Ron Rosenbaum

Nabokov's "Laura" Makes a Minor Dream Come True For Me

Ever since I left Yale Graduate School I’ve had a love/ hate affair with academia and academics. There are so many scholars I respect, and yet so many pretentious frauds. And every year they all gather at the Modern Langauage Association convocation. And this year they are convening a panel inspired by me! By my reporting on the perilous fate of Vladimir Nabokov’s final unfinished manuscript “The Original of Laura” which Nabokov wanted destroyed and whose fate is now in the hands of his son Dmitri, now 73.

People all over the world are fascinated by this story, by the drama of Dmitri’s Choice and what it says about filial obligation and who owns an unfinished work of art the now-dead author didn’t want the world to see. I’ve been interviewed by the BBC, the CBC, NPR, next week an Austrailian book show. A tribute not to mme of course but to the power Nabokov’s recondite genius holds over the imagination of those under his spell.

And today, three weeks after my story apppeared, I received this notice from a Nabokov list-serve I belong to:

Special Topic for Nabokov Society session at the MLA convention in San Francisco, CA, Dec. 27-30, 2008:

The debate over The Originals of Laura, contextualized with Nabokov’s strategies of revision, treatment of unfinished works, or concerns with editors, annotators,
executors (either real or fictional) and the like. Proposals to Eric Hyman by 20 March:
[email protected]

Once papers are accepted, panelists will need to become (if they are not already) members of the Modern Languages Association and the Nabokov Society. Be there or be square.

( I added that last sentence.) Contextualize away MLAers. I’ll come up with another topic for you next year. Maybe Tom Petty?

Update: according to a member of the Nabokov Society, the “Laura” panel has been postponed til the following year. The reason; the Nabokov Society already has their maximum of two panels at the MLA. I’m a little suspicious, but willing to wait. A dream deferred is not always a dream denied.