Last Tuesday evening, my article on Nabokov and butterflies went live on the New York Times web site. My editor and I decided on that timing to coincide with the lifting of the embargo on a new paper providing genetic support to a hypothesis Nabokov had about butterfly evolution. But that left a few days before it would appear in print in tomorrow’s Science Times. So my editor provided me the opportunity to add to the piece in the intervening time.
I rarely get two bites at the journalistic apple, so this was a welcome surprise. I beefed up my account of Nabokov’s lepidopteran revival, which started with the work of Kurt Johnson and others–which Johnson recounts in Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius. (Johnson is a co-author on the new study, too.)
And I also added a section about an amazing coincidence: another group of scientists recently published a molecular study backing another hypothesis of Nabokov’s–that Karner’s Blue Butterfly is a separate species. The man knew his butterflies.
The response to the story has been quite delightful. It was the most emailed article on the Times web site on Wednesday. I ended up talking about it on the John Batchelor Show, (starting at around 18:00 here). A co-author of the study, Naomi Pierce, went on NPR over the weekend to describe it. (Listen here.)
It’s always satisfying to see one of my articles serve as fertilizer for blog blossoms, and this time around a bountiful garden has sprouted. Here’s a by-n0-means-exhaustive list of my favorites:
Bioepherma: Nabokov was right–so was Stephen Jay Gould Wrong?
The New Yorker: Nabokov’s Blue Butterflies
Library of America Blog: Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly studies bring together two cultures
John Hawks: Reflecting on Nabokov