• print • Dec/Jan 2010

    Trump Cards

    Aptly, we may begin with the title. The dust jacket has it as The Original of Laura: A novel in fragments, while the title page varies this to The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun). However, the author himself, at the top of the first of the 138 file cards on which the novel—let us call it a novel, for now—is composed, calls the book merely The Original of Laura. The subtitle A novel in fragments is easily accepted as an editor’s addendum, since the book is published posthumously, but where did (Dying Is Fun) come from? Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd tells us that The Original of Laura: Dying Is

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2010

    Altar Ego

    One of my high school summer jobs involved washing test tubes and pretending to be an apprentice research assistant in a biochemistry lab at a hospital in Manhattan. My coworkers, the actual researchers, had followed their boss, the senior scientist, from a midwestern university. All women, all blond, they seemed to share some arcane knowledge beyond the scientific and to be bound by some common thread beyond their professional and collegial connection.

    One outward manifestation of this mysterious bond was that each wore a heavy ring engraved with a dollar sign. They patiently explained to me

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2010

    Seek Memory

    What is it about the memoir that forces it, in spite of its many wonderful achievements, always to stand in the docket? Was it ever thus, or is it our age that feels especially defensive, apologetic, and guilt-ridden about the practice of the genre? We can only begin reckoning with such questions by placing the memoir in historical perspective, which is exactly what Ben Yagoda has done with his timely, useful, and informative study, Memoir: A History.

    Yagoda, a journalism professor at the University of Delaware, has written in the past a fine biography, Will Rogers (1993), and About Town: The

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