Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

Nabokov from an Alternate Universe

The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov,  by Paul Russell, is a fascinating novel about Vladimir Nabokov’s brother, a man who lived a life at least as interesting as that of his more famous brother. Sergey began his life as a member of the St. Petersburg elite in Tsarist Russia, and along with Vladimir, experienced the revolution and exile at an early age. It is a familiar journey from privilege to poverty for this intellectual family, but we find in this fictionalized version of Sergey’s life, that everything takes on a different meaning when seen through his eyes. Lacking literary talents, the good looks and the privilege of heterosexuality that Vladimir enjoyed and exploited so successfully, Sergey must find his way through the dangers and addictive pleasures of Twentieth Century Europe. Everything comes with more difficulty for Sergey, and he ends up dying UnrealLifeSergey_6ain a Nazi concentration camp. Vladimir, the acclaimed writer, on the other hand, becomes a wealthy writer in America, apparently oblivious to the sufferings of his brother. In the introduction to this novel, the author quotes Vladimir from his autobiography, Speak, Memory, when he finally breaks his silence about his gay brother, “For various reasons, I find it inordinately hard to speak about my older brother. He is a mere shadow in the background of my richest and most detailed recollections.” To be fair, it is possible that he cannot speak about his brother because of the pain of the knowledge of his troubled life and death, but to say that he is mere shadow in his mind is very telling, considering that they grew up so closely right through the tumult of revolution, until their exile as teenagers. One can perceive the easy forgetfulness that the perfect and spoiled child often feels when confronted with the plight of a less fortunate sibling. Perhaps for this reason, Paul Russell does not paint a very sympathetic portrait of Vladimir in this novel.

Beautifully written, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov offers an extraordinary alternative reading of the history of the Russian exile. It is a reminder, if we need one, that in this age of wider acceptance, the awareness of the lives of gay people gives us a refreshing new perspective on the world, turning the familiar on its ear, and giving depth to history.

Some reviews of the Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov:

on the Lambda Literary website

in the Washington Post

 

June 28, 2014 Posted by | literature | , , , | Leave a comment

The Island Stuck to New Jersey

Staten Island, the least known and least populated of New York City’s five boroughs, is a puzzle to most people. Often they only know it as the destination of the Staten Island Ferry, the place where you have to turn around in the terminal to get on the return boat to Manhattan. It is a land of legendary garbage dumps (long gone), mafia deadbody dumps (less long gone), big hair, and big Ange from some reality TV show, (Staten Island being a gold mine for reality show recruiters).

Cedar shake facades in St. George, the urban core of Staten Island.

Cedar shake facades in St. George, the urban core of Staten Island.

Not being a native of this island, I won’t bore you with knee-jerk defenses of its reputation. Yes, in fact, it is the land of reality TV and dumpy vacant lots. But it does have a lot of potential as a alternative urban setting in New York. The North Shore of the island is the most historic part, with a lot of areas that have remained mostly unchanged for the past 50 or 60 years. I have started writing commentary about the changes and the things that remain the same in this area, in a blog called The Rock Across the Harbor. I post information there about new developments and urban planning issues and problems that arise.

There are a few new mega-projects either in the planning stage or already under construction on SI’s North Shore, in St. George there are the New York Wheel and  an outlet shopping mall, and in the next community, Stapleton there is another new large scale project on the waterfront. Presumably, these projects will radically change the island’s character, and it will no longer just be a lost appendage on the coast of New Jersey, but actually become integrated into the life of New York City. Presumably. This is certainly not the first time that such changes have been promised. In the past the promises have percolated for a while then fizzle out and disappeared. Time will tell if that will happen again. In the meantime, my occasional posts are meant to document a personal perspective on those changes and those things that remain the same.  Check out my blog!

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Nickel Fare on Facebook

My novel, Nickel Fare, is a project that has been a long time in the making. It is still a work in progress, not the novel, which is complete and available on Amazon and Kindle, but the process of making it known to potential readers is an ongoing activity with no end in sight.

Here is my Facebook page for Nickel Fare. You will find info about my readings there, and links to my other projects. Take a look!

June 24, 2014 Posted by | literature, writing | , | Leave a comment

Facebook or Blog? Actually neither.

Where should I post? on Facebook or on my blog? There are advantages to both, and it would seem that they can coexist nicely. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and having both means eventually sucking the air out of one… or the other, or both.

Blogs are static and that is a good thing, people can read your posts years after they are written and still feel that they are fresh and direct off the presses. Facebook pages have an instant community of your Facebook friends but living in a dynamic environment means that they get buried in all the commotion. Sharing your energy on both platforms means that at some point you run the risk of losing momentum and critical mass and the site seems forlorn and abandoned.  Which reminds me of mine. 😦

Blogblot is still here after all this time, and although it may seem to some that an old blog is an embarrassment, I don’t agree. I feel that as long as I monitor it for comments it has a place in cyberspace. Same for my Facebook pages. So no expiration dates for me just yet.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment