LETTERS TO VÉRA

Fans of Nabokov, and certainly scholars, will be captivated by these intimate expressions of the writer’s heart and mind.

Portrait of a marriage, revealed through a legendary writer’s letters to his wife.

From the moment Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) met Véra Slonim (1902-1991) in 1923, he sent her passionate letters, detailing the events of his days (meals eaten, hours slept, butterflies collected), the process of his work, and the sights and sounds of wherever he was. Voronina (Russian and Eurasian Studies/Bard Coll.), who served as deputy director of the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg, and Nabokov biographer Boyd (English/Univ. of Auckland; On the Origin of Stories, 2009, etc.) have amassed and translated this copious trove, contextualizing it with a lengthy introduction and hundreds of pages of notes. The letters, some containing drawings, puzzles, and word games, offer a revealing portrait of the Nabokovs’ marriage; the writer’s relationships with his son, mother, editors, publishers, and friends; and, by inference, a portrait of Véra. With “an intense need for privacy” and desire to control her husband’s reputation, she gradually and reluctantly made his letters available to Boyd and her own biographer, Stacy Schiff, but destroyed her letters to him. Moreover, his letters from 1932 never were found and are represented here by transcriptions of portions that Véra read to Boyd. Nabokov’s letters are filled with such effusive declarations of love and “quirky Russian endearments” that one feels almost voyeuristic in reading them: “My poochums, pooch-chums,” “Pussykins,” “My grand ciel rose,” “my greenikin.” “My darling, my sweetest love, my darling,” he wrote, even while in the midst of an affair with another woman. Many letters date from their separation in 1937, when Vladimir fled Germany, leaving his wife, mother, and son to follow him. Véra, exhausted and “overstrung,” subjected her husband to a “long-distance chess game,” pitting her desires against his. She won, as usual.

Fans of Nabokov, and certainly scholars, will be captivated by these intimate expressions of the writer’s heart and mind.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-307-59336-8

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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