Topical Guide 17
Author as God or Magician or Puppeteer
Whenever Mr. Beaker was visiting and the time had come for him to go home, his face would grow long and dark, and he would begin praising my grandmother’s cooking and my mother’s figure. “Dudley,” my father would say after he had left, “needs a woman.”
Years later, I was walking along one fall day and smelled the unmistakable odor of burning leaves. It brought to mind, for reasons I will explain shortly, the years I spent on No Bridge Road, and Mr. Beaker, and all the rest, ending with my father’s saying, “Dudley needs a woman.” I realized that my father had been right, and that Mr. Beaker had thrown his desk lamp through the window that night because he was alone and hated it; so I created Eliza Foote, arranged a meeting, and let events take their natural course.
Little Follies, “My Mother Takes a Tumble,” Preface
“I’ve never been a religious man,” said Mr. Beaker, slowly and carefully, “but I’ve always had the conviction that a benevolent hand nudged each of us toward that corner that morning.”
Little Follies, “My Mother Takes a Tumble,” Chapter 5
While Augusto and Victor were carrying on this “nivolistic” conversation, I, the author of this nivola which you, my dear reader, are holding in your hand and reading—I was smiling enigmatically at the sight of my “nivolistic” characters advocating my case and justifying my methods of procedure. And I said to myself, “think how far these poor fellows are from suspecting that they are only trying to justify what I am doing with them! In the same fashion, whenever a man is seeking for reasons wherewith to justify himself, he is, strictly speaking, only seeking to justify God. And I am the God of these two poor ‘nivolistic’ devils.”
Miguel de Unamuno (or perhaps Victor Goti, his character) in Mist (Niebla)
What if God the author were not an epic poet, like Homer say, or Milton, and not a formidable novelist like Tolstoy, but a lighter, more whimsical writer, like Sterne or Lewis Carroll? If he were particularly fond of the unlikely, keener on miracles than on the laws of physics? The real and the fantastic, in literature and in the world, would not then merge as the Surrealists hoped they would: they would just change places. So-called realism would be the most wishful of all modes of art, because it would depict normality where there are only freaks, and normality itself would be a distant dream masquerading as the state of things.
Michael Wood, The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction
I had thought that I would write something acerbic here, acerbic but witty, deep but light. I actually began composing it in my mind, but now that I’m sitting at the keyboard none of it comes back to me. Allow me to remind you that I am a character in the Personal History. You haven’t met me there yet, but you will, or I hope you will. I am convinced that I have a mind of my own, like you.
[more to come on Friday, June 4, 2021]
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