Nabokov Again

#omgyouguys! In today’s surf I found What Kind of Tree Is That (mis)attributed to Nabokov! Here it is via Robert Day in the September 5, 1993, Washington Post (Mr. Day notes that it’s probably apocryphal):

Nabokov. Vladimir. American novelist and literature professor who once had something like the following conversation with a student at Cornell University:

‘Mr. Nabokov, I want to be a writer.’ Nabokov looks up from his reading he points to a tree outside his office window.

‘What kind of tree is that?’ he asks the student.


‘What is the name of that tree?’ asks Nabokov. ‘The one outside my window.’

‘I don’t know,’says the student.

‘You’ll never be a writer.’ says Nabokov.

It’s like my literary dead boyfriend sent me a love note.

I’m also reading Cleaning Nabokov’s House, by Leslie Daniels. It has that extravagant, “throw it all in yes the kitchen sink too!” energy that I associate with some first novels (Virginia Lanier’s first bloodhound mystery Death in Bloodhound Red is a great example). And at least in stretches it’s stuffed with wit and wry insights at such a pace I have trouble taking them all in.

It’s a new release, but I ran across it by chance, so there’s that little thrill of added value too. Well, “by chance” with respect to Nabokov. I had been thinking about Diana Wynne Jones and how much I like to read about housecleaning, so I did a keyword search. I’d already read Esmerelda Santiago’s America’s Dream and the Blanche White mystery series by Barbara Neely; I put another mystery, Maid for Murder by Barbara Colley, on my library list.

Apparently Leslie Daniels really does live in a house the Nabokovs rented. I expect he’s her literary dead boyfriend too.