Nabokov’s ‘great gay comic novel’

Edmund White in the Times Literary Supplement:

ScreenHunter_2255 Sep. 30 21.03I never met Vladimir Nabokov face to face, though I exchanged phone calls and letters with him. My psychiatrist encouraged me to visit him in Switzerland, but I was too afraid that I would quickly sabotage close-up whatever good impression I might have managed to create long-distance. As an editor at the American Saturday Review, I had orchestrated a cover story dedicated to Nabokov on the publication of his novel Transparent Things (1972), and sent Antony Armstrong-Jones to take a portfolio of photographs, including one that showed the novelist dressed as Borges in a poncho. (My boss had wanted to send a great artistic photographer such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, but I believed Nabokov would be more amused by Armstrong-Jones, the Earl of Snowdon, who had been married to Princess Margaret since 1960 and was, I guessed, more polished than the austere French genius. The two men got along famously.) Nabokov wrote a short piece on “Inspiration” for us, which I illustrated with a reproduction of “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon Gérôme, a big bad nineteenth-century painting of the infatuated sculptor embracing his creation as she turns from marble to flesh, feet last.

A number of tiny errors, typographic and even grammatical, had crept into Nabokov’s text. I had the copy set twice in print, my version and his, and sent them both by overnight express. He wired back, “your version perfect”. In the Nabokov “number” I included rather grudging essays by Joyce Carol Oates, William Gass and Joseph McElroy – and of course my own ecstatic response.

More here.

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