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I wonder what kind of ratings this would get these days: Vladimir Nabokov and critic Lionel Trilling and a Canadian interviewer discuss Lolita, art, sex, love, and the novelist’s intentions.

I’ve watched this interview from the 1950s a few times over the past couple of years, and what interests me most — apart from my simple fanboy interest in Nabokov — are the strange little details of the production. The book-strewn set. The bygone formality of the setting. Nabokov’s accent. The seemingly huge number of lamps. The on-air smoking, the mispronunciations of the author’s name, the fact that the three parties all get up and change seats while continuing their discussion. My favorite nugget is the fact that Nabokov identifies something he calls the “artist-reader,” the kind of reader he’s aiming to affect with his work.

You have to wonder how this type of thing might be staged today. Larry King, Philip Roth and Michiko Kakutani on “Survivor,” discussing Roth’s latest while trying to spear fish for dinner. Charlie Rose, Martin Amis and James Woodcompeting in an “elimination challenge” to see who could produce the best meal in 30 minutes using offal, quinoa and chervil. Mike Wallace, Jane Smiley and Liesl Schillinger competing on “Dancing With the Stars”…

The mind reels.

What author would you like to see interviewed on TV today, and about what work? And would the fact that it was on TV change things in some way — would it make you interested in different subjects, or inclined to pick a different author than an interview in a different medium?


2 Responses to “Back with more after this commercial break…”

  1. Pete Sheehy says:

    This already happened in our times with Oprah and James Frey. And as an ex-smoker (20 years!) I will attest that seeing people smoke on TV makes me want to smoke.

  2. MelinaCR says:

    Love this.

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