Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov

The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov

Paul Russell, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, (Cleis Press, 2011)

Dennis Cooper, The Marbled Swarm (Harper Perennial, 2011)

Writers write alone, writers write for themselves, even popular successful gay cult writers like Dennis Cooper worry sometimes about getting stuck in a rut.

”I’m really afraid of repeating myself or writing a book that just doesn’t need to exist for me. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m just writing stuff, where everybody’s like, ‘here’s another one of these stupid books…’”—Dennis Cooper, Interview with Bradford Nordeen in Lambda Literary Review (Nov 14, 2011).

Cooper’s new novel, The Marbled Swarm, isn’t much of a change of pace for the s/m chicken cult writer who moved from Los Angeles to Paris in 2005.

No wonder Cooper fears that he’s stuck in a rut—the unnamed protagonist just happens to be a billionaire cannibal. The same old Miss Cooper's rather haughty "s & m queen" signature is still there—not much of a stylistic departure in this old wheezing bag of hot air novel. The same old thanatos-famished LA vampire lips going down—except it’s Paris this time, ho hum. It’s hard to breathe new life into that same old gig anymore.

Something new for my jaded literary tastes, I’m thinking to myself. And there it is—Paul Russell’s fascinating faux biography based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight."

Except this time it’s "The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov: A Novel" (Cleis Press, 2011). Anyone that’s read Nabokov’s original novel knows how tantalizing handsome young Russian aristocrats can be. Exiled from riches and palaces by the Russian Revolution, exiled from cold, shabby Berlin by the Nazis, exiled from gay cultural Paris—even exiled by their own brothers for being gay…

Vladimir and Sergey were quite a startling young pair of princes—their college days in England, financed by their mother’s purse full of expensive jewelry, then Vladimir off to Cornell and fame as author of Lolita & many novels. Retiring early from Academe with lucrative film rights and royalties to the Montreaux Palace Hotel to continue writing.

While Vladimir’s gay brother prefers staying in Paris, already friends with the French gay intelligentsia, living with a handsome Austrian lover, working with Jean Cocteau, connecting through Tchelitchev and his cousin Nicolas to Diaghilev & composer Virgil Thomson, to those aristocratic aesthetes the Sitwells and even to the legendary salons conducted by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at 27 Rue de Fleurus.

If one is charmed by the recent “Wilde Boys Salon” frequenting NYC lately, then one may indeed be interested in this exquisite historical Russian salon fantasy fictional account by Paul Russell of Vladimir Nabokov’s young handsome, gay aristocratic and rather ‘Lolitaesque’ brother, Sergey Nabokov.

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