This post first appeared on cranky dilettante, August 2nd, 2008.
About ten years ago I lent Ali Ahmed my copy of VN’s The Gift. I can’t recall now the precise reason for his request. Professor Ahmed was one of my favorite people at Queens College. I savored our short, energetic conversations about marxism, Professor Ahmed saying, “Yes, yes, yes,” and nodding his head rapidly while we vibrated in the field of students coming and going across the threshold of Rathaus. I forgot to ask him to return the The Gift before I moved out of The City a couple of years later. That copy has become a gift in its own right. It had been a member of the full set of VN’s novels that my parents presented me with when, after the first semester of my junior year of college, I announced that I was going to read every word the man had ever written. Imagine my delight — yes, I just typed, “Imagine my delight” — when the box under the Christmas tree was ripped open to reveal the tremendous bulk of VN’s novels. That delight was repeated and intensified infinitely in the actual reading, which took me a semester and a summer and cued my senior thesis on Pale Fire. Today, at the Cambridgeside Galleria Borders Bookstore, I finally bought a new copy of The Gift.