How to be interviewed

I love this exchange in the Paris Review‘s interview of Nabokov:


Did you learn from your students at Cornell? Was the experience purely a financial one? Did teaching teach you anything valuable?


My method of teaching precluded genuine contact with my students. At best, they regurgitated a few bits of my brain during examinations. Every lecture I delivered had been carefully, lovingly handwritten and typed out, and I leisurely read it out in class, sometimes stopping to rewrite a sentence and sometimes repeating a paragraph—a mnemonic prod which, however, seldom provoked any change in the rhythm of wrists taking it down. I welcomed the few shorthand experts in my audience, hoping they would communicate the information they stored to their less fortunate comrades. Vainly I tried to replace my appearances at the lectern by taped records to be played over the college radio. On the other hand, I deeply enjoyed the chuckle of appreciation in this or that warm spot of the lecture hall at this or that point of my lecture. My best reward comes from those former students of mine who, ten or fifteen years later, write to me to say that they now understand what I wanted of them when I taught them to visualize Emma Bovary’s mistranslated hairdo or the arrangement of rooms in the Samsa household or the two homosexuals in Anna Karenina. I do not know if I learned anything from teaching, but I know I amassed an invaluable amount of exciting information in analyzing a dozen novels for my students. My salary as you happen to know was not exactly a princely one.

Those analyses of novels (collected in his Lectures on Literature) are among my most prized possessions.

Can you imagine how he would have figured in Rate my Professors!