What I Learned From Nabokov
How to take a genre and write against it from the inside. He wasn't the first or the only one, of course, but what an example Lolita is! Humbert Humbert’s moral code is basically the same as Henry Miller’s, only Miller would have given his prepuce to write as well as Humbert does; and after the ritual apologies he would have gone on to write his fable of individualism through sexual transgression without it ever occuring to him that something was wrong with it.
Approaching Zero was an anti-Orientalist novel inside an Orientalist novel. Almost nobody who read it understood that; they couldn’t see why I was serving up their Orientalism with these sour side dishes. Right now I’m trying to write an anti-apocalyptic novel inside an apocalyptic novel. Is there something belated in this kind of gesture, as so much of modernism can seem belated in its inventory of techniques that have outlasted their world? With modernism pushing 100, the question seems all the more pertinent, and I don’t have a ready answer. What I do know is that I’m hardly alone in preferring the morality of fissures to the morality of systems. And that this stance is nothing new.