My memory ain't speakin'.
January 12, 2007 11:57 PM   Subscribe

I need some help finding a short Nabokov passage. I've exhausted Amazon's Search Inside feature as well as my ability to Google.

In one of his books, a character is describing the abilities of another. They are something like "He can play the violin, he can read books upside down, he can do magic tricks." (These are very approximate examples, not quotes.)

Finally, a small child (?) pipes up and says "He can also drive a taxi."

Obviously, just a book title would make me happy. But if someone would go to the trouble of typing in the (rather short) passage, a reward will be forthcoming. (Hint: in addition to driving a taxi, I also own a used bookstore.)
posted by Ian A.T. to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Offhand, my first guess is that this is a description of Van Veen, in Ada, with the last bit possibly added by Lucette.

My Nabokov books are scattered all over the apartment at the moment, but I'll try to do a little digging over the weekend to see if I can come up with something more definite.
posted by trip and a half at 12:32 AM on January 13, 2007

Is it from Pnin, where he teaches himself to drive a car from reading a book and practicing in his hospital bed?
posted by scodger at 1:40 AM on January 13, 2007

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, chapter 15(p 142 of the current Vintage Internationals):
Pahl Pahlich, who was rinsing glasses in the tiny kitchen, laughed and shouted over his shoulder: 'Oh, he's an all-round genius. He can play the violin standing upon his head, and he can multiply one telephone number by another in three seconds, and he can write his name upside down in his ordinary hand.'
'And he can drive a taxi,' said the child, dangling its thin, dirty little legs
posted by Su at 5:05 AM on January 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thank you, Su! Awesome!

Send me an email (it's in the profile) with a list of books you've been looking for that are likely to be in a small used bookstore, and we'll see what happens...

(Good guess, Trip And A Half. I was so sure that you were right about Lucette I spent half an hour thumbing through our copy of Ada.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:13 AM on January 13, 2007

Wow, Su, good call!

Ian, sorry for the red herring. I think I may have been thinking of Van's general prowess in connection with the scene where he approaches Ardis Hall in what starts off as a hackney coach, but winds up as an "old clockwork taxi."

Anyway, glad someone was able to help you out.
posted by trip and a half at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2007

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