Friday, April 1, 2011

Laughter in the Dark (Vladimir Nabokov)

by Melanie Yarbrough

I was excited to read the latest installment for my book club, Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark to add to my list of Nabokov novels. Before this book, my list was at a measly one, having read Invitation to a Beheading. I'd begun and abandoned Lolita, so the diversion from the usual suspect was welcome. After two days traveling to and from work on the train, my Nabokov list reached its highest number at two.

It can pretty much be summed up the way Nabokov sums it up in the first paragraph of the novel:
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster." Of course, as Nabokov also points out, details are always welcome. And what great details they are.

Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

Story - 4.2: Slightly more than a predictable tale of a man infatuated with his young mistress and the mishaps that happen to him, the story of this novel feels pretty plotty. All of the pleasure is derived from Nabokov's gift with words.

Style - 6.7: Nabokov has a no-nonsense way about his stories. He tells you what's happening and manages to slink between characters' points-of-view without jerking the reader around too much. There is always an essence of tongue-in-cheekness that is the epitome of Nabokov's style, and has managed to win me over twice now.

General - 7.0: Despite the book's plotty feel and several of the characters' stockiness (in that we are told they are nothing more than evil, conniving, etc.), Nabokov's wit and flair for describing every aspect of a room and a moment without exhaustion fill in the gaps. From tragedy to tragedy, there is a balance of feeling guilty for a man whose bad luck can only grow (and does) and understanding that karma, indeed, is a bitch.

Overall - 5.97

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