Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000299, Mon, 18 Jul 1994 15:43:57 -0700

VN and Wilson

This is an idle afterthought to the exchange of messages arising
from Jeffrey Meyers' article "The Bulldog and the Butterfly: The
Friendship of Edmund Wilson and Vladimir Nabokov" in THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR
(Summer 1994). None of the NABOKV-L commentators took note of a rather
interesting psychological hypothesis put forward by Meyers who hazards the
opinion that VN filled the "best friend" role for Wilson that Fitzgerald
had had until his death in 1940--the same year in which the VN/EW
friendship commenced. Meyers also remarks EW's most-Wilsonian effusion
about their camaraderie after the 1944 death of Wilson's close, longtime
friend John Bishop Peale. Although Meyers does not (so far as I recall)
spell it out, I assume that he is suggesting that the asperity of their later
falling out was in part due to this psychological bond. Disagreement
became betrayal. It is tempting.
A SF/EW/VN triptych with SF & VN in similar flanking roles does
display a pleasing semi-symmetry, but the parallel is probably pretty
shallow. What does "a best friend" role mean in such a situation? Is the
assertion even accurate? It might be interesting to compare the tone and
intimacy of the EW-Fitzgerald correspondence and the EW-VN letters. And
Wilson's correspondence with other friends. Three NABOKV-L subscribers,
Galya Diment, Beth Sweeney, and Chaz Nicol have devoted special attention
to different aspects of the FS/EW/VN triad. If they, or anyone else, would
care to respond, please send comments to NABOKV-L.
DBJ, Editor