Brian Boyd on His Book Stalking Nabokov

Brian Body, Stalking Nabokov

“I first read Nabokov at about 13 and first began stalking him at 16. Nabokov wanted nothing more than to turn his readers into stalkers, by planting little clues along the fictional trails he blazed, challenging them to catch up with him.”—Brian Boyd

On Rorotoko, Brian Boyd, author of Stalking Nabokov, discusses his nearly life-long study of Nabokov and why the author has fascinated him for so long. Boyd’s interest extends beyond Nabokov as a writer and he has also written about him as a thinker, scientist, poet, intuitive psychologist, and humorist. In describing his book, Boyd writes, “I try to tease out Nabokov’s consistency while also highlighting his variety. I sometimes show the hard lone toil of the artist and the scholar (in this case, me too), and how it relies on or resists the work of others. I show how obsessions, Nabokov’s and mine, need not preclude multiplicity and surprise.”

In addition to describing his intellectual passion for Nabokov, Boyd also considers the value of focusing on a single author. He writes:

Lately literary critics and scholars have tended to avoid a single-author focus, partly because authors have been downgraded as the causes of literary works.

That’s a mistake, I think. Nothing like “The Library of Babel,” Lolita, or Waiting for Godot would have been written in the mid-twentieth century or at any other time had Borges, Nabokov, and Beckett not lived—even had history otherwise run the same course. All three were saturated in literature past and present but sought it out and responded to it in unique ways.

The best criticism, too, is highly individual but also part of highly social processes, and that’s another thread that runs through these pieces. Criticism is cooperative: we want to understand the same works, and we learn from others both specific information and ways to understand and appreciate. And it is competitive: we want to challenge others whose claims we find wrong, and we want our efforts and results to be recognized.

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