Epistles From the Master

What an inspiring book this is! Even though the trials of the literary life are notorious and banal, there are few of us who are sufficiently hardened to the blows that we don't at least on occasion allow our guard to fall and make the mistake of taking the kicks and pricks personally. Old pro or young tyro, we are all of us susceptible to the whine of sanity and reason, supposing that, at least on occasion, it may be that we are wrong and the world is right, that the combined judgment of all those editors, publishers, reviewers, and professors must have some substance to it.

At those times of trial and uncertainty, we may in the future turn to Nabokov's letters, in this handsomely produced volume—not just on the bookshelf but close at hand, where we can take courage and comfort from the genial master, all silk on the surface but steel underneath, as he so suavely resists the invincible ignorance of Viking; Farrar, Straus; Holt; Doubleday; Harper's; The New Yorker; The Atlantic; The New York Times Book Review; and all the other hacks, timeservers, buffoons, churls, dimwits, dolts, dullards, and dummies whose absurd destiny and only purpose seems to be to annoy their betters.

He is never ruffled, because these vermin just aren't worth it, but an attentive reader can catch at least a suggestion of his exasperation when he explains patiently to Katherine White, wife...

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