jim, vlad, tommy & raynor: a cosmic link
last thursday, i posted a map that vladimir nabokov used when teaching joyce to thomas pynchon. an anonymous operative in dublin axed me where he could get a higher-rez image and i promised that i would look into the matter. this is how my quest starts. how it ends is with me pawing through nabokov’s original papers in the inner-most sanctum of the new york public library. here is the in-between stuff:
part the first: a map quest
the original map is housed in the morgan collection of the nypl. since i was going to be in the city this weekend with some time to kill, i thought i would try and see how close that i could come to getting my greasy mitts on a facsimilie of the map.
i have a long and sordid history of infiltrating libraries and figured that the nypl would be lemon pound cake. it wasn’t. it took 3 levels of access (for which i had no ready documentation) and a lot of paperwork. ultimately the decision came down to the morgan curator, donna barker. my access would be based entirely upon her assessment of 1. how legit that i was (i am not legit) and 2. the reasons for my wanting to see nabokov’s unpublished papers (a whim? scorching curiosity?).
after a lot of blah-blah-blahing i was admitted into room 444. donna then reviewed my paperwork and grilled me for fifteen minutes before finally acquiescing. within the hour i received a folder containing not facsimiles of nabokov’s papers but the real deal—coffee ringed, besmudged, finger-printed, mothball-scented* handwritten notes of one of the giants of western literature!
part the second: notes on his notes
i have handled highly revered objects before. i have made small talk with authors that i admire at book signings. but i have never lost my shit the way i did when a librarian dropped a big folder with nabokov’s personal writings into my lap and told me to go to town. after composing myself, i was able to make a few notes. here are some (in bullet form for ease of reading):
there were actually 3 different versions of the maps all with mostly the same information. each was on standard letter-sized typing paper.
nabokov’s handwriting was meticulous and bold with an occasional flourish. i was delighted to see that at points he lapsed into [what appeared to be] sütterlinschrift (seen especially in his medial s’s).
the maps themselves were not very different from standard ones like this and this. 
nabokov calculates that bloom walks 5 miles throughout the day.
for reasons not readily understandable, he drew england about 1,000 feet off the coast of dublin.
while i was sifting through personal notes written by one of the top writers of the twentieth century, sitting in a room containing original manuscripts and love letters by the likes of woolf, pound, yeats, kerouac and james, the curator was reading a patrick o’brian novel.
in the end, donna would NOT let me photocopy anything. she said that i would first need to get the permission of dmitri nabokov. i joked that dmitiri would probably oblige given his latest decision regarding his father’s literary estate. this joke did not go over so well.
dmitiri however, failed to prevent me from taking notes and i WAS able to recreate the whole map on my own little scrap of paper. perhaps in 500 years, some pesky hoverboard-riding blogger might con his way into the new nypl so as to catch a quick peak of the raynor/nabokov/joyce map. or perhaps it will wind up as trash and a hobo will use it to toilet train his golden retreiver. only time will tell.
*yes, i sniffed it.

jim, vlad, tommy & raynor: a cosmic link

last thursday, i posted a map that vladimir nabokov used when teaching joyce to thomas pynchon. an anonymous operative in dublin axed me where he could get a higher-rez image and i promised that i would look into the matter. this is how my quest starts. how it ends is with me pawing through nabokov’s original papers in the inner-most sanctum of the new york public library. here is the in-between stuff:

part the first: a map quest

the original map is housed in the morgan collection of the nypl. since i was going to be in the city this weekend with some time to kill, i thought i would try and see how close that i could come to getting my greasy mitts on a facsimilie of the map.

i have a long and sordid history of infiltrating libraries and figured that the nypl would be lemon pound cake. it wasn’t. it took 3 levels of access (for which i had no ready documentation) and a lot of paperwork. ultimately the decision came down to the morgan curator, donna barker. my access would be based entirely upon her assessment of 1. how legit that i was (i am not legit) and 2. the reasons for my wanting to see nabokov’s unpublished papers (a whim? scorching curiosity?).

after a lot of blah-blah-blahing i was admitted into room 444. donna then reviewed my paperwork and grilled me for fifteen minutes before finally acquiescing. within the hour i received a folder containing not facsimiles of nabokov’s papers but the real deal—coffee ringed, besmudged, finger-printed, mothball-scented* handwritten notes of one of the giants of western literature!

part the second: notes on his notes

i have handled highly revered objects before. i have made small talk with authors that i admire at book signings. but i have never lost my shit the way i did when a librarian dropped a big folder with nabokov’s personal writings into my lap and told me to go to town. after composing myself, i was able to make a few notes. here are some (in bullet form for ease of reading):

  • there were actually 3 different versions of the maps all with mostly the same information. each was on standard letter-sized typing paper.
  • nabokov’s handwriting was meticulous and bold with an occasional flourish. i was delighted to see that at points he lapsed into [what appeared to be] sütterlinschrift (seen especially in his medial s’s).
  • the maps themselves were not very different from standard ones like this and this.
  • nabokov calculates that bloom walks 5 miles throughout the day.
  • for reasons not readily understandable, he drew england about 1,000 feet off the coast of dublin.
  • while i was sifting through personal notes written by one of the top writers of the twentieth century, sitting in a room containing original manuscripts and love letters by the likes of woolf, pound, yeats, kerouac and james, the curator was reading a patrick o’brian novel.
  • in the end, donna would NOT let me photocopy anything. she said that i would first need to get the permission of dmitri nabokov. i joked that dmitiri would probably oblige given his latest decision regarding his father’s literary estate. this joke did not go over so well.
  • dmitiri however, failed to prevent me from taking notes and i WAS able to recreate the whole map on my own little scrap of paper. perhaps in 500 years, some pesky hoverboard-riding blogger might con his way into the new nypl so as to catch a quick peak of the raynor/nabokov/joyce map. or perhaps it will wind up as trash and a hobo will use it to toilet train his golden retreiver. only time will tell.

*yes, i sniffed it.

disclaimer