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April 22, 2013


Hamish McLaren

You probably wont reply to this - or say something like "I don't respond to insults" though I have no doubt you do to flattery. But...what happened to you?

I read an article of yours a few years ago in Counterpunch I think it was... about hippie types in the left. It was brilliant! Written with conviction, was eloquent and funny. Its almost like you gave a shit about the world you lived in.

Now you churn out post-modern drivel. Long, self-involved, tedious prototypical academic homilies about, well...nothing. Even your eulogy of Christopher Hitchens was essentially devoid of any actual belief in anything. Imn not saying this to offend. But if I were you, I would want to be told.


Thanks for your input, Hamish. You'd have to say more about what it is you don't like in order for the criticism to be of any help. As it is I don't recognize myself in your description at all. What, e.g., is postmodern here? Is writing about literature postmodern? Writing about literature that lacks a progressive moral or motivation? But that would leave out a lot of literature, and give us an imperfect picture of what literature is. The Nabokov case is interesting in large part because it is, in my view, great literature that does not owe its greatness to giving a shit about the world (at least not the world of people). That makes the case a problem in need of discussion, not neglect. As to the other descriptors, I understand them even less. Finally, do you have any evidence that I consistently respond to flattery but not criticism? For the most part I steer clear of my comments section, and have recently been trying to figure out how to change my settings to eliminate it altogether. It's an intrinsically undignified place to be, for complex sociological reasons that have both to do with the self-inflicted bad reputation of commenter culture, as well as with the unfortunate placement of this feature in a spatially subordinate spot on the screen. Anyhow, here's your response, just this once.

One other thing. I'm glad you liked that thing about the New Age movement in Counterpunch. I'm not terribly proud of it, though there are a few good one-liners. I'd like to dismiss it as juvenilia, except that I was 33 when it came out and not 17. Anyhow, styles change, and inevitably audiences do to. As for the political convictions I expressed there, I regret speaking lightly of the Cultural Revolution, and I would not wish, today, that crystal-gazers and star-chart readers be forcibly reeducated; I would not wish at all for their frivolities to be stamped out by a line-enforcing party. So, I'm sorry about what I said there, and I hope you'll agree that one can do better.


Thanks, Justin. There was more lucidity in that than in whole books I've read on Nabokov. Most scholars, at least from my limited reading, don't even touch on the limitations you mention here. Whereas, I know there are many readers for whom those limitations are pretty much all they can see.


Thanks for this Justin. Don't let the hypochondriacs deter you.


Justin, have you read Rorty's take on Nabokov in "Contingency, Irony, Solidarity"? What do you make of it? (Here's a mildly typo'ed online version: http://web.princeton.edu/sites/english/NEH/RORTY.HTM)

John Collins

Whatever the truth of the matter is, 'Рука' strikes me as a rather good name for a fondler.

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