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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Feb182010

« In Which Our Story Takes A Tame Turn In The Second Volume »

The Admirable Work 

Although Vladimir Nabokov was the precise master of the letter and one of the great letter writers in all of literature, he was often at his most humorous in short replies, even to people he didn't know very well. Here are some of the best of those messages and telegrams.

with Vera in Switzerland in 1966December 31th, 1956

to: GRAHAM GREENE

Dear Mr. Greene,

From various friends I keep receiving heart-warming reports on your kindness to my books. This is New Year's Eve, and I feel I would like to talk to you.

My poor Lolita is having a rough time. The pity is that if I had made her a boy, or a cow, or a bicylce, Philistines might never have flinched. On the other hand, Olympia Press informs me that amateurs (amateurs!) are disappointed with the turn my story takes in the second volume, and do not buy it. I have been sent copies of the article, in which, about a year ago, a Mr. Gordon with your witty assistance made such a fool of himself. It would seem, however, that a clean vulgar mind makes Gordon's wonderfully strong, for my French agent tells me that the book (the English original) is now banned by governmental decree in France. She says: "La réponse de James Gordon à l'article de M. Graham Greene à indigne certains puritains et...c'est le Gouvernement anglais qui à demande au Ministre de l'Intérieur (of France) de prendre cette décision."

This is an extraordinary situation. I could patter on like this till next year. Wishing you a very happy New one, I remain

Vladimir Nabokov

Greene had named Lolita one of the best books of 1955.

March 24th, 1957

to: PROF. MARK SCHORER

Dear Schorer,

I shall be glad to make my contribution to the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship Fund, although, between you and me, I dislike Lawrence as a writer and detest Taos, where, in 1954, I had the misfortune of establishing my headquarters when collecting butterflies in the N. Mexico mountains.

I would like you to know how much I appreciated your eyespot on Pnin's underwing.

Véra and I remember with pleasure our meetings with you and your wife in Cambridge.

Sincerely yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

January 16th, 1961 

to: DMITRI NABOKOV

I have interrupted my literary labors to compose this instructive little jingle:

In Italy, for his own good,

A wolf must wear a Riding Hood

Please bear this in mind.

Love,

Father

The Nabokovs were concerned with their son's romantic misadventures in Italy.

October 9th, 1965

to: LYNDON B. JOHNSON

WISHING YOU A PERFECT RECOVERY AND A SPEEDY RETURN TO THE ADMIRABLE WORK YOU ARE ACCOMPLISHING

The president had undergone surgery.

this illustration by nabokov appeared in the letters section of playboyJanuary 14th, 1967

to: HUGH M. HEFNER and A.C. SPECTORSKY

Dear Mr. Hefner and Mr. Spectorsky,

I want to thank you warmly for the many kindnesses - the good wishes, the beautiful cigarette box, the album in which I was pleased to find myself represented, and the 500 doll. bonus. I apologize for being so late with my thanks and my own New Year wishes of happiness and prosperity for yourselves and for Playboy. I was submerged in work some of which had to be finished by Christmas but was not.

I always enjoy reading Playboy, and the latest issue was especially entertaining and informative.

Cordially yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

February 1967

to: Encounter

I welcome Freud's "Woodrow Wilson" not only because of its comic appeal, which is great, but because that surely must be the last rusty nail in the Viennese Quack's coffin.

Vladimir Nabokov

November 11th, 1967

to: INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE

Dear Paper,

For obvious reasons I refuse to tell you, in answer to your questionnaire, what brand of cigarettes my cousin smokes, nor can I divulge my "choice of shipping methods", or the price of my wristwatch. However: I like you very much, and here are four suggested improvements that would increase my affection.

1. Splash U.S. successes with a little more enthusiasm.

2. Reestablish the Monday stock exchange tables for the past week.

3. Consign, at once and for keeps, Mrs. Sawyer to a mental asylum (this will give everybody more elbow room)

4. Cut out the pop art (Chag et al) and replace it by a Book Review page once a week.

Faithfully yours,

Old Reader

Vladimir Nabokov

March 17th, 1965

to: PLAYBOY

DEAR PLAYBOY ADA FRAGMENTS BEAUTIFULLY PRINTED BUT GOODNESS WHAT ILLUSTRATIONS THAT IMPROBABLE YOUNG MAMMAL AND TWO REVOLTING FROGS

The above was a holograph sent to his wife Véra on their fiftieth anniversary. It was inscribed on a 2" x 4" section cut from a checked index card, perhaps attached to a present, and illustrated with a beautiful iridescent butterfly. It reads, "Here we are at last, my darling."

You can find more of VD on TR here.

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"The Motion Makes Me Last" - Eluvium (mp3)

"In Culmination" - Eluvium (mp3)

"Leaves Eclipse the Light" - Eluvium (mp3)

Reader Comments (1)

TO THE EDITOR OF PLAYBOY
published July, 1961

The amusing memoir by Maurice Girodias (Pornologist on Olympus, Playboy April) contains a number of inaccuracies. My correspondence with Mr. Girodias, and with my literary agent about Mr. Girodias, will soon be published in an appendix to a full account of Lolita's tribulations, and will demonstrate what caused the "deterioration" of our relations and reveal which of us was "so absorbed by the financial aspect of the nymphet phenomenon" as to be "blinded by other realities." Here I shall limit myself to the discussion of only one of Mr. Girodias's delusions. I wish to refute Mr. Girodias's bizarre charge that I was aware of his presence at the Gallimard cocktail party in October, 1959. Since I had never met the man, and was not familiar with his face, I could hardly have "identified" him as he "slowly progressed toward" me. I am extremely distrait (as Humbert Humbert would have put it in his affected manner) and am liable not to make out mumbled presentations, especially in the hubbub and crush of that kind of affair. One can know obscure mythological or historical figures by their attributes and emblems, and had Mr. Girodias appeared in a punning charade, carrying a plate with an author's head, I might have recognized him. But he came plateless, and, while apologizing for my abstraction, I must affirm here that I did not talk to Mr. Girodias about his brother's translation, or anything else, and that I remained completely and blissfully ignorant of having exchanged a polite grin with the Olympian Pornologist. Incidentally, in the course of describing our fictitious colloquy, Mr. Girodias compares my physical motions to those of a dolphin. This, I admit, is nicely observed. I do, alas, resemble a dolphin -- and can do nothing about it, except remark, in conclusion, that Mr. Girodias speaks of those gentle cetaceans with the frightening appetite of an elasmobranch fish.

Vladimir Nabokov

Nice, France

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRay Harvey

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