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R.C. Speck

Confessions of a Recovering Critic

On Lolita

2011 May 22

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, in my opinion, is the most masterfully written English language novel I have read. What can I say about its prose? Jaw-dropping. Breathtaking. The control. The vocabulary. The pacing. The sharp sharp humor. And all from a non-native English speaking author. There’s really little here that I can say that hasn’t already been said before, so I won’t. Except that Lolita is a wonderful novel, and you do yourself a disservice in not reading it.

So buy.

That said, I believe that Lolita, considered by New York Times as the 4th best novel of all time, has a fatal flaw. Two of ’em, actually. These flaws in my opinion will keep it from the Pantheon of Great Books when we’re all done and all is over with. These flaws? Well, what is Lolita about, anyway?

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Marrying Mozart

2011 May 19

One of the sweetest classical music-related stories you can find is Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell. Published in 2004, it chronicles Mozart’s relationship with the sisters Weber in Mannheim and Vienna. If there is anything inside of you that can fall for a good love story, then reading this novel will make you fall, and then get up, and then fall again.

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Handel vs. Hendel

2011 May 4

I guess it can’t be helped, but classical music people really take this music seriously, don’t they? Not that they shouldn’t, of course. But how serious is too serious? Take pronunciation, or, really, the perils of mispronunciation. If you want to come across like you know something, like you are a true classical music connoisseur, it’s not enough to buy the recordings and attend the concerts. You must pronounce the names correctly as well. And that entails understanding pronunciations in, like, eight European languages, and a few east Asian ones as well. Because little in the classical world is phonetic, and spelling is not your friend. The pianist Lang Lang? No, no, that’s Long Long to you and me. Charles DuToit? Well, no, silly, his first name is “Sharl”. And how the heck am I supposed to pronounce the name “Chailly”, anyway?

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