Question posed last week on the BBC TV Mastermind Quiz:
“Which 20th century novel starts
‘Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul?’”

[Gasps of disbelieving horror!]

Quiz master, John Humphrys: “No. Lolita.”


Review by John Derbyshire of two new Samuel Johnson biographies (by Jeffrey Meyers and Peter Martin). John discusses the epilogue to Meyers’ “Samuel Johnson: The Struggle” which deals with SJ’s influence on six later writers, including Woolf, Beckett and Nabokov.

“Nabokov coped better [than Beckett] though more subtly, with Johnson’s huge shadow. His strange 1962 novel ‘Pale Fire’ is, Meyers tells us, shot through with Johnsonian and Boswellian allusions. We get over seven pages on this. I should like to read ‘Pale Fire’ again before passing judgement on Meyers’s interpretation. It is Nabokov’s most playful, most convoluted novel (which is saying a lot) -- THE KIND OF THING AN INGENIOUS THEORIST MIGHT READ ALMOST ANYTHING INTO.”

These are MY CAPS, triggered by the fact that I’m in media res enthralled with  Priscilla Meyer’s [no relation to Jeffrey Meyers!] FIND  WHAT THE SAILOR HAS HIDDEN (Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1988). “Ingenious Theory” is the perfect description of Priscilla’s mix’n’match allusion-juggling. More anon.

Stan Kelly-Bootle

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All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.