03 March 2006

When "A" is for weathered wood

A lovely new book (illustrated by Jean Holabird and with a luminous forward by Brain Boyd) lets us in on Nabokov's synesthesiac sense of the alphabet:
Vladimir Nabokov could hear color. As he described it –

perhaps “hearing” is not quite accurate, since the color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while I imagine its outline. The long a of the English alphabet . . . has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized rubber) and r (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and the ivory-backed hand mirror of o take care of the whites.
(via Bookish)

2 comments:

tinuvielf said...

I remember we had a conversation about Nabokov. Have you taken a look at Lolita yet? I haven't been able to revisit that (perhaps I never shall), but I did read his Look at the Harlequins about 2 yrs. ago. It was fine. Annie Dillard raves about Pale Fire, but I can't get my hands on it. What do you think of him?

It's interesting and confusing about being able to hear colour. A person can hear a lot of strange things if he listen.

amcorrea said...

I adore Nabokov (I think this says quite a lot). You should get your hands on Pale Fire as soon as you can.

A lot of artists and inventors had synesthesia--I think it's fascinating.