Monday, December 28, 2009

Failing at Glory

Last time I was at my folks' house, I randomly picked up Glory, by Vladimir Nabokov, and started reading it. I wasn't terribly impressed - the prose drier than what I've come to like from the big N., the story not overwhelmingly interesting, though the pacing an attractively odd and elusive trick that leaps without action - with it but it was good enough to keep reading and I read until I got to page 144.

Several days ago, I grabbed it on my way out, thinking I'd make good use of my hour long subway rides and even got a seat during rush hour where I could successfully avoid Christmas shoppers' packages from poking me in the calves as the train rocked back and forth. It was mad crowded on the train but I was contently ignoring the people squeezing all up on me by adamantly concentrating on Martin's lackluster misadventures. Somewhere between Brooklyn and Union Square, Martin moved from Switzerland to Berlin in an attempt to do something about his unceasing boner for Sonia and things were getting a little more interesting. "You're such a dear that I have to kiss you," Sonia says on page 144, and then of course they kiss (finally!), and then she's all, "And what if I'm in love with somebody else?" and I go to turn the page to find out who it could be and how Martin will ever survive this blow and I hope to inch onwards to the supposed Glory that has yet to develop even slightly. And then somehow I'm back on page 113, where Sonia is again recounting how she turned down Martin's friend's marriage proposal way back in London!

I didn't get it - I kept frantically looking at the dead eyes all around me, swaying to and fro with their hands up on the rails and no one even flinched. I checked again; went back to the original page 113, then to the faux 113, then back to 144, then stared at 144 which faces faux 113 and back at the dead eyes. It felt like I was losing it! Back when I was finishing my thesis, staying up for days at a time and cramming words onto pages at unprecedented speeds, I had a similar experience. There was some sort of glitch with Word where out of nowhere pages just started disappearing and mixing and sleep-deprived, stressed me couldn't fix it, broke down, and just sobbed on my keyboard until a friend arrived with emotional and technical reassurances. But then, order was reinstated!

This time, I kept looking for answers in dead eyes and the pages kept staring back, mocking. Everything between 145 and 176 is, instead, a repeat of 113 to 144. Disaster struck around 14th Street, so I had to ride bookless up to 77th St. and again bookless all the way back to BK. Reading on the subway is awesome; I almost prefer it to reading in a hammock or in sun-dappled nooks. I also like people watching on the subway. In general, I just like the subway. But rush hour subway sucks and without a book it's utterly depressing! Plus, now I have this book that I wasn't even that into to begin with that I now must finish and neither my local library or the local Barnes & Noble (which is bigger and more comprehensive than the library!) carry Glory!! If those 31 pages don't contain some mind-blowing passages when I finally get to them, it's going to be the most inglorious reading experience ever.