Jun 27

Nabokov's Day Job

Today I learned that Vladimir Nabokov spent six years in the 1940s organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. He told species apart by looking at their (microscopic) genitals and wouldn't consider any other way. He collected their genitals. His books are loaded with butterfly references and inferences. In upstate New York he discovered and named the tiny Karner Blue butterfly. Apparently it doesn't hurt one's career to obsess about something in life besides writing (if, like Nabokov, you can rely on your wife to drive you everywhere and run the household -- i.e., you have "an angel in the house"). But a 3-inch beauty from Missouri I photographed today -- although it looks blue and black to me -- is in fact called a "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly -- Limenitis arthemis astyanax, as Nabokov might say.