Playboy, 1964: Alvin Toffler Interviews Nabokov

Pointed out by Evgeny Morozov, the conversation places one of America’s great futurists opposite the brilliant novelist Vladimir Nabokov for a wide-ranging discussion that took place not long after Kubrick’s interpretation of Lolita was released. Topics included: lepidoptery, Hemingway, the writing process, languages, and God.

Here’s my favorite exchange.

AT: Many readers have concluded that the Philistinism you seem to find the most exhilarating is that of America’s sexual mores.
VN: Sex as an institution, sex as a general notion, sex as a problem, sex as a platitude– all this is something I find too tedious for words. Let us skip sex.
AT: Have you ever been psychoanalyzed?
VN: Have I been what?
AT: Subjected to psychoanalytical examination.
VN: Why, good God?

You can find the rest here. I really enjoyed it — the conversation will take a spot beside the interview with McLuhan [PDF] as another of Playboy’s contributions to my own personal canon.

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One thought on “Playboy, 1964: Alvin Toffler Interviews Nabokov

  1. What Playboy was at its beginning and what it’s devolved into furnishes the basis for what would be a great dissertation. The idea of bringing dialogues like Vladimir Nabokov’s to the common citizen in the pages of a gentleman’s magazine seems a great example of what democracy is meant to do — not simply reflect the citizenry in terms of its mass instincts, but to actually elevate the citizenry in terms of its contemplative range.

    What Playboy has given birth to is an entire cottage industry (Maxim, FHM, etc.) focused on the titillation without the elevation — a sort of paradox for sex magazines, if you’ll pardon the observation.

    “The history of tech companies shows again and again,” says Chris Dixon, “that having a great product-focused founder at the helm has always been the best thing for the company and for its customers/users.”

    It’s maybe a bit of a leap, but I’ll apply this same thinking to Playboy and its sector. Without a strong product visionary the “elevation” side of the enterprise gets lost to the “titillation” side, in the same way copy-cat startups mimic but fail at replicating the original (Foursquare v. Gowalla.) To bring it back to publishing, an analogy might be optimizing for long-form, high quality content v. optimizing for pageviews/clicks.

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