Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002345, Thu, 11 Sep 1997 11:34:54 -0700

K. White and VN
Since we are on the subject of Angell, White, and VN, I just recently
looked at the 1987 biography of Katharine White by Linda H. Davis
(_Onward and Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White_; Harper). She
devotes quite a few pages there to White's relationship with Nabokov. Here
are some more amusing bits of it:

"Since Nabokov had learned English primarily, it seems, from studying the
unabridged Oxford English Dictionary (and perhaps studying Latin
simultaneously, Katharine theorized), his use of obsolete words and words
with Latin roots rather than their Anglo-Saxon equivalents was, Katharine
White thought, perhaps inevitable. In any case, editing Nabokov could be
a headache. In a letter to Andy [White's second husband, E.B. White]
Katharine wrote that she was swamped with work from contributors,
including 'a very long and very badly written but funny and bitter one by
Nabokov who does not want me to edit it except for a word or two whereas
it has to be turned by me into English and cut and transferred from the
past to the present'" (147). [The letter was written in 1945, so the
piece was probably VN's "Double Talk," the first one to be published by
the _New Yorker_. Brian Boyd discusses the VN and KW heated back-and
forths on the story and how -- and whether -- it should be edited in the
"Permanent Impermanence" chapter of the _American Years_.]

"Katharine handled this prized writer carefully, like an exotic hothouse
flower" (149).

Davis also quotes from a letter of Harold Ross, the founding editor of the
_New Yorker,_ who wrote to White on the occasion of Nabokov's appointment
at Cornell in 1948: "Mrs. White: Would appreciate being notified if he's
going to become a professor of English. I may cut my throat. We seem to
have played a part in getting him the job, or the offer" (148).

Galya Diment