A new name

She regarded the Simonnets with a double “n” as inferior not only to the Simonets with a single “n” but to everyone in the world. That someone else should bear the same name as yourself without belonging to your family is an excellent reason for despising him.

Guermantes Way, Proust, transl. Moncrieff and Klimartin, revised by Enright

I feel this way sometimes. I used to have a rare last name–all of us were directly related to each other, in a trace-able fashion (I practiced the old-man art of geneaology when I was in middle school). But now, not so rare. I now share a last name with deranged reality TV stars. But I also share it with my sweet husband and his family. I get asked sometimes why I changed my last name. Because I wanted to. I don’t feel “owned,” or marked as his property; I wanted to join him with my name. And so I did, with my old name wedged in between. So it’s not as if I’ve been entirely assimilated. But I do still balk at seeing that other people share my new name. Albertine was right: How dare them.

Revived memory

Until now I had been speaking at great length about how impotent my memory had been since the time of my childhood, but I must point out that a memory which is suddenly revived carries a great power of resuscitation. The past does not only draw us back to the past. There are certain memories of the past that have strong steel springs and, when we who live in the present touch them, they are suddenly stretched taut and then they propel us into the future.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima, translated by Ivan Morris

Finished that book yesterday, in a pleasant grove in Darden Towe park while Guion and Caleb played horseshoes. Now on with more reading of sense and memory: Guermantes Way, the third installment (and my third consecutive summer of reading Proust) of In Seach of Lost Time. It has been such a lovely long weekend, and quite nice to have Caleb around.

Nabokov and butterflies

Vladimir Nabokov catching butterflies, LIFE magazine, 1958

I was really delighted today, during my lunch break, to discover two things:

1. This sprawling, fascinating (if a bit outdated; who uses frames anymore?) website: Ada Online. It’s the linked and annotated version of Nabokov’s incredibly difficult novel, Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. I don’t know who did it–it appears to belong to a university in New Zealand–but it’s marvelous. What a perfect use of the Internets. It only reaches up through Part I with the annotations, but can you blame them? There’s at least three allusions in practically every sentence (with considerable fractions of Russian, French, and Russo-English!).

2. Nabokov was himself a distinguished lepidopterist, which I learned today means that he studies butterflies. LIFE magazine followed him around in the forest one day, some decades ago, as he sprung about with his net. Knowing this detail about arguably one of the most intelligent writers we can (partially) call our own makes him so much sweeter and gentler in my mind. And so much more interesting. A man who loved butterflies! All of the entomological references in Ada also make a little more sense now.

I have decided that I am going to read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima next. And then I will tackle Guermantes Way. Proust is almost too similar to Nabokov and I need something purely opposite–i.e., the razor-sharpness of Japanese prose–to break my mind up a bit.

I’m not very good at introducing myself these days. I generally end up saying all three of my names now, and so end up looking either really pretentious or stupid.

Angela, thanks for the plug on your Tumblr for my calligraphy! You are darling. Your Tumblr updates bring me lots of joy every day. I too want one of the Chinese dogs spray-painted to look like baby pandas.

She had kept only a few–mainly botanical and entomological–pages of her diary, because on rereading it she had found its tone false and finical; he had destroyed his entirely because of its clumsy schoolboyish style combined with heedless, and false, cynicism. Thus they had to rely on oral tradition, on the mutual correction of common memories.

V. Nabokov, Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle