A Natural History of the Senses

I can’t remember how I fell into this particular rabbit hole of inquiry, perhaps it was after a memory swarmed to the surface of my mind after I caught a faint scent and began wondering why smell short circuits directly to the memory. Indeed, smell was the sense that I most enjoyed reading about if my notes are any indication, although touch had some interesting digressions about tattoos (apparently Tsar Nicholas II, King George V, and Lady Randolph Churchill were tatto’ed Victorians, it being the “thing to do” when one was in Japan).

This is a beautifully written book jammed full of interesting threads of information. Some highlights:

  • “Smell is the mute sense, the one without words. Lacking a vocabulary, we are left tongue-tied, groping for words in a sea of inarticulate pleasure and exaltation.”
  • “The physiological links between the smell and language centers of the brain are pitifully weak. Not so the links between the smell and the memory centers, a route that carries us nimbly across time and distance.”
  • “In a world sayable and lush, where marvels offer themselves up readily for verbal dissection, smells are often right on the tip of our tongues, but no closer, and it gives them a kind of magical distance, a mystery, a power without name, a sacredness.”
  • “When the olfactory bulb detects something, it signals the cerebral cortex and sends a message straight into the limbic system, a mysterious, ancient, and intensely emotional section of our brain in which we feel, lust, and invent.  Unlike the other sense, smell needs no interpreter. The effect is immediate and undiluted by language, thought, or translation.”
  • “Weightlessness makes astronauts lose taste and smell in space. In the absence of gravity, molecules cannot be volatile, so few of them get into our noses deeply enough to register as odors.”
  • “Smell was the first of our senses, and it was so successful that in time the small lump of olfactory tissue atop the nerve cord grew into a brain. Our cerebral hemispheres were originally buds from olfactory stalks. We think because we smelled.”

 

Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955

My continued obsession with 1950s artists dropped me into Grace Hartigan’s world, captured spectacularly in her journals from the early half of the decade when she’s fighting for money and taking random temp jobs despite having sold paintings to MOMA. Her journal notes the day to day struggle of a working artist, believing a painting to be finished one day and the next attacking it to add something else, then deciding it’s ruined, then loving it again. Cyclical. The importance of having a group of friends with whom to bounce ideas, to deeply discuss the craft and problems encountered. Bravo to her unconventional flinging aside of the claims her young son had on her, thrusting him instead to her ex-husband and her parents to leave herself free to pursue art. She occasionally visits them, such as this note after a week at the beach in 1952 with her son Jeff and family: “Amazing in the American middle-class the worship of the extrovert personality. Mother tries to force this on Jeff when he is a naturally shy and gentle child.”

The constant pressure to get a job to earn money in order to not work for a while and to paint. In May 1953 she gets up in the middle of the night and writes in her journal about her refusal to go into a job she just found: “Something happened tonight and I won’t work tomorrow at that tabulating job for morons. It isn’t that I am such an artist, but that I have value as an intelligent human being, and if I must work and move in the world, then I am capable of being more deeply engaged in what I do. I can give more than automatism, I refuse to submit myself to such degradation.”

Later that summer she’s wondering why John Myers gave her a book on Byron: “I had no feelings of identification with Byron–far more with a spirit like Rilke, shy, but at times powerfully sure, mystical, misanthropic–I feel also for Cezanne, his outward desire to fit into a conservative life, his antagonisms, etc. Or even I’m more like Melville or Hawthorne. I can see in the future more and more withdrawal from everyone but a few trusted friends.”

She embraces her dwindling circle but seems intent on counting the names. The September 9th entry (1953) was particularly great:

Everything changes.

I will be quite alone now. Frank [O’Hara] has moved to Sneedens Landing with Bobby Fisdale–it should be good for him and his work, a kind of isolation he couldn’t do for himself in the city. Larry [Rivers] will spend his first winter in Southampton. Al [Leslie] has been in Hoboken for so long it seems he always lived there. Waldemar doesn’t exist for me any longer, we have nothing to say to each other, he’ll never write a novel, he’s too afraid of failure. Jane [Freilicher] will be returning the end of the month, but I am so embarrassed by the weakness of her painting I can’t bear to see her.

Well, who knows, maybe there are others.

