Brain Pickings

Things Nabokov Hates


Why you should never, ever use the phrase “the moment of truth” in your writing.

Vladimir Nabokov — celebrated author, butterfly-lover, no-bullshit lecturer — was never afraid to have strong opinions. In this short and delightfully curmudgeonly excerpt from a vintage French documentary, Nabokov pulls a Jonathan Franzen and shares some of the things he detests, including:

  • italicized passages in a novel, which are meant to represent the protagonist’s cloudburst of thought
  • background music, canned music, piped-in music, portable music, minstrel music, inflicted music…
  • journalistic cliches… ‘the moment of truth’ — ‘the moment of truth!’

Complement with 18 rants by Mark Twain and treat yourself to Nabokov’s most unabashedly opinionated in Strong Opinions.

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