impressed as they would be, I decided not to disclose the fact that I know the words to most of Taylor Swift’s songs. I made myself feel better by reminding myself that there’s a slim chance any of them have a 401k.

I had imagined the night to be similar to my last nights out – all-out benders that force me to spend the next day in recovery. Because I figure that’s a good relationship to have with alcohol – binge-drinking once every few months.  I just thought I needed a night that allowed me to feel outside of myself since I’ve spent so much time stuck in my head, not allowing it to get out via socializing or writing – the two things that help me most when I go through a depressive period.

Andrea and I ended up leaving around 1:30 and talking and eating cheese and apples till 3am. That ended up being what helped most – it was a reminder that I can, in fact, be honest and open with another person, and that I don’t need to have four drinks and witty quips with unfamiliar faces to feel like my night was a success

When I walked Andrea to to the door, I saw my stack of Nabokov on my shelf and decided I needed to spend the next day with a good book. I needed a paper book too – not my Kindle with its distractions of Pinterest and Facebook. At that moment, I was glad that I finished the night chewing the cherry of a whiskey old fashioned and not chugging five glasses of water in hopes of re-hydration to thwart a hangover.

Gods With my depression gone, I needed to do something about my lack of inspiration, so I pulled out my volume of Nabokov stories and decided to reread my blog’s namesake story – Gods. I honestly think it was the best thing I could do for myself. This post would probably be more apropos for my 100th post (this will be my 95th), but I’m not one to prolong satisfaction. I hadn’t read the story for a few years, but I remember it being a core-shaking story. I remember the language being exquisite in an expressly Nabokovian way.  I remember being moved by the passage I share in my “About” section. But what I didn’t recall was how the story just explodes with color and emotion.

You can read the story in its entirety here, but I recommend reading it in a floppy bible-thick paperback. The story is essentially about a couple – the male trying desperately to comfort his wife over the death of their son while they make their way to the cemetery to visit the grave. He tells her a fable of a hen that was placed in an air balloon contraption, soaring in a gondola by the sunset, and landing in a field, later found by a peasant beneath a heap of silk, having produced golden eggs from the colors of the sunset. Nabokov describes this more beautifully than I ever could: “And no wonder. At the wind’s mercy, the hen had traversed the entire flush of the sunset, and the sun, a fiery cock with a crimson crest, had done some fluttering over her.

The story is absolutely exquisite. I don’t know how else to describe it. I literally found myself in tears reading the last page. I can’t remember the last time a story affected me so strongly. It should be required reading,

My heart, too, has soared through the dawn. You and I shall have a new, golden son, a creation of your tears and my fables. Today I understood the beauty of intersecting wires in the sky, and the hazy mosaic  of factory chimneys, and this rusty tin with its inside-out, semi-detached, serrated lid. The wan grasses hurries, hurries somewhere along the dusty billows of the vacant lot. I raise my arms. The sunlight glides across my skin. My skin is covered with  multicolored sparkles. 

And I want to rise up, throw my arms open for a vast embrace, address an ample, luminous discourse to the invisible crowds. I would start like this: 

“O rainbow-colored gods…”

While I was reading this, I was texting my friend Logan, telling him he needed to read more Nabokov. He texted “I am sitting at a coffee shop trying to be productive but instead I am fucking off and remembering the awesomeness of living.”

And that’s exactly what this story does to me. It describes life in such an intensely sensual way that it’s impossible not to feel compelled to live. And not just live – but to live beautifully. I can’t handle another second of feeling sorry for myself for no reason, because seriously – I’m alive and the world is incredible. The day beyond my patio door looks dim and dreary, but I know that life is flourishing. I know that everything is blooming.  Everything is flying. Everything is screaming, choking on its screams. Laughter. Running. Let-down hair. That is all there is to life. 

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4 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in Nabokov

  1. Found you through the Nabokov list-serv — and I can’t say how glad I am that I did. “Gods” is not just about remembering the living — but the co-living, you know? I think an essential element to that story (and to a lot of N’s stuff) is the choice to tell it in the second person. And to receive your blogpost in my inbox little a little letter, I can imagine, to me…! How lovely. Thanks for writing.

    • I’m so glad you found me! I have been enchanted by Nabokov since I picked up a copy of Lolita six years ago. I can only describe him as stunning.

      Nabokov is a perfect writer. Each time I read him, I’m inspired again.

      I have a certain soft spot for second person. Have you read Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler?”

  2. Pingback: Food + beer + jazz = friendship | Everything is Blooming

  3. I enjoyed reading your response to Gods, which I had just finished, and felt a little unsure about. In fact, as soon as I had finished reading your post I read the story again and enjoyed it much more and understood it much more clear because of you. Thank you.

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