“One must beware of beautiful beginnings and feel free to destroy them. What comes eventually is better and more true.”

Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany

I’ve been tracking down a side project that flared up from Lynn Hershman’s Bonwit Teller windows in 1976. Janet Ward’s book about Weimar Germany makes a case that innovations in department window design took place in Berlin first despite Germany’s late start (France, England, U.S. all had several decades of huge growth in department stores before Germany’s 1890 rise). Architecture gave rise to the importance of display windows as light courts were introduced. Professional window dressers (the Schaufensterdekorateurs) were trained in schools. From 1909 on there were annual display window contests in Berlin, and Ward states that the displays of the city were the “most renowned worldwide until the gradual decline in innovation during the 1930s with the onset of Nazism.” (From her footnote: “In the initial euphoric period of Nazism, display windows were so overstocked with Nazi symbolism (especially at Christmas) that a law had to be passed in December 1933 to prevent the Nazi Hoheitszeichen being used except for official purposes.”)

The impact of mixing art with advertising was long lasting; “there was no longer any fixed boundary between the aesthetics of painting and popular culture, and no more autonomy for creative artists unrelated to the needs of industry.”

She does an excellent job weaving in sources as varied as Walter Benjamin, Fritz Lang, Baudrillard, and Nietzsche. I’m left with several leads on additional sources to track down.

More gold from the footnotes:

  • The 1st U.S. trade magazine for display windows was founded in 1897 and was first edited by L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz creator)— The Show Window: A Monthly Journal of Practical Window Trimming. Oz also authored The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows (1900).
  • Did you know that window displays were covered on Sundays up until the 1930s in the U.S.?? Germany dropped this “churchgoing prescription” in the 1910s.
  • Both Dali and Marcel Duchamp designed windows in 1930s NYC.
  • Elizabeth von Stephani-Hahn was an early innovator. She was “a portrait and flower painter hired in 1904 to create window designs for the Kaufhaus Wertheim, recognized later as the key figure in the reform of window design.” (Quote from August Macke’s Shoppers: Commodity Aesthetics, Modernist Autonomy and the Inexhaustible Will of Kitsch by Sherwin Simmons in a 2000 article in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte). She published the definitive book on this topic in 1919, Schaufensterkunst (The Art of the Display Window, which I found a copy of online!).
  • Weimar culture critics waxed poetic about the displays: “The old specialty shop was static, the department store is dynamic; there everything was fixed, here everything flows. Then small, now big. Then dark, now bright. Then soul, now intellect.” (Werner Sombart)
  • While citing Sara Schneider’s Vital Mummies, Ward notes that her approach, “while insightful, neglects the closer kinship of film over theater to the window art form… [and her] book title also indicates her anthropomorphic bias, which downplays how show window display of the German 1920s focused equally on nonmannequin scenes; she also seems unaware of Weimar German predominance in the field, implying instead that it was a uniquely ‘American modern art form.'”

A display from the waning days of the Weimar, showing women mannequins climbing over each other in an attempt to get into the store:

A couple of my favorites from Stephani-Hahn’s 1919 Schaufensterkunst:

Eileen Myles @ the Nourse

One of my favorite living writers was on stage at the Nourse tonight, an otherwise stunning performance marred by the subpar pairing with a Berkeley English professor who bumbled his way through the conversation, not seeming to know much about Myles or her work. She read a few of her pieces, including her memorable Acceptance Speech given in the run up to the 2016 election, celebrating Zoe Leonard’s “I Want a President” piece which was written in 1992 to mark Myles’ run for the presidency.

Best moment for me was the full body slam smackdown she put on the guy who asked her to explain what’s so great about Gertrude Stein. Oh you know, only the most important thing to happen to American writing besides New Narrative. (Myles stuck in a jab at Hemingway, too, “We used to care a lot about him but not so much anymore, but he learned how to write from Stein.”) Her favorite Stein, like mine, is Lectures in America.

