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Monday, June 26, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/26 - Cleaning House

I've read several books that have the following stamp on the cover: Advance Reader's Edition, Not for Resale. All were clean and ready for publication - until the latest came across my path. Cleaning Nabokov's House, the 2011 debut novel of Leslie Daniels, was chock full of errors I'm sure were caught by the editor assigned by Touchstone. Despite the mistakes, I enjoyed it. At first I was leery it would be as difficult to read as Lolita or Ada. It was a piece of cake. The story is told from the point of view of a 39-year-old woman who walked out on her husband, a successful inventor. The move cost her custody of her two children, who she sees only one weekend a month. The action is set in the fictional town of Onkwedo, NY, which I would guess is based on Ithaca, as the nearby college is said to be Ivy League, like Cornell. She buys a run down house once occupied by Nabokov, and finds index cards on which a novel about Babe Ruth has been written. She contacts a lawyer, and the verification process begins. Frustrated by the time it takes and eager to win custody of the children, she comes up with an outlandish scheme to supplement the meager income she earns answering a dairy company's mail. She rents and renovates a lodge, and opens a spa catering exclusively to women. She hires the members of the university's rowing team to fully service the ladies. Enjoyment of the novel depends on how one reacts to this move. I went with it, although it seemed, if discovered, it would lead to further charges of the woman being an unfit mother. That possibility, the risk, is not at all addressed. The writing is lively. I enjoyed the woman's wit, especially as she begins dating after a long hiatus. The most fascinating character is the five-year-old daughter, a goth girl in the making fascinated by fashion. The book is still selling modestly at Amazon. Daniels has yet to follow it up. She has edited a literary magazine and had stories published in the likes of Ploughshares, which is not easy to accomplish. I had about ten stories rejected by it before giving up. 44 readers at Amazon have rated Cleaning Nabokov's House, forging to a consensus of 4.1 of five, too high in my estimation. Still, it is a debut of which to be proud. Anyone expecting a work in Nabokov's style would be disappointed. It wouldn't be a stretch to categorize the book as chick lit, but it also has universal appeal. According to Wiki, Russian, English, and French were spoken in the Nabokov household in St. Petersburg. After fleeing the homeland, he eventually made his way to England and earned a degree from Cambridge. He spent 15 years in Germany, fled to France before the outbreak of WWII, and finally emigrated to the USA in 1940, becoming a citizen in 1945. He was on the faculty of several colleges besides Cornell, where he taught from 1948-'59. He died in 1977 at 78. His work endures. Here's a pic of Nabokov and his wife Vera:

The floating bookshop's tough stretch continued today despite ideal weather and great selection. My thanks to the young mom who bought the runaway best seller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and to the elderly gentleman who donated two works of sci-fi, and to the woman who donated several novels and children's videotapes in Russian. So much inventory - so few customers.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

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