Other readers like…

I’m always interested in the tastes and distastes of people I admire, or am friends with. I never follow their suggestions, however, for what to read/listen to/look at, as personal taste never maps analogously onto another persons. While reading Strong Opinions, a collection of Nabokov interviews, reviews and articles, I became intrigued by VN’s likes/dislikes. I found myself nodding my head in agreement when VN excoriates the work of Dostoevsky (especially Crime and Punishment), William Faulkner, Cervantes and Henry James. The likes however were somewhat more surprising: Proust, an author I can’t get on with. I’ve tried reading À la recherche du temps perdu several times, but find it maudlin and as saccharine as one of his madeleines. Laurence Stern, a bore. Gustav Flaubert; I must assume something was lost in translation in what people consider his masterpiece Madame Bovary, because it left me totally underwhelmed. There are several mentions of a French author Robbe-Grillet. I had never heard of this author but many compare his descriptive style to psychoanalysis, which is somewhat ironic considering VN’s thoughts on that topic. VN has great admiration for H.G. Wells, which I found befuddling. Wells has great imagination but the writing is extremely simple and to my mind he writes for younger readers; a criticism VN aims at Conrad, who he dislikes.
Lewis Carroll is one of VN’s favourites, and VN even translated his work into Russian. I love Lewis Carroll’s work, it has the intricately thought out and logical absurdity that all great works of the surreal have. I like Orwell though, who VN thought was a hack.
I was hoping to find an opinion of Bulgakov’s work, specifically The Master and Margherita, which I enjoyed but was never sure why. I also had a feeling that VN would detest one of my favourite authors Thomas Hardy, but he doesn’t get a mention. Maybe too parochial.
As my grandma used to say: if everyone liked the same thing they’d all be after your grandad.


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