Night Music: Russian Waltz

April 22, 2019

For Nabokov

April 22, 2019

One hundred years ago today, on his twentieth birthday, Vladimir Nabokov arrived in Athens after he and his family had escaped from revolutionary Russia.  He would never see his homeland again.  Over the next 20 years, he and his family moved restlessly from Greece to England to Berlin, and finally to America, barely escaping the Nazis.

Nabokov’s amazing story is brilliantly told in the long read: “Vladimir Nabokov, Literary Refugee” by Stay Schiff. I will not reduce that article’s many charms by attempting a precis:  It is well worth the reading.

But this is a fine time and place to note that Vladimir Nabokov is one of the five authors I could not do without. As with each of the others — James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, John Dos Passos, and Joseph Conrad — I have read and reread all of his works in English, without tiring of them. There are times when other authors are my favourite of the day (Irving, usually, or Brautigan), but I always return to the Big Five.

It must be time again for Pale Fire or Ada, and then perhaps the USA trilogy. That would make for a fine summer.


Poem: Diner Waitress

April 22, 2019


The waitress at the county’s

favourite luncheonette counter

swings and sings

the songs of the sixties


“She walks like an angel,

talks like an angel”


jiving and gesturing with the farmers

and truckers and travelers

flashing her eyes

delivering pies a la mode


“In Dreams, you’re mine,

All of the time”


dancing and prancing to mothers

and all kinds of others

soothing and smoothing

and smooching and cooing


“Mashed potato, yeah, yeah, yeah

The mashed potato, yeah, yeah, yeah”


passing the work day with nary a cloud

of concern no matter the crowd

that packs in the cafe

each afternoon.