"Oh, yeah," she said. "I told you he lived here, didn't I?"
Of course the rest of the visit I couldn't stop thinking of his big-nosed Russian profile at the picture window. It's a beautifully spare, modernist house, and it feels just like Nabokov's writing: part stylishly European and part suburban vernacular. Its big uncurtained windows look down over everything.
One of the books I keep on my desk to thumb through at odd moments is VN's last published novel, Look at the Harlequins!, which is a sort of fake autobiography. There's an awful lot of moving from house to house in it, which is true to VN's life -- he lived in ten or a dozen houses in Ithaca in as many years. And one of the many things I like about his writing is his attention to the trappings of daily life: the socks, the armchairs, the windows, the cars, the houses. Here's a bit about a different house he rented, where, according to local legend, wife Vera saved Lolita from the burn barrel:
The furnished apartment we finally rented on the upper floor of a handsome house (10 Buffalo St.) was much to my liking because of an exceptionally comfortable study with a great bookcase full of works on American lore including an encyclopedia in twenty volumes. Annette would have preferred one of the dacha-like structures which the Administration also showed us; but she gave in when I pointed out to her that what looked snug and quaint in summer was bound to be chilly and weird the rest of the year. (pg. 130)
Chilly and weird. That's Ithaca all right.
Anyway, living in Nabokov's house, living with the same doorways and shrubs and windows... can my friend help sharing something significant with Nabokov? Just being there for a couple of hours was a thrill.