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Vladimir Nabokov: Selected Letters 1940-1977 Paperback – October 29, 1990
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Nabokov's son, Dmitri, and Matthew Bruccoli have created the fullest, and by far the most amusing, portrait of the serious artist as trickster. There's the famous letter to Burma-Vita, in which Nabokov offers the company an advertising jingle (alas, they turned him down). There's the best, and most amusing, account of "l'affaire Lolita." Here is his response to his New Yorker editor, Katharine White: "Let me thank you very warmly for your frank and charming letter about LOLITA. But after all how many are the memorable literary characters whom we would like our teen-age daughters to meet? Would you like our Patricia to go on a date with Othello? Would we like our Mary to read the New Testament temple against temple with Raskolnikov? Would we like our sons to marry Emma Rouault, Becky Sharp or La belle dame sans merci?"
In another letter, however, he takes care to thank White for a "chubby check." (One wishes this phrase had gained greater circulation.) Nabokov again and again comes off as a difficult author, challenging his publishers left, right, and center over issues large (and there were many) and as well as those that were niggling. Calling the British paperback cover of Laughter in the Dark "atrocious, disgusting, and badly drawn besides having nothing to do whatever with the contents of the book," he tells his U.K. publisher, "I would appreciate if you would use your influence and have them substitute a pretty dark-haired girl, or a palmtree, or a winding road, or anything else for this tasteless abomination." Still, one is most often convinced that he's right, even when he makes the large claim that the French film Les Nymphettes infringes on his rights, "since this term was invented by me for the main character in my novel Lolita."
Not only is this volume endlessly quotable, it also reads like a great epistolary novel--fraught with high thought, high drama, and the delightfully unexpected. Who would have guessed that Nabokov would ask Hugh Hefner, "Have you ever noticed how the head and ears of your Bunny resemble a butterfly in shape, with an eyespot on one hindwing?"
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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P.s. Letters collected, arranged, and translated as necessary by his loving and loved son. How nice, then, that I rediscovered this book on my shelf, marked with a birthday present note from my father, waiting for when I had the time to read it. Thanks, Dad!
Nabokov is only the magician in his art.
In his letters one only finds some pearl
hidden beneath tons and tons of anodine