European Gaze

March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Reading Karl Knausgaard’s New York Times Magazine piece about his trek from New Brunswick from Minnesota:

One of my favorite books about the U.S. is Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” which among many other things is also a kind of road novel. It describes a journey through the small-town world of post-World War II America, where the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is constantly on the lookout for distractions for his child mistress, and therefore stops at an endless series of attractions, which every single little town seemed to be in possession of. The world’s largest stalagmite, obelisks commemorating battles, a reconstruction of the log cabin where Lincoln was born, the world’s longest cave, the homemade sculptures of a local woman. Humbert’s gaze is European, deeply sophisticated, cultivated and ancient, but also perverted and sick, while the things he observes on the journey across America are superficial, childishly un-self-conscious, ignorant of history, but also innocent and possessed of the freshness of the new.

There’s an opportunity to read a criminally reduced book in a whole new light–one that finds echoes in real-life crimes purported perpetrated out of immigrant disaffectation. I am thinking of the Boston Marathon bombing, among other things.

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