Another splendid paragraph

by Paul Burmeister

Vladimir Nabakov has been among, but not always, my favorite writers. When I am away from him for long periods of time, I forget what an artist he is with language (admittedly, in English translation) and observation. What struck me most about the following paragraph is the pace at which his description moves through an ordinary moment; the writer is not hurried, and his economic inventory makes quick work of an important narrative interlude. From “A Busy Man,” 1931:

“He opened the window. It was lighter without than within, but streetlamps had already started to glow. Smooth clouds blanketed the sky; and only westerward, between ochery housetops, an interspace was banded with tender brightness. Farther up the street a fiery-eyed automobile had stopped, its straight tangerine tusks plunged in the watery gray of the asphalt. A blond butcher stood on the threshold of his shop and contemplated the sky.”