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Nabokov's Blues


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Table of Contents

Part I: The Aurelian. Chapter 1: The Most Famous Lepidopterist in the World. Chapter 2: A Tricky Subject. Chapter 3: A Legendary Land. Chapter 4: Lumpers and Splitters. Chapter 5: A Life in Lepidoptery. Part II: The Searchers. Chapter 6: Scientists and Strategy. Chapter 7: The Incorrigible Continent. Chapter 8: The Vertical Landscape. Chapter 9: Finding the Frontiers. Chapter 10: Dancing with Fire. Part III: Nabokov's Blues. Chapter 11: The Code. Chapter 12: The Race to Name Nabokov's Blues. Chapter 13: Literature and Lepidoptera. Chapter 14: Darwin's Finches - Nabokov's Blues.

About the Author

Kurt Johnson, Ph.D. (New York, NY) is a widely published lepidopterist and a foremost expert on Vladimir Nabokov's lepidoptery. It was during his 15-year association with the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, that he and his colleagues took up the research on Blues where Nabokov left off. Kurt Johnson, Ph.D. (New York, NY) is a widely published lepidopterist and a foremost expert on Steve Coates (New York, NY) is an editor at The New York Times and the author of numerous articles and reviews on cultural topics for the Times and The Wall Street Journal.


Interest in Nabokov has been kept up in recent years by such work as Boyd's monumental two-volume biography and Stacy Schiff's V‚ra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). These two new studies will only enhance interest in Nabokov for some time to come. Boyd's new book is an intensive examination of Nabokov's Pale FireÄa book that many scholars consider his masterpiece, since it lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Boyd looks at these interpretations and offers his own insights, some of which have changed over the years. He argues that the genius of Pale Fire is that while it can be read easily in a straightforward manner, further readings reveal a multilayered story that promts the reader to dig for deeper meanings. Boyd skillfully peels away the layers of this novel in a feast of literary detective work. He recommends that one read the novel before taking on his book. On the other hand, one need not read any of Nabokov's work to prepare for Johnson and Coates's Nabokov's Blues. Though he had no formal training in biology, Nabokov became an acknowledged expert on BluesÄa diverse group of Latin American butterflies. Here Johnson and Coates examine his butterfly studies in the context of recent scientific expeditions to South America. They succeed in presenting both a biographical and scientific study that brings new understanding to both Nabokov's writing and his place in science. Taken together, these books should keep the most ardent Nabokov reader busy for some time. Recommended for academic collections.ÄRonald Ratliff, Emporia P.L., KS Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Vladimir Nabokov gained world fame with Lolita and captivated sophisticated readers with a score of other fictions, but he took equal pride in his studies of butterflies, publishing several technical papers describing and classifying members of the subfamily Polyommatini, or Blues. Nabokovians have long known of his lepidopterous labors; insect experts, however, often and wrongly neglected the novelist's research, which turns out (despite his amateur status) to include a serious contribution to knowledge of New World tropical Blues. During the late 1980s, lepidopterist Johnson and his colleague Zsolt B lint discovered, in remote parts of Central America, specimens that strengthened or proved the arguments Nabokov had made. The new Blues, the story of their discovery and the meaning and relevance of Nabokov's scientific studies give Johnson and New York Times writer Coates some of the subjects for their hard-to-classify book, a rarely attempted sort of hybrid that crosses informed science writing with literary biography. On the science side, Johnson and Coates cover the place of butterfly studies in Nabokov's life; the contentious history of butterfly and moth taxonomy and the development of its basic rules; and the use of butterfly studies in larger debates on ecology and evolution. Literarily, they discuss the meaning of butterflies and moths in Nabokov's writings and show that specialist knowledge of lepidopterology enriches the ironies and punch lines readers can find in Nabokov's The Gift. Curiously, Nabokov's Blues yield startling insights into biological mimicryÄan appropriate turn, given the novelist's own penchants for masks and doubles. Readers with a taste for science and literature will love this book, which is both entertaining and polymathically informativeÄrather like the English/Russian, naturalist/novelist, scholar/artist Nabokov himself. Eight b&w illus. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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