I’ve just started Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature. It’s extracted from the courses he taught at Wellesley and Cornell in the 40s and 50s, on the great books of European literature. I’m reading the one on Ulysses at the moment and had to stop and post after coming across this, where Nabokov quotes a passage from the book where Bloom is in the kitchen with his cat:

“Mr Bloom watched curiously, kindly, the lithe black form. Clean to see: the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes. He bent down to her, his hands on his knees.
– Milk for the pussens, he said.
– Mrkgnao! the cat cried.”

James Joyce’s miaow! So good! But THEN, less than a page later, Nabokov comes out with this aside:

“In his compassionate attitude to animals Bloom even feeds sea gulls, which I personally consider to be nasty birds with drunkard’s eyes…”

Never a neater description of a sea gull will you see. It’s a bit intimidating reading a combination of the two best writers of the last century, but you know: inspiring too.

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