Random jottings I captured in the dark:

  • Weird is the real deal. She used to claim to be on the fringe of poetry, but that assumes there is a center of normal somewhere.
  • By anticipating, you find readers. You don’t get small because people might not be listening to you; you stay as big as possible so they can find you.
  • Before the internet discovered cats and you made sure the world knew what your cat looks like, people had to be sleeping with you to know what your cat looked like.
  • None of her books are memoirs although the book people insist on calling them that because of her named character, Eileen Myles. “I would never write a memoir… so sentimental.” Later she joked, “Bound to Fail. If I ever wrote a memoir, that would be the title.”
  • “The obscenity of using your own name for a character.”
  • What’s great about form is that it leads you to spaces you can’t imagine.
  • If you don’t know where to put something, put it at the beginning.
  • Allow the reader to watch the act of invention. Put faith in the act of making art.
  • She had puppets she made as a kid, soon to be featured in a movie about driving from Marfa to Alpine in the back of the truck. (Mentioned Pull My Daisy, a movie about the Beats I hadn’t heard of, written & narrated by Kerouac)
  • What’s New Narrative? The secret, influential writing style that was a reaction to theory’s constraints, the post-poets turned to prose in late 1970s San Francisco (Bob Gluck, Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, etc.).
  • Hitchhiking prepares you for a life in writing, making up stories and lies, becoming different characters.
  • Just like dinosaurs became birds, so did vaudeville turn to radio to TV to performance art.
  • A poet’s impulse to inventory sounds and sights.
  • Found freedom to write the stories as postcards to herself from another time. Follow the visuals, follow how it looks. A story happens right in front of her.
  • Every time she figured out how to do something in prose she got excited.
  • Fame was the only way to survive. “I always imagined I would be known.”
  • Where does she get inspiration? Life is interesting, literature, so much art to see. Turned on by other’s work. There’s always a hole, a yearning to get something done but not entirely. Lots of things in motion, uncomplete. Have 3 or 4 things going, a mess. Always things to do. Defiance is still inspiration. Have to make up projects that no one wants b/c then she’s being bad (instead of working on the book projects she has grants and contracts for).
  • Books are like yoga classes, you do one pose and then you want to do the opposite stretch. Use the energy, change it up, figure out how to make it energetically readable. Keep it moving forward, don’t block the flow. People should know where they are—you can go anywhere in the universe as long as there’s a clear landing.

Later: I’m just realizing the context of the “Are you Robert De Niro, actor? I’m Eileen Myles, poet” comment that Eileen made to De Niro in the 1980s—De Niro was probably introducing himself like that because his dad was Robert De Niro, artist, to that group of people. When reading Ninth Street Women, I came across De Niro (Sr) a few times and was super confused. In reading Grace Hartigan’s journals just now, a footnote explains that the elder was one of the abstract expressionists of the 1950s. YES! Love it when things fall into place in my brain.

Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn

Technically I gulped down this and the previous Mean Girls Club, but the first seemed to just be a teaser compared to the juicier 2nd installment. These mean girls raise hell, drink, drug, shoot guns, club people over the head, mostly kill men who are in their way. The fat mayor of the town is out to get them, sicks the cops on them but (of course) the girls prevail. Hints as to the mayor’s fate are peppered throughout when he keeps asking his sidekick whether his pigs at home got fed. (Not yet! Not yet! and then splat, the fat mayor lands in the hungry pigs’ pen to get devoured). Entertaining palate cleanser between more serious reading.

Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter

I’ve been loving Nina MacLaughlin’s series on the Senses of Dawn this week in The Paris Review, so I scurried to the library to find her book. It’s a memoir tracing her pivot from working as a Boston-area journalist to becoming a carpenter with the tremendous help of her mentor and boss, Mary. Most interesting were the bits about their work, the story of her learning the trade and all the plumbers, haulers, clients that she meets along the way. Less interesting was her attempt to heighten the tone by sprinkling in literary references (mostly Ovid), along with the history of tools and random mentions like the Alaskan hammer museum (simply an excuse to write-off a trip to Alaska?). I was pleased to see her mention We’ll Call You If We Need You, Susan Eisenberg’s interviews with dozens of women in the construction industry that I  enjoyed reading a few years ago.

Under the Jaguar Sun

Calvino meant to write a book about the five senses but had only written about three before his death. This is a beautiful collection of stories about taste, sound, smell. The postscript from his wife Esther suggests that he would have added a framework to the book that would have transformed it even further.

