Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

August 26, 2006

The birth of a new word: blogesthesia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:43 pm

I was trying to decide what my very first post would be. After all it will inevitably seem defining, even if it isn’t meant to be. So I was running some of the possible first posts I had in mind past the photographer Nina Roberts. I should mention that THIS Nina Roberts (at Ninaroberts.net) is NOT the same as THIS Nina Roberts, a famous French porn star at ninaroberts.com. (It can cause embarassing googling confusion). Although they are both beautiful in their own way, the Nina Roberts I was consulting (and who has taken two book jacket photos of me) is best known for her talents behind, rather than in front of, the camera.

Anyway I was telliing her about my possible initial blog posts. There was one on a new Salinger anthology, one on a “phone phreak” documentary, one on Luke Menand’s Dylan essay in The New Yorker, one that managed to plug my new book, The Shakespeare Wars. And I’ll get around to all of them. But this will be a blog about my obsessions and when I brought up another obsession of mine–Nabokov–Nina told me of a discovery she’d recently made.

A strange new Nabokovian book she’d found in one of our favorite New York City book stores, St Marks Bookshop. A book called Vladimir Nabokov:Alphabet in Colors, by Jean Holabird with a brilliant Foreword by Nabokov biographer and scholar Brian Boyd.


It’s a fascinating excursus on Nabokov’s famous “synesthesia”, a condition defined as “a ‘mixing of the senses which manifested itself for [Nabokov] as the involuntary attribution of colors to the sounds of letters.”

For Nabokov, the sound of “k: for instance was “huckleberry” colored, “t” pistachio. In The Shakespeare Wars I’d devoted considerable attention to the unique sort of sound-and-sight synesthesia Bottom the Weaver describes when he awakens from his dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen” what bottomless vision Bottom experienced in his dream.

Ms. Holabird’s book is a lovely set of colored drawings of the letters of the alphabet and their colors as described by Nabokov. But talking about it with Nina gave me another idea, another word form:” blogesthesia.

Which would be the kind of thing I like to do best in cultural criticism: see pop culture through the lense of high culture, hear high culture themes in the voices of low culture. See politics through the lense of culture and culture through the lense of politics.

So let that serve as a mission statement for what follows. I like to mix things up. Like the two Nina Roberts.

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