Good Readers Good Writers

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Nabokov: Providing a Flood and Lifeboat

In Nabokov’s 1948 “Good Readers and Good Writers,” the reader has the opportunity to view the possibilities of a beautiful collision of a major reader and a major writer. This piece discusses reading and writing: skills that have become standardized and slightly devalued as education has advanced. Literacy has become so expected that little thought is put into what defines a good reader or writer; Nabokov tackles this idea head on. Nabokov’s intention of this piece is to passionately display a relationship that is formed between a good reader and a good writer, and the essential need for an open mind. He stresses the vitality of understanding instead of immediately identifying when reading; however he tests this ability in his audience by using bold and opinionated language that can distract from his intent. Nabokov both instructs and tests his audience as he defines major readers and writers and their use of understanding, all the while knowing the true meaning will be reached only by those who open their mind to his world. Nabokov describes the relationship that can be formed through the bond of good readers and good writers. According to Nabokov, for a work a literature to reach its full potential both the author and the audience must be open and unattached to assumptions and previous knowledge. Nabokov says the bond should establish, “an artistic harmonious balance between the reader’s mind and the author’s mind” (4). It is with this balance that a work of literature can come alive as an independent world. If either the mind of the author or reader is lacking imagination the work cannot take off and become a “supreme fairytale” (1), as Nabokov describes. Nabokov writes “Since the master artist used his imagination in creating his book, it is natural and fair that the consumer of a book should use his imagination too” (3). This key idea points out the misconception that a book can create an imaginative world that everyone else can selfishly enjoy as they please; the reader must be just as imaginative for the literature to expand beyond the written pages. Beyond the difficulty of achieving the relationship Nabokov also describes an alluring result of a successful mutual effort: “Up [that mountain] climbs the master artist, and at the top, on a windy ridge, whom do you think he meets? The panting and happy reader, and there they spontaneously embrace and are linked forever” (2). This is a metaphor used to describe the rigorous yet satisfying bond of a major reader and writer. Nabokov does not underestimate the difficulty of the bond between good reader and writer; though he is sure to include the wonders of the successful relationship. Nabokov examines furtherer into the distinctions of a major reader as he highlights the need to displace one’s self from the world they are being introduced to that can only be truly explored with an open mind. Nabokov says, ““If one begins with a readymade generalization, one begins at the wrong end and travels away from the book before one has started to understand it” (1). Understanding literature is the message behind Nabokov’s insistence on diving into literature with an open and unrecognizing mind. If a reader only sees what they know, then no new doors can be opened; new worlds cannot be explored. A misreading of Nabokov’s work could leave the impression that he wants good writing to be accepted just because it is good writing; this is far from the truth. Nabokov stresses opening a readers mind to understanding of another world, not an automatic agreeing or accepting of it. The decision of whether to agree or disagree should only come when the content is fully understood. Nabokov explains: “The material of this world may be real enough (as far as reality goes) but does not exist at all as an accepted entirety” (1). According to Nabokov there is always something minor readers can latch onto in order to only see what they...
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