Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take a Chance: Pnin


Pnin, by Vladimir Nabokov

1: Staff Member’s Choice: Go to a bookstore or library that has a “Staff Picks” section. Read one of the picks from that section.

I did the last option first and the first option last! I had to cheat a bit on this one; the bookstore in my city doesn't have a Staff Picks section, but the library has a couple of troughs in the front with fiction and non-fiction. It's not exactly a Staff Picks section, but it's all I've got. I found Pnin in the fiction trough.

Pnin is not exactly a novel, nor is it quite a collection of short stories. The stories were originally published serially in The New Yorker, and written as a sort of antidote to the difficult work of writing Lolita. Professor Pnin is comical, hapless, confused, and noble. Like many ex-patriate Russians of his generation, he mourns a Russia that is completely gone, and he spends years searching for a place he can feel at home. Once he seems to reach his goal, it looks as though it will all be taken away; Pnin is a comical and tragic character.

The narrator is a bit mysterious and unreliable, and it's interesting to piece together the clues about him. There is plenty here to analyze if desired, though the book is short. I like reading Nabokov's style, but had not picked anything up in a long time; maybe I should read more of him soon.

The copy I read had a boring Everyman cover, so I picked the cover I like best for the image here. And I'm including this excellent paperback cover, notable for its blatantly misleading implication that this is going to be a sexy book. I love finding lurid paperback covers for classic literature.


This officially finishes the Take a Chance Challenge for me! Woo! But I'm tempted by one of the other options in #10, so I might do that too.

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