The eponymous story, Under the Jaguar Sun, is about taste, as experienced through the mouths of a couple touristing in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tasting the food of the region where you travel “is the only kind of travel that has a meaning nowadays (1982), when everything visible you can see on television without rising from your easy chair.” Amid mouthwatering descriptions of chiles, tamales, sauces, there lurks a hint of cannibalism.

My favorite was A King Listens (about sound/hearing), imagining the life of a king who is trapped on his throne, unable to move, and he lives vicariously through his ears.

For you the days are a succession of sounds, some distinct, some almost imperceptible; you have learned to distinguish them, to evaluate their provenance and their distance; you know their order, you know how long the pauses last; you are already awaiting every resonance or creak or clink that is about to reach your tympanum; you anticipate it in your imagination; if it is late in being produced, you grow impatient… Vestibules, stairways, loggias, corridors of the palace have high, vaulted ceilings; every footstep, every click of a lock, every sneeze echoes, rebounds, is propagated horizontally along a suite of communicating rooms, halls, colonnades, service entries, and also vertically, through stairwells, cavities, skylights, conduits, flues, the shafts of dumbwaiters; and all the acoustical routes converge on the throne room. Into the great lake of silence where you are floating rivers of air empty, stirred by intermittent vibrations. Alert, intent, you intercept them and decipher them. The palace is all whorls, lobes: it is a great ear, whose anatomy and architecture trade names and functions: pavilions, ducts, shells, labyrinths. You are crouched at the bottom, in the innermost zone of the palace-ear, of your own ear; the palace is the ear of the king.

 

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Emma Smith wrote this excellent tale of 1937 Cornwall in the late 1970s, insightful words that whisked me away to that simpler time and place for a few hours. The narrator, Nora, is a fifteen-year-old on a seaside holiday with her older sister Cynthia and her neurotic parents, only a few miles from their home. Two elderly sisters heard of their predicament of not having anywhere to go for the holiday and offered up their tea cottage, the Rose Cafe, for the two weeks. While there, the parents scheme to buy the land and develop a hotel on the spot. Nora meets a 15-year-old boy, Terry, who’s run away from reform school, and is living in a tent while stealing food. There’s the ancestral brooch that Cynthia steals from her mother, the boredom she feels towards the men who swarm her, the devious Peter Miller who is managing the other swanky hotel, the Willis family whose paterfamilias lectures Nora about schools not teaching the right thing. The story is framed from the perspective of 35 years later, triggered by the receipt of a letter from her childhood maid, Beatrice, that includes a clipping of one of the Willis children. Once the tale is told, Nora as middle-aged woman ventures back to live by the sea, near Beatrice, again.

The Complete Fables of Aesop

Philosophical nuggets delivered in the tiniest of forms—through Aesop’s fables. I can’t remember how this crept up in conversation lately, but I got a hankering to read the slightly more scholarly and un-white-washed version that Olivia and Robert Temple published with Penguin in 1998, supposedly the first English translation of “all” 358 fables. “All” being a bold claim when some (most?) of these fables are refuted by the Temples as being created by Aesop at all, due to their exotic animals, plants, and locations that more accurately describe Libya or Egypt than Greece. The text is translated from Chambry’s 1927 French edition.

The morals were added to the collection of fables along the way, and the Temples faithfully translate them but admit that they’re “often silly and inferior in wit and interest to the fables themselves. Some of them are truly appalling, even idiotic.” Sometimes themes are repeated, but animals are varied. Themes beat into your head the need to recognize your place in the world, don’t foolishly challenge people who are stronger/smarter than you, don’t be greedy, accept your lot, evil people should be avoided and can’t be reformed. I found some of the morals to be downright perfect, like 127’s (The Sun and the Frogs): “Plenty of empty-headed people are jubilant about things which they have no cause to celebrate.”

Fable 252 (The Logs and the Olive) warranted a long discussion in the footnotes about whether it came downstream from the Bible or if the Bible appropriated it. Since it originally had humor and the Book of Judges copy did not, the Temples decide that the fable came first. “What has happened is that a funny fable was misinterpreted by a Hebrew author whose Greek was a bit rusty, and borrowed for a wholly non-funny purpose of a man complaining that his family have been murdered – just about the most incongruous context imaginable.”

