NABOKV-L post 0004462, Fri, 8 Oct 1999 16:27:50 -0700

Re: Edmund Morris as Charles Kinbote (fwd)

From: Galya Diment <>

When I forwarded the review bit from _The New Yorker_, I didn't remember
that it was Edmund Morris, in fact, who, as a member of the notorious
Modern-Library-Greatest-Novel-Of-The-Century selection board, so lavishly
praised LOLITA. His essay appeared in August of 1998 in _The NY Times Book
Review_ and was quoted by Stephen Parker in his Cornell talk a month
later. There Morris wrote:

"We ended up with an aggregate of 404 novels, with _Lolita_ at no. 1...
[It] seemed to me about right, if only because I had just finished reading
_Lolita_ for the eighth time and was, as usual, in a state of deep despair
over the impossibility of ever writing a sentence that could compare with
any of the flashing, floating lines that Nabokov released with such
lepidopteral prodigality."

I am not sure Morris ever thought of consciously emulating Kinbote -- but
it is obvious from this statement that he didn't mind at all emulating
Nabokov, so Hendrik Hertzberg has it basically right. I have not read
the Reagan biography, and probably won't since I don't care for its
subject, thus I cannot really judge how this biography compares to
Nabokov's attempts at the genre -- as in bios of Gogol and Chernyshevsky.
Won't be surprised, though, if there are some striking similarities,
chief among them, of course, the co-existence of real and fictional
historical characters. That Morris refused to provide an explanation of
this technique in the preface to the book is also, of course, very

Galya Diment