Being on vacation at home has its few perks, among which the best is a great expanse of time. I usually fill this Great Big Void with playing piano (it’s not every day I can play on our Steinway), but because my family operates on a normal suburban family schedule, everything generally needs to shut down around 10 pm, which is at least four hours before I normally go to sleep.
So, I’ve actually taken to a pastime I abandoned once I got to college: pleasure reading. No requirements, no strings attached. I’ve finally gotten around to Nabokov’s Lolita, and it’s just absolutely wonderful to take my good sweet time with it, savoring the prose. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to me that a native Russian speaker can have this kind of mastery over the English language. And I seriously cannot recall the last time I read out of sheer interest, so this is good for me, I think.
I briefly touched on this topic last summer, I believe, when I was reading young adult novels in German to improve my reading comprehension. As a kid, I was the kind of annoying brat that just devoured books and bragged about it — I prided myself on quantity over quality, even competed against my best friend to see who could finish more books in a week. This kind of habit came to affect the way I read books even throughout high school, and only now do I actually see the effects of it: I’ll remember having read a certain book, but will remember almost nothing about it, even plot-wise. A few that come to mind: The Namesake, The Sparrow, The Life of Pi, Northanger Abbey. The first two cases are particularly sad, because all I can remember is that I thought they were exceptionally well-written, but I don’t recall much else.
It was nice last summer to take my time with those German translations, but I mostly did it because I had to based on my limitations with the language. With Nabokov’s writing, it’s an act of pure pleasure: to re-read a sentence or a paragraph is to revel in the sheer beauty of the English language, to submerge myself in the structure of words. I do the same when I read anything that John Steinbeck has written. The writing is just gorgeous. And in Lolita's case, it all comes from such a deplorable story as well. How is it possible that someone could turn a story about a pedophile into something so beautiful? Nabokov, you sly bastard.
I do often wonder whether or not I should have gone with what I initially thought I would study in college. Computers are beautiful too, in their own way. But man, this writing is just amazing. (What a derpy, uninspired way to end a paragraph — then again, I’m light years away from old Vladimir.)