May 15, 2012

AWRF 2012: Why Lyrics Matter: Brian Boyd

Simon Comber is a singer/songwriter and a member of the Readers Services Team based at Central City Library. He knows that lyrics matter but was curious to hear Brian Boyd's thoughts on why they do. He reports:
 
Iain Sharp chaired a discussion with New Zealand's (and the world's) leading Vladimir Nabokov expert Brian Boyd. Sharp expressed concern at the start that trying to do justice to the sheer scope of Boyd's expertise and accomplishments in a mere hour was going to be a tall order, and sure enough, by the end of the talk the topic suggested by the event's title had scarcely been touched upon, with the final question from an audience member being "Er, Brian. Why do lyrics matter?" This is hardly a quibble though, as it was none the less a treat to hear Boyd talking about his formative years and how his passion for the work of Nabokov had evolved.

Having moved with his family from Belfast to New Zealand at a young age, Boyd found himself working at a bookstore set up by his parents in Palmerston North. He remembers reshelving Lolita when he was 12, which lead to him read it for the first time. He didn't really "get it", but his interest was again piqued when he saw Nabokov on the cover of Time Magazine (May 23, 1969, his razor sharp biographer's memory recalled) and Boyd, inspired by Nabokov's fascinating interview answers, went and got Pale Fire out of the local library. Reading that, he contended, was "the most exciting literary experience of my life." His interest and obsession with one of the twentieth century's great authors only grew from there, with Boyd writing a thesis on the novel Ada whilst studying at Toronto University on a scholarship.

Since then Boyd has completed a key two volume biography on Nabokov, (among involvement in writing and editing many other books on the man), spent longer than any man should annotating Ada (view his work so far here: http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/), and also written two recent books on his interest in the human tendency toward pattern recognition, and shaping our experiences through art into fictional narratives. As Boyd amusingly put it: "Why does a successful species spend so much time telling each other stories that both sides know are untrue?"

He also discussed briefly his interest in the phenomenon that had helped shape his most recent book Why Lyrics Last that whilst Shakespeare's sonnets are the most successful collection of lyrics in western literary history, very few readers managed to read them all due to the collections lack of that overarching narrative humans seem to so strongly desire (though he noted some critics did perceive a narrative thread.) By then our time was up, and with great marketing savvy Boyd suggested that to really get to grasps with the contentions in his recent book you were just going to have to purchase it.


Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:00
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