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A rich treat for Nabokov’s admirers.

Scores of interviews reveal Nabokov’s sly wit and powerful opinions.

Award-winning biographer, editor, and literary critic Boyd (English/Univ. of Auckland; Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition and Shakespeare's Sonnets, 2012, etc.) and scholar and translator Tolstoy (Junior Research Fellow/University of Oxford; co-translator: Nabokov’s The Tragedy of Mister Morn, 2013) have gathered more than 150 uncollected writings by the prolific Nabokov (Letters to Véra, 2014, etc.): essays, reviews, questionnaire responses, letters to editors, and—accounting for the majority of the pieces—interviews, most dating from the “post-Lolita years of world fame.” An informative introduction places the selections in the context of Nabokov’s life and writing career. After Lolita appeared in 1958, interviewers pressed Nabokov about not only the book, but also opinions of other writers, his decision to live in America (the “country where I’ve breathed most deeply,” he said), his interest in butterflies, and his assessment of his own work. Boyd has condensed some of the more repetitive interviews. Nabokov claimed that his favorite book was the just-published Lolita, “the story of a poor, charming girl” who was “caught up by a disgusting and cruel man.” To the suggestion that any of his books could be elucidated by Freudian interpretation, he was indignant: Freud, he proclaimed, “has been one of the most pernicious influences on literature…a medieval mind dealing in medieval symbols.” Psychoanalysis, he added, “has something Bolshevik: internal police.” Nabokov had similarly vehement opinions about a host of writers: Dostoevsky was “a journalist, like Balzac,” and “Camus is a third-rate novelist.” He admired Hemingway’s short stories, but he thought his novels were “abominable.” Of Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak, Nabokov derided Dr. Zhivago as “a sorry thing, full of clichés, clumsy, trivial and melodramatic.” J.D. Salinger, though, was “a great, wonderful writer—the best American novelist.” When asked what other career he might have chosen “if the muse failed,” Nabokov suggested a lepidopterist, chess grandmaster, or a “tennis ace with an unreturnable service.”

A rich treat for Nabokov’s admirers.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-87491-2

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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