Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001548, Wed, 11 Dec 1996 11:42:20 -0800

Library of America VN (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Although NABOKV-L has run Don Harington's review of the=20
three-volume VN set, I shall, courtesy of Alexander Justice, pass on the=20
following one--which I preface with the thoughts that 1) Xmas is coming (&=
CHanukha is here) & 2) my assumption is that this set with Boyd's=20
annotations will become the standard for scholarly citations. The price=20
of the set is really not much more than buying the individual papers=20
backs. NABOKV-L shall run a more detailed discussion of the volumes in=20
the near future.
From: Alexander Justice <jahvah@empirenet.com>

=A0Some 40 years ago, the great literary critic Edmund Wilson began
promoting a good, though rather austere, idea for a series of books. Many
of the American literary classics were out of print, or available only in
scattered paperback editions, or in elephantine scholarly editions with
paragraphs of pedantic notes pushing a few lines of text up to the top of
the page. What Wilson had in mind was more like the wonderful French
"Pleiade" editions, compact and readerly volumes, with the texts printed
on lightweight but durable (i.e., acid-free and non-yellowing) pages.
Wilson traveled quite a bit, and in my fancy he wanted ideal books for an
ideal train journey, a long eventless ramble through interesting (but not
too interesting) country, with the perfect serious volume in hand for
reading at the window. Wilson died (in 1970) before his project was
realized, but in 1982, the Library of America was born with volumes of
Melville, Hawthorne and Whitman. The somber black-jacketed uniform
volumes, with their thin paper and generous margins, come very close to
Wilson's ideal, and the series has since flourished, offering a total of
90 books devoted to Twain, Henry James, Flannery O'Connor, Willa Cather,
Frederick Douglass, Raymond Chandler, Richard Wright, the work of
historians, the memoirs of Grant and Sherman, and much else.=20

Of all the handsome books I've seen for this year's Christmas season,
perhaps the most brilliant and satisfying are the three Library of
America volumes devoted to the American work of
Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian expatriate who
arrived here in 1940, and who produced, in
English, eight novels and an autobiography. His
most famous work, "Lolita," a hilarious and
disturbing account of a middle-aged
intellectual's passion for a banal 12-year-old
American nymphet, is here unsheathed like a
gleaming dagger--no amount of canonization can
dull its audacities. The novel is accompanied, in
a single volume, by "Pnin," Nabokov's portrait
(self-portrait?) of a bumbling Russian emigre
teaching at an American university, and by "Pale
Fire," and the elaborate screenplay that Nabokov
wrote for Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film version of
"Lolita" (Kubrick wound up throwing out most of
Nabokov's work).=20