A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 2
Welcome to our new weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
Great thing about short stories: the best of them will pluck you right out of reality if you let them, leave you somewhere far more thrilling for a few moments, and then—snap—you’re right back where you started. Novels tend to create an extended unreality that we return to again and again, and are often less dreamlike for all their extra weight.
Nabokov’s “The Visit to the Museum” goes right to the heart of this kind of short story dream state. Our narrator is a twentieth century Russian emigré in France. He is asked by a fellow Russian, “a person with oddities, to put it mildly,” to visit a small French museum and attempt to acquire a family portrait that ended up in its collection. Eight pages after our narrator reluctantly makes his visit we find ourselves somewhere else entirely and we’ve traveled through an eerie, entrancing, confounding museum of the mind to get there.
The story is funny at times, a bit terrifying at others. It abounds with the atmosphere of an odd, somewhat moldering museum. It’s clearly about the nature of exile, and yet I don’t know exactly what to make of the story’s meaning—it’s pleasantly puzzling.
Stop by the library and pick up our copy of The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. “The Visit to the Museum” is a few minutes of reading that you will never forget or regret.
Review by Matthew