Several fables are recognizable, such as The Fox and the Bunch of Grapes where the fox decides the grapes are unripe when he can’t jump to reach them. Also the idea of not killing your golden goose (287’s The Hen That Laid The Golden Eggs), the boy who cried wolf (318’s The Joking Shepherd), and the Tortoise and the Hare (352).

Nell Blaine

Nell Blaine was a member of the Second Generation of the New York School who kept cropping up tangentially in the pages of the epic Ninth Street Women. Unfortunately, coming off the heels of that well written and researched book, this retrospective of Blaine’s life falls flat, the lifeless writing leaves much to be desired. Great for the color plates of her work, but you’re left wanting a bouncier text that shines a clear spotlight into her life and artistic process.

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art

Meticulously researched and expertly written, weaving threads of history (WW2, Depression, WPA projects) into the stories of these five amazing artists. A beefy 700+ pages (with an additional 100+ pages of notes) is necessary to layer in all the stories, to cover what Lee’s life was like before-during-after her time with Pollock, to outline Elaine’s scintillating intellectual climb to the top of the art critic circuit in tandem with her own artistic progress, to detail Grace’s decision to give up her son to focus on art and her close relationship with Frank O’Hara, to show how Joan and Helen’s privileged upbringing was something they both rebelled against and benefited from. It’s a nonstop whirlwind of a read, details of a time when poets and painters got together in cafes to talk about art as if it were all that mattered. In fact, it remains all that matters. It was a time when a supportive community of artists encouraged and inspired and egged each other on, unpolluted by what art would become—fashion. Gabriel also tries to make the case that it was a time before frothy misogyny shut women out completely, but Clem Greenberg’s comments denigrating women artists belies this point. Highly recommended read if you want to submerge yourself completely in the 1950s Abstract Expressionist world of these women.

A random assortment of tidbits I picked up:

* WPA project funding artists threatened by members of Congress who saw no value in work made by “Hobohemians.”

* Mondrian thought his eyes were so powerful (trained in the art of really seeing) that he kept them downcast so he wouldn’t look directly at people.

* Bonwit Teller windows keep coming up for me—Lynn Hershman’s 1976 renditions bursting out of the window. In this book, I learned that Dali crashed through a Bonwit Teller window in 1939 in a bathtub full of water in a dispute over changes made to his window. (And Jasper Johns designed Tiffany’s windows with Bob Rauschenberg in 1955.)

* Peggy Guggenheim treated Lee Krasner horribly, inviting her over for dinner and then insisting that Lee cook for the 50 guests. Surprise! But her monthly stipend did keep Jackson Pollock painting through the lean times.

* Potential cause of increased sexism I hadn’t ever considered: war as incubator for misogyny; “At the end of the war, not only had veterans returned more sexually experienced… but living those many years in a community of men, in which the women they encountered were often viewed as mere sex objects, had changed them.”

* NYU’s quest to consume all of the Village began decades ago,  century-old buildings torn down and replaced by vacant lots or NYU buildings.

This is eerily relevant to today:

It is difficult to comprehend the emotional, social, political, religious, and artistic tumult of 1945. How people could have absorbed such cataclysmic changes, coming one after the other, over a period of just a few months.

Also this, from Judith Malina’s diary: “Everyone says, ‘I can’t stand reading the newspapers. I dare not listen to the radio.” The news was pure madness.

* Pollock’s skyrocketing success is shown as a harbinger of doom, he describes himself as a clam without a shell and that people don’t look at you the same anymore. A tidal wave of mail arrived, strangers showed up to meet him. Celebrity was too much of a price to pay.

* The art market changed in 1955 when the U.S. tax code allowed deductions on art purchases made with the intent to donate to a museum. In 1956, Lee’s insistence on quadrupling prices on now dead Pollock’s work opened the floodgates for huge prices. Gabriel contends that that single sale (of Pollock’s first post-death piece to MOMA for $30k) rest the entire market for modern American work. Galleries took 30%, and artists were still making more money than they’d ever seen, resulting in the usual excesses and depressions. Paul Brach said 1957 was “the last year that artists made other artists’ reputations.” After that, it was done by the machine of the art establishment.

* The list of speakers at the Club is bananas: Joseph Campbell, Hannah Arendt, John Cage.

