Stalking Nabokov by Brian Boyd Reviewed in the New York Times

Stalking Nabokov, Brian Boyd

Yesterday’s New York Times Book Review included a review of Stalking Nabokov, by Brian Boyd.

The reviewer, Leland de la Durantaye, describes Brian Boyd’s discussions of his involvement (or “stalking”) of Nabokov as a reader, critic, and biographer of Vladimir Nabokov. De la Durantaye writes:

Chronicling this man’s life and art was Boyd’s task. Imagine it.

For this reason, one of the greatest points of interest in “Stalking Nabokov” is the tale of that telling: how Boyd first encountered Nabokov (“Lolita” secreted under his pillow lest his parents discover what he had), and how he came quite literally halfway around the world (from his native New Zealand) to write the biography. When he ran short of money while doing research at Cornell, he writes, he would climb aboard Greyhound buses moving like metronomes in the rural night so as to save the price of a room. He tells of the personal drama that arose from his publishing details he knew Nabokov would have wanted kept secret. And he tells of sifting through “masses of garbling, misconstruction and decomposing gossip.” The better the biography the less the reader has a sense of all the accident and incoherence out of which it was formed, and in this and many other respects Boyd’s biography is absolutely excellent. “Stalking Nabokov” gives its reader a sense of the difficulty of moving through the sheer mass of that material, out of which Boyd needed to tell a tale that would be true to the art and life of its subject.

The review concludes, “For all those interested in tellers and tales, there is much here that will inform, enliven and enlighten the work of one of the greatest novelists of his century.”

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