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Fashion Book: Ada or Ardor

2012 June 14

Oh, Nabokov. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of Ada, or Ardor, even though I’ve been reading it for nearly two weeks now. I’ve read Lolita and Pale Fire, both of which certainly helped prepare me for Ada. But can anything really prepare you for a story about a brother and sister, brought up as cousins (though they know the truth), who fall madly in love at age 14 and 12 respectively, and begin a passionate, incestuous affair? Also, it takes place in a strange anti-America in the late 1800s–it’s not until midway through the book, after quite a few references to motor cars and other anachronisms, that you realize perhaps Van and Ada don’t occupy the same space as we do. It’s a weird and surreal book, peppered with idiosyncratic literary references (mostly to books that don’t really exist), Russian and French phrases, and “editorial” notes from the narrators themselves. The whole thing is followed by annotations from a Vivian Darkbloom, an anagram for Nabokov himself. The notes are amusing, though ultimately do little to elucidate the murk of most of the obscure references.

I realize I may not be making this book sound too appealing. But if you’ve read Nabokov, you’re familiar with the many linguistic pleasures that go along with the confusions. He’s witty and smart and romantic. He makes potentially pornographic scenes poetic. He makes 50 Shades of Grey look like…well, I don’t know if it’s possible to make the writing in that book appear any more godawful than it already is, but if it’s possible, Nabokov does it handily.

The clothing worn by all of the characters is described in lovely details, so I wanted to take the opportunity to create a rendering of one of Ada’s outfits. Here’s the description:

“For the grand picnic on her birthday sixteen-year-old Ada wore a plain linen blouse, maize-yellow slacks and scuffed moccasins. Van had wanted her to let her hair down; she demurred, saying it was too long for country comfort, but finally comprimised by tying it midway behind with a rumpled ribbon of black silk.”

Fashion Book--Ada or Ardor


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

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