Nabokov on what makes a good reader.
One evening at a remote provincial college through which I happened to be jogging on a protracted lecture tour, I suggested a little quiz—ten definitions of a reader, and from these ten the students had to choose four definitions that would combine to make a good reader. I have mislaid the list, but as far as I remember the definitions went something like this.
Select four answers to the question what should a reader be to be a good reader:
1. The reader should belong to a book club.
2. The reader should identify himself or herself with the hero or heroine.
3. The reader should concentrate on the social-economic angle.
4. The reader should prefer a story with action and dialogue to one with none.
5. The reader should have seen the book in a movie.
6. The reader should be a budding author.
7. The reader should have…
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Very interesting quiz. Yet I have to confess that, as a huge Nabokov fan, his own ideas on what constitutes literature or “good reading” (in this instance) leave me somewhat cold. If there is one thing that sometimes alienated from Nabokov, it was his stubbourn elitism and dismissiveness of any “non-aesthetic” approach to literature. His dismissal of any literary discussion relating to socio-economic factors, character psychology, spirituality bespeaks a very narrow and, may I say, bourgeois restrictiveness that goes against what literature has often stood for in history. That’s only my observation though.