What Nabokov tried for in his own fiction was to mingle laughter and its opposites: humour and horror, laughter and loss. He insisted that “genuine art mixes categories.” He also tried to find as many different kinds of humour as possible, some fast, some slow-release, some local, some global, some verbal, some situational, some sympathetic, some barbed. ~ Nabokov’s Humour (1996) ~ Brian Boyd
Brian hits on a subject that is dear to my heart: genre. I’m not at all a genre snob. I’m currently reading Stalking Nabokov by Brian Boyd [Literary Criticism] as well as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [Mystery/Thriller]. I feel that an enlightened reader can find the social/cultural value from any type of literature (and yes this includes 50 Shades of Shit).
Despite my lack of familiarity with Nabokovian works (Lolita, Ada, & assorted short stories) it is not difficult to see that Nabokov enjoys playing with style.
Lolita: murder-mystery ‘on the road’ thriller /romance. Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle: Science Fiction / Alternate History / Literature.
Nabokov allows for multiplicities. I would argue that he insists on this and that unless you are willing to accept this fractured literary world view, you cannot truly enjoy or fully experience his works.
I think one reason Nabokov does this, it allows him an ‘out’:
“What’s that!? You dislike Lolita. No worries, it’s a horror novel in which certain players end up dying, so now you can easily forgive me for my social transgressions. Ada? Oh yes, I know it’s full of incest but it’s on another planet. And when I’m talking about the disgusting behaviour of ‘High Society’, I’m talking about that OTHER ‘High Society’.”
It’s an extra parachute, it shields him from criticism (not that Nabokov necessarily worried about such things) but it still works in this way. And why not sample from multiple genres. There is so much good to draw upon, to pick and choose from various forms & styles.
Another reason he plays with genre—I’d like to think that this also fits in with some of his evolutionary theories/view points:
Whatever guided the lobster moth to evolve waspish appendages and behaviour, or the brimstone butterfly to appear leaf-like complete with wing markings resembling grub-holes seemed more deliberate than the expression of a dominant gene within any given allele. Through mimicry, nature developed not merely a predatory deterrent, but living art. ~ Artist, Atheist, Scientist…Creationist? ~ A.V.
Nabokov looks at nature, sees how it adapts, how it shapes itself for the ever-changing present. I think that his use of multiple genre is a form of adaptation/of evolution itself. Why limit yourself to a particular genre or form of writing? Why not sample from all of nature and create a new form, a new species, a new mutation! Nature is wondrous its capacity to change and so too Nabokov.