A couple of literary items to start the day. First, Today in Literature reports on the arrest (407 years ago today) and death of Christopher Marlowe.
On this day in 1593 Queen Elizabeth's
Privy Council issued a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Marlowe on
charges of spreading "blasphemous and damnable opinions." Five days
earlier Marlowe's roommate and fellow playwright, Thomas Kyd, had also
been arrested on similar charges; under torture (apparently a set piece
on the rack called "scraping the conscience"), Kyd had claimed that the
offending documents in his possession were in fact Marlowe's. While
prosecutors prepared for trial Marlowe was allowed out on bail; the day
before his scheduled court appearance, and at just twenty-nine years of
age, Marlowe was killed in a drunken brawl in Deptford, a dagger
through his eye.
I remember when I was in college, a professor of mine, Daniel Larner,
wrrote a play called "The Death of Christopher Marlowe," which was lots
of fun. And of course I was thinking last week of his lines from Doctor
'Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships
That play made a fair movie, with Richard Burton in the title role, and Elizabeth Taylor totalling probably 700 milihelens in the role of Helen of Troy.
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.'
Nabokov: Lots of press for
Nabokov lately. Ron Rosenbaum reports on a literary antecedent for
Lolita. Dmitri Nabokov auctions Vladimir's library. David Lodge writes
a nice forward to a new editio of Pnin. In this morning's SF Chronicle,
David Kipen writes a nice appreciation.
Nabokov's prose sometimes recalls the
private language of identical twins, completely assured in its
conspiratorial willingness to be strange. He makes every admiring
reader into his twin, which may help explain why many feel so
territorial about him. Always oblique yet never obscure, Nabokov's
prose sounds like English on the morning of its birth, with every word
equally available to him, and all the ruts of habit gone suddenly
Kipen of course cites Pnin, Lolita, and Pale Fire as the premier novels, but I also like the lesser works, bright brutes such as King, Queen, Knave, Glory, and Laughter in the Dark. The later novel, Transparent Things, is also a wonder. If you haven't read Nabokov, I'd start with Pnin. Another great choice is his masterpiece of autobiogray, Speak, Memory. It has some of the most luminous, evocative, wonderful prose you'll find anywhere.
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