On Being in the Center of Everything, With a Nod to the Master, Vladimir Nabokov

So I’ve just returned to my home in State College, Pennsylvania, a name that must rank high on a list of Least Imaginative Monikers, but it does have an odd distinction: It’s (more or less) exactly in the center of the state. (Perhaps to make it equidistant for all the college kids and their parents? Overheard at the local Target: Mom: “Honey, do you need some more pencils?” Son: “Mom? We don’t use pencils anymore.”) About a month ago I was in the center of Utah, in the town of Green River, which has this amusing wall mural:
I like the little dried-up puddle in the foreground, like an homage to the first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece Bend Sinister (1947), which has to rank as the No.1 best puddle description ever. It’s the first novel I read (at age 19) by him, and I’ve been a giddy Nabokov fan the rest of my life. In common parlance, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” If  you haven’t read all of Nabokov’s fiction, drop whatever you’re doing and do so now. Here’s the cover of the first edition.

I actually have a first edition Lolita (1955) and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941), both of which certainly are, in common parlance, way cool.

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