* I’m left with scores of people to research further, like Bunny Lang, Zarah Leander. And check out this amazing photo of Lee in 1972:

The English Mail-Coach and Other Essays

I spent the afternoon being jostled along reading De Quincey’s essays, including “The English Mail-Coach” (1849?) which keeps popping up in my life. The mail-coach was an entertaining read and held up best among all the other works. De Quincey gives you a thrill ride on the mail coach, sitting outside on the box, of course, because that’s where the fresh air and action is, and perhaps you’ll be able to catch the reins and drive for awhile. The essay celebrates this royal form of mail delivery while hinting that it’s soon to perish, mentioning the railway and its requisite boredom. Best parts were riding along and bringing fresh news from London to the surrounding areas of all the battles during the Napoleonic wars. He also tackles whether tis better to die suddenly or not, in the context of an accident he witnessed on the road when the driver was asleep and the coach was hurtling on the wrong side of the road toward a flimsy carriage.

Oliver Ranch

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for almost 20 years and had never heard of Oliver Ranch until it bubbled up twice over the last week in separate mentions (1, 2). A sheep ranch up north turned sculpture garden, privately owned and only open to the public a few times a year, this site boasts amazing work by Ursula von Rydingsvard, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Serra, Bill Fontana, Judith Shea among many others. Hopefully I’ll be able to tag along on a future group tour. This book is an oversized collection of photographs with reminisces from Steve Oliver about the ongoing installations.

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Italo Calvino’s 1985 lectures went unfinished (he got 5 out of 6 written) when he died, but cracking this book open decades later, there is plenty of advice for us in those. Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity were the ones he wrote, meaning to tackle Consistency as well.

In Exactitude, he dives deep on the pestilence of images. “We live in an unending rainfall of images. The most powerful media transform the world into images and multiply it by means of the phantasmagoric play of mirrors… Much of this cloud of visual images fades at once, like the dreams that leave no trace in the memory, but what does not fade is a feeling of alienation and discomfort.”

Writing prose should be the same as poetry; the goal is to look “for the unique expression, one that is concise, concentrated, and memorable.”

Calvino’s motto has been the Latin Festina lente: hurry slowly.

In an age when other fantastically speedy, widespread media are triumphing, and running the risk of flattening all communication onto a single, homogeneous surface, the function of literature is communication between things that are different simply because they are different, not blunting but even sharpening the differences between them.

De Quincey’s “The English Mail Coach” essay bumps into my consciousness again in his lecture on Quickness. A copy of that essay awaits me at the library, having come across it when it was mentioned as Joseph Cornell’s favorite book.

On objects: “the moment an object appears in a narrative, it is charged with a special force and becomes like the pole of a magnetic field, a knot in the network of invisible relationships…. in a narrative any object is always magic.”

 

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

Disappointing. I was expecting much more about Sally Horner than Weinman delivered. It seems like she tried to fluff a book out of the smattering of facts she could dig up about Sally Horner and filled in the gaps with speculation about how much Nabokov was influenced by Horner’s story. There is no smoking gun here, Nabokov openly references Horner on page 289 of Lolita: “Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?”

Sally’s story in a nutshell: she was peer pressured into stealing a notebook from Woolworth’s and Lasalle pretended to be an FBI agent when he caught her. He threatened to tell her mother and send her to reform school if she didn’t promise to keep in touch with him. Months later, he insists that she go with him to Atlantic City for a vacation, lying to her mother that she’s with friends. And that’s it, she’s off on a bus with this man and disappears for two years as his prepubescent sex slave. When she finally tells someone what’s going on in San Jose, CA, he gets arrested, jailed for life. Her own life ends in a car crash a few years later.

No matter how much talent the Nabokovs had  (Vera was a huge part of that partnership with Vladimir), I really didn’t want a behind-the-scenes gossip fest about Lolita‘s writing and publication and whirlwind afterwards. But I did learn that apparently Vlad was in the habit of lying in bed writing while letting Vera teach his classes and grade his papers at Cornell. Did any of the students complain?

Weinman insists on pretending this is a detective story she’s sussing out, trailing leads from 70 years ago, sniffing out sources, when the evidence is right there. Yes, he knew about Horner’s story. It was an influence. It’s not like he plagiarized court transcripts or any such nonsense. Who cares?