In celebration of the centenary of Vladimir Nabokov's
birth, Kurt Johnson and Steve Coats wrote Nabokov's Blues, about
Nabokov's passion for butterflies and scientific investigations
into blue butterflies. Our own Karner Blue butterfly has its
own chapter called "Dancing with Fire" in the book. Here is
a brief excerpt which describes Nabokov's feelings for the Karner
"Nabokov developed a deep, lifelong affection
for this [the Karner Blue Butterfly]. In 1975, when
he found out that The New York Times had used a drawing
of the Karner Blue to illustrate an article about the federal
government's first listing of endangered insects, he wrote a
letter to the editor: 'By a nice coincidence,' he said, 'the
so-called Karner Blue illustrating Bayard Webster's note on
insects needing protection is a butterfly I classified myself.
It is know as Lycaeides melissa samuelis Nabokov or more
properly Lycaeides samuelis Nabokov (I considered it
at first to be a race of the western melissa Edwards,
but have concluded recently that it is a distinct species).'
"He also revealed that is was the butterfly he
had described in a well-known passage of his novel Pnin, although
he attached no name to it in the novel: 'A score of small butterflies,
all of one kind, were settled on a damp patch of sand, their
winds erect and closed, showing their pale undersides with dark
dots and tiny orange-rimmed peacock spots along the hindwing
margins; one of Pnin's shed rubbers disturbed some of them and,
revealing the celestial hue of their upper surface, they fluttered
around like blue snowflakes before settling again.'
"In 1952, reviewing Alexander B. Klot's Field
Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great
Plains, Nabokov described how he kept track of the butterfly
in the Albany Pine Barrens, which is its type locality - - that
is, the source of the type specimen that Nabokov used to name
it: 'I visit the place every time I happen to drive ) as I do
yearly in early June) from Ithaca to Boston and can report that,
despite local picnickers and the hideous garbage they leave,
the lupines and Lycaeides samuelis Nab. are still doing
as fine under those old gnarled pines along the railroad as
they did ninety years ago.'"
The Authors will spoke at the Save
the Pine Bush vegetarian/vegan dinner on Wednesday, January
About Save the Pine Bush
Stephen Jay Gould's comments about the new book, Nabokov's
"If Vladimir Nabokov had never written a line
of fiction, he would have an honored reputation as a naturalist,
and an expert on a large group of butterflies known as Blues.
he loved his butterflies as passionately as his literature and
both pursuits built the fullness of his life. Johnson and Coate's
biological expertise and keen understanding of Nabokov's work
allow us to integrate and understand one of the great figures
of twentieth-century art - and science."
Nabokov Web Ring
Save the Pine Bush is part of a ring of web sites
about Nabokov, his literature and the butterflies he studied.
Check out these links!
Butterflies site by author Kurt Johnson. This site features
an excellent article by Robert Dirig on his experiences with
the Karner Blue. The article is called "Karner
Blue Sing Your Purple Song".
Garden January 2000 article on Vladimir Nabokov
the Vladimir Nabokov site
Books, publisher of Nabokov's Blues