From Anthony Stadlen: [Please publish this version, rather than my previous
email, in which there were various misprints.]
I have a nearly complete collection of Encounter, and I
looked through it to find (1) the identification of the source of "pale fire"
and (2) the letter from Michael Scammel (see below), both of which struck
me when they were first published. I have also included some other material
1. Mary McCarthy, in her article in Encounter 109: 71-84 (October
1962), does indeed correctly identify the source of "pale fire" (McCarthy 1962:
2. A letter (April 1963) from Michael Scammel: "I was fascinated and
enthralled by Vladimir Nabokov's brilliant exegesis of his new novel, but why
was it published under Mary McCarthy's name? Whoever has read Miss McCarthy's
pale polemics on other subjects could not possibly mistake this fiery essay for
her handiwork, besides which the present piece is absolutely steeped in
traditional Nabokovian imagery (clockwork toys, reflecting mirrors, chess moves)
and presupposes an intimate knowledge of such diversified subjects as philology,
entomology, lepidoptery, Pope, Shakespeare and the Russian language....There are
precedents, of course, for Nabokov criticising his own work--for example one of
his early Russian novels, Dar (The Gift), the preface and
afterword to "Lolita" and certain parts of his autobiographical
memoirs--and I hope that one day this piece may appear in one volume with
[Could this be why it does? Anthony Stadlen]
3. A letter from Arnold Goldman (December 1962) transforms McCarthy into
Nabokov by word golf:
McCARTHY -- harm cyt [sc. cit.] (notable tendency)
book van -- NABOKOV (ditto).
4. A letter (January 1963) from Dr Peadar Mac Maghnais castigates
Mary McCarthy for her misuse of scientific terms and "painful
transgressions of optical principles".
5. The July 1962 issue contains VN's essay "Pushkin and
6. In a letter (September 1962), Dwight MacDonald describes it as "an
inchoate accumulation of scholarly trivia in the worst tradition of American
academic research", and "one of those recent manifestations, which seem to be
controlled by the spirit of that Dr. Kinbote whom he thinks he is satirising in
Pale Fire but who seems to have taken possession of his creator, so
that the book and the present article are in the Kinbotean rather than the
Nabokovian mode". Mr MacDonald asked: "...would the editors have printed Mr.
Nabokov's fifteen pages had they been submitted by an unknown graduate student
at, say, Cornell University?"
7. In the same issue, Vladimir Nabokov replies from Zermatt: "Criticism is
valid only when illustrated with examples. Mr. Dwight D. MacDonald offers none.
Hence his criticism can apply only to a delusion (especially as he conjures up
an "unknown graduate student"--who would have been the redemption and glory of
my years of professorship, had that student ever existed)."
8. In a letter (May 1963), Norman Dorsen writes: "Far from departing
from the Nabokovian spirit, "Pushkin and Gannibal"--which was obviously a
spoof--seems just the kind of paper that Mr. MacDonald's hypothetical Cornell
student might have submitted to Professor Pnin, and with it warmed his
9. In April 1963, Mary McCarthy's piece on William Burroughs's The
Naked Lunch appears. At the International Writers Conference in Edinburgh
the previous year, she had said, she says, that "in thinking over the novels of
the last few years, I was struck by the fact that the only ones that had not
simply given me pleasure but interested me had been those of Burroughs and
Nabokov". She also says: "Of the novels based on statelessness, I gave as
examples William Burroughs' The Naked Lunch, Vladimir Nabokov's
Pale Fire and Lolita."