NABOKV-L post 0005951, Sat, 5 May 2001 10:29:04 -0700

[Fwd: Remembering Nabokov in "Book Business" by Jason Epstein.]
EDITOR's NOTE. NABOKV-L thanks Phil Ianarelli for the item below. I
preface it with a note on Jason Epstein himself.

In his fifty years as a book publisher, Jason Epstein has edited, among
many others, E. L. Doctorow, Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, W. H.
Auden, Gore Vidal, Philip Roth, Edmund Wilson, V. S. Pritchett, Jane
Jacobs, Elaine Pagels, Barbara Goldsmith, Jean Strouse, David Remnick,
Elizabeth Hardwick, and Sister Helen Prejean. He is best known,
however, as an innovator. In 1953, he created Anchor Books, which
spurred the so-called quality paperback revolution. Ten years later, he
co-founded The New York Review of Books. Inspired by Edmund Wilson and
with the help of McGeorge Bundy, he founded the Library of America. In
1989, he created the Reader's Catalog, the precursor of online
bookselling. He retired in 1998 after serving for many years as
Vice-President and Editorial Director of Random House.
----------------------------- wrote:

> My thanks to Don Johnson for telling us about Epstein's new book which
> includes anecdotes about Nabokov. Here they are for those who have not
> seen
> the book. Most of the Nabokov material runs from pages 73-78, but
> references
> to the publication of "Lolita" are scattered throughout the book.
> "I did not find Lolita repulsive, nor did I find it the work of
> genius
> that it has since been called. I admired Nabokov's earlier novels
> published
> by New Directions and preferred their cold precision to the plummy and
> it
> seemed to me rather cruel, if also very funny, Lolita, in which
> Nabokov
> seemed to be congratulating himself on his jokes."
> "Later, when he and I became friends, I asked him how the idea for
> Lolita had
> occurred to him. I expected a fanciful answer and was not
> disappointed. He
> told me that one day he, his wife, Vera, and his ten-year-old son,
> Dmitri,
> had been driving home to Ithaca from a butterfly expedition in the
> Rockies
> and stopped for the night in a small Ohio town. Since there was no
> motel
> available they took rooms in the home of a Methodist minister. After
> dinner,
> when the minister and his wife had retired, Vladimir noticed that
> Dmitri had
> disappeared. Vladimir found him under a tree on the lawn in the arms
> of the
> minister's teenage daughter. Vladimir told me that this encounter
> aroused his
> curiosity about the sexual precocity of teenage American girls, and
> back in
> Ithaca would sit behind them on the school bus, notebook in hand,
> recording
> their chatter which soon emerged in the pages of his novel. I assumed
> that
> this unlikely detail, like the story of the minister's daughter, was
> Vladimir's way of telling me not to ask foolish questions."
> Epstein says that Nabokov called Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Gene One
> Gin.
> "On a Sunday afternoon in August in the early l970s we met again
> accidentally
> in the Paris Ritz where I had gone to find a cigar and instead found
> Vladimir
> seated in a corner of the otherwise deserted bar wearing a loud
> Hawaiian
> shirt, pretending to be a boisterous American tourist and addressing
> in a
> booming Midwestern voice Vera and another woman, his French
> translator."
> Phillip Iannarelli
> Cleveland, Ohio