Vladimir Nabokov: The Nostradamus of emoticons

In a 1969 interview with the New York Times, Vladimir Nabokov inadvertently drifted into futurism by presaging the basic idea behind emoticons. (Via Amos Zeeberg)


  1. This makes me feel better. Emoticons come across as overly casual, especially for business correspondence, but they are actually damned useful.

    Sometimes text is difficult to make unambiguous, especially when something is said with a smile. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of getting really mad about an email or post, thinking someone was being a prick, when they were just gently ribbing. I know I’ve been misinterpreted.

    Maybe kids today will lose the issue with formality. I love writing in the classical sense, but there’s nothing wrong with an expanded toolkit.

  2. I recently read all VN’s books, and believe I did encounter an emoticon; but can’t recall which book and where.
    Maybe I’ll re-read them again and get back to you.
    Or, I suppose if they exist in electronic format someone could search for parenthesis.

  3. I’m surprised no one’s jumped in to point out that emoticons were used by telegraph operators, quite a while before Nostranabokov. I’m surprised no one at BoingBoing knew this!

  4. That reminds me of another Nabokov witticism: when asked roughly the same question by an interviewer, something like “What’s your view of the current literary world?”, Nabokov replied, “Pretty good from up here.” Funny guy, that Nabokov.

  5. Nabokov was genius.
    Though I got tired of the “single guy in Berlin” stories. And the “spoiled rich kid on the estate in Russia” stories. But his genius wasn’t the story, but the writing.
    I’d much rather read a well-written crappy story than a crappily-written good story.

  6. Hope this isn’t too far off topic, but talk about a literary feud! Nabokov vs. Edmund Wilson. It was like battle of the titans when those two started bitching at each other.

  7. There have always been those who dissed emoticons. There have been waves of them coming into and out of fashion. But I have never been a believer in discarding useful things because of fashion. In fact one of the fastest ways for a person to unimpress me is to appear to discard something useful because somebody dissed it on the internet.

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