Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000277, Thu, 30 Jun 1994 16:23:09 -0700

VN & Fitzgerald
From: Gene Barabtarlo <GRAGB@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
Some months ago, there was a brief exchange in this space regarding
the comment VN dropped to Mizener about Fitzgerald, whom he held in fairly
low esteem as a fiction writer. It is easy enough to imagine what he could
have said had he read the following passage from a recent biography (by
Jeffrey Meyers):
"F. owned a bloodcurdling collection of photograph albums of horribly
mutilated soldiers, stereopticon slides of executions and roasted
aviators, and lavishly illustrated French tomes of living men whose faces
had been chewed away by shrapnel. In a remarkably morbid letter of Dec.
1927, he told Hemingway: "I have a new German war book, Die Krieg Against
Krieg, which shows men who mislaid their faces in Picardy and the Caucasus
-- you can imagine how I thumb it over, my mouth fairly slathering with
Updike, who rather winces at the book in the latest New Yorker,
chooses to call this an example of "the dreamlike bizarerie." For a
Nabokov reader, however, the oddest thing about this vulgar dread is that
it overlaps, in time and in wording, with VN's well-known description of
the hobby a German pupil of his had: the fellow collected the like
infernal paraphernalia. VN threw it up in glare as a good example of
German degeneracy. But then he noticed certain morbidly crass traits in
his (and Fitzgerald's) friend Wilson, and registered at least some of
them in his diary: the all but sexual pleasure one could derive, W.
thought, from the sight of a kitten disgorging milk when stepped upon!