I was stumbling around the book store a month or so ago looking to burn a gift certificate and I did pretty well. First I grabbed a Don Marquis biography (O Rare Don Marquis by Edward Anthony) which surprised me merely by existing--Marquis is one of those early 20th Century authors who seems to have published either a poem or a story is 98% of the magazines that I list for sale, but I'd never heard of him before I started selling magazines. It's a thick old book that I've been breezing through whenever I'm in the middle of something else, though I've kind of reached the point of no return with it, where it is now the book that I finish before picking up something new.
Then I grabbed the Nabokov book out of the film section -- and I mean grabbed, it was one of those great used bookstore feels, where you know you've got something, you better get it into your hands before anyone else dares touch it! I came to Lolita thankfully late (as I think a lot of it would have gone right by me if I'd read it 10,15 years ago) and actually enjoyed Pale Fire more, so my curiosity was definitely aroused in discovering this strange title in the film section. I figured it'd be filled with James Mason stills, but no, I opened it up and saw Dr. Caligari, Buster Keaton and a whole host of film noir photos. I bought it without further investigation. Got a nice deal too, both books were used and I still carry a balance on my gift card, but that's just an extra bonus!
The Nabokov book captured my attention early as it was filled with movie house stories from the author's youth. Really interesting stuff. Anyway, the book was good enough to make me wonder why I hadn't come across it before, so I did a search on eBay and found nothing. Then I checked Amazon.com, they had 3 copies for around $30. Then I went over to abebooks.com and they also carried 3 copies, ranging from about $75-$115. Ooh, I seemed to have found a deal.
Frankly the book had been intended for my personal bookshelf, but I since went back and checked eBay twice more a few weeks apart and still no one listed the title. Well, my curiosity has gotten the best of me and I'm listing it at auction tonight!
Those eBay listings disappear after a while, so I wanted to capture the basic contents of that listing somewhere, so here it goes:
Actually, I picked this book up at a local book store for me to read, which I did, but then I decided to check online to see if it might be rare. Well, I've checked eBay three times in the past month and have yet to find this title listed by anybody. I checked another online resource and saw they carried 3 copies priced around $75-$115 (That'd be on the site whose first 3 letters are the same as Lincoln's first name, or at least what his friends might have called him). Cool, I think it's probably rare!
Here's what's written inside the flaps of the dustjacket:
Although Vladimir Nabokov claims that he loathes "popular pulp," a thorough and delightful survey of his work by one of his best critics does not entirely support his claim. Certain pervasive effects and techniques in Nabokov's fiction could not have been achieved without a broad knowledge of cinema, and Alfred Appel argues with wit and warmth that popular forms have in fact exerted a benign influence on a body of work whose themes are in no way restricted to high art.
Drawing on personal conversations with Nabokov, whom he has known for twenty years, and illustrating his argument with a wealth of brilliantly chosen photographs. Appel shows how Nabokov's writings are thoroughly steeped in film; that film has in fact become for Nabokov a whole mythology, a mental landscape almost as tangible as the landscape and architecture of his physical surroundings. Appel devotes much attention to Lolita. He shows how Nabokov prepared himself for the writing of the book; how he gradually immersed himself in pop Americana until he felt so completely at home that he could draw freely, for instance, on the darker aspects of American film noir and on American comedy. Appel discusses Stanley Kubrick 's movie of Lolita and Nabokov's part in its making.
For a study of the relationship between literature and popular culture many writers could have been chosen, and many of them are included in Nabokov's Dark Cinema; but Nabokov's strong opinions and "highbrow" credentials make him an especially suitable central subject, the ideal lens through which to study this large, important, and open-ended interdisciplinary field.
In the course of Nabokov's Dark Cinema, Appel treats all of Nabokov's fiction, and he explores the work of many other writers--West, Joyce, Puig, and Pynchon among them. He discusses such topics as movie-inspired role-playing, documentary photography, the pehnomenon of the child star, the effect of the comic strip on contemporary fiction, and voyeuristic games in film and literature.
Chapters are titled as followed (with page numbers to give an idea of length):
1. Frederick's of Hollywood, 3
2.Negative Images, 29
3. Tristram in Movielove, 61
Positive Images, 153
5. Dark Cinema, 195
6. Form and Metaphor: Exit Smiling, 257
The book is 324 pages including the index. Pages measure appx. 8-1/2" wide X 6-1/2" tall. Thus the photos inside aren't huge, an example follows, but the following stars or movie scenes are pictured inside:
Also pictured are: Susan Hayward and Gregory Peck, Lana Turner and John Garfield, Ella Raines and Elisha Cook, Jr., Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Charles Chaplin, Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and again in The Man Who Laughs, Greta Garbo in Mata Hari, Garbo with John Gilbert, Gilbert with Lars Hanson, Shirley Temple, Mary Pickford, Jean Darling, Harry Spear and Mary Ann Jackson, Mickey Rooney, Marlene Dietrich, Jane Withers, Laurel and Hardy, Joe Cobb, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Ralph Morgan, May Irwin and John C. Rice in The Kiss, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock with Kim Novak, Veidt in The Hands of Orlac, Peter Lorre in Mad Love, Max Schreck as Nosferatu, Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Franklin Pangborn and Bea Lillie, Ken Maynard and Charles King, Harold Lloyd in Safety Last, Maxie Rosebloom, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, the Marx Brothers, Harry Langdon, Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas, Dan Duryea, Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Charles McGraw and William Conrad in The Killers, Burt Lancaster and Phil Brown in the same, Howard Duff and Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Virgnia Huston in Out of the Past, Farley Granger, Emil Jannings, Dietrich with Warner Oland in Shanghai Express, Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson, James Mason and Sue Lyon in Lolita, Walter Huston, Olga Baclanova in Freaks, Lon Chaney Jr. with Bela Lugosi and Maria Ouspenskaya in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Sam Jaffe --
plus quite a few I didn't mention, several photos of the stars mentioned above in other shots or other films (especially the comedians, and more Lolita, of course), some comic strip reproductions, and several photos of Nabokov himself. That said, there's a lot of text here too! This is just a really neat book!
Here's the auction for Nabokov's Dark Cinema, while it's running at least. It only opens at $9.99, let's see what happens!