Akikusa, Shun'ichiro. Nabokov and Laughlin: A Making of an American Writer. 2017

Bibliographic title
Nabokov and Laughlin: A Making of an American Writer
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 11
Publication year

Shun’ichiro Akikusa’s “Nabokov and Laughlin: A Making of an American Writer” examines Vladimir Nabokov’s complex relationship with James Laughlin. After three years of rejection, Nabokov had finally found a publisher for his first English-language novel, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: Laughlin’s progressive publishing house New Directions. Although often downplayed by Nabokov scholars, Laughlin was among the first publishers and editors to handle Nabokov in the United States, undoubtedly playing as great a role in naturalizing Nabokov in the “New World” as did Edmund Wilson. Laughlin’s distinct view of literature as “art for art’s sake” and New Directions’ promotion of modernism significantly shaped Nabokov’s public image in the 1940s. Nabokov utilized this brand image of New Directions, and went about displaying his many talents not only as a novelist but as a short story writer, poet, translator and critic, though he ultimately parted ways with New Directions for larger platforms after the runaway success of Lolita. In this paper, I will examine the more than 500 letters between Nabokov and Laughlin held by the Houghton Library (Harvard University) and the Berg Collection (the New York Public Library), in addition to a number of key paratexts and peritexts, including publisher’s blurbs and book jackets. In this way, I will attempt to shed new light on the literary “honeymoon” and discord between the two figures, in order to better understand Nabokov’s American years. NOJ, Vol. XI, 2017.