Steven Kellman at Critical Mass has a nice little piece on Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, which is one of my favorite books:
However, what continues to enlighten and inspire me more than the lectures on individual novels are the introductory and concluding chapters, in which Nabokov sets forth his views on how and why to read. He dismisses as childish the desire to identify with fictional characters rather than the mind that created them, and he insists that reading literature requires “an artist’s passion and a scientist’s patience.” He contends that literature lacks any practical value and that its only — and transcendent — justification is the tingle it produces when a book we are reading takes hold of us physically, from the brain down through the spine. In the final words that he delivered to his students at the close of each semester, and that I often peddle to my own students, Nabokov proclaims that, “We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.” Lectures on Literature passes the tingle test.
The other two books in the series, Lectures on Russian Literature and Lectures on Don Quixote, are excellent as well.
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