I don’t know Anthony Hamilton, probably because he is a soul singer and I don’t listen to soul music. He’s won Grammy’s and everything! He and this band The Hamiltones (nice) had just played for the Obamas, and they came to the NPR offices afterward.
The first song, “Amen,” is new and he says was his attempt to write an R. Kelly song. The other three songs are apparently the ones that have made him famous. The songs are “Best of Me,” “Cool” and “Charlene.”
I love his American Flag jacket/sweater or whatever it is. And his voice and the voices of The Hamiltones are pretty sweet. No doubt if I listened to soul music, I’d have a lot of Hamilton’s discs.
[READ: January 26, 2016] “Family Business”
This essay was an interesting mash-up of two writers that I’d like to read more of. I am a fan of Nabokov’s although I have read but a smattering of his work. And I have enjoyed what I’ve read by Lipsky, although I have yet to delve into his fiction.
This is a book review of the recent publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s letters to his wife Vera throughout the length of their mostly happy fifty-two year marriage. Sadly, Vera’s letters were destroyed (by her), although as it turns out, she didn’t write very much back to him anyway.
This is the kind of book review that I find exceedingly enjoyable. It sums up what the book has to say and then lets me know that while I might enjoy reading it, I don’t actually have to. Not that he gives away spoilers–are their spoilers if you know what their life is like already? But he really gets the gist of the letters and their life. And frankly, I don’t need to be that intimate with the writer, even if I do enjoy his works.
I appreciated that Lipsky included the basic bibliographical information that is helpful to contextualize these notes: Vera was his companion, his agent, his live-in editor, his bodyguard (she carried a pistol to protect him!) and his first and best reader. She even prevented him from burning the first draft of Lolita. She was as much dedicated to arts as he was (she memorized and translated poetry before meeting him).
And then you see how he spoke to her (this is Lipsky’s quote, condensing the endearments):
My lovely, my sun, my song, my enchantment, my kitty…my multicolored love, my golden-voiced angel, my radiance, my life
My favorite part of this review is that Lipsky “renames” sections of the book. According to the Table of Contents, the book includes letters to Vera pg 1 -525 and then two appendices. But Lipsky has handily broken them down into sections: He calls the first “Unreturned Letters to Vera” (400 pages) which he says shows off the young artist. He told her everything, favorite snacks and clothes and wrote sketches. He is also very grateful whenever Vera writes back.
The couple met in 1923 and he published his first book, Mary in 1926. By the time their son was born in 1934 he had become successful. When he went back on tour with these books, Lipsky calls these letters, “Business Letters to Vera.” It is also the time when he met and fell for a Irina Guadanini. Vera found out and offered him a choice to stay or go and he chose Vera (much to the dismay of Irina).
It was around this time that the Nabokovs fled Russia for Paris and when Vladimir started writing in English. His first novel (The Real Life of Sebastian Knight) almost reads like an apology for his transgressions.
They left for America in 1940, just before the Germans took France In America they were rarely separated so “American Letters to Vera” as Lipsky dubs it, is only sixty pages.
By then Nabokov was established. He was teaching at colleges across the country (and hating it). By the time of Lolita‘s success in 1958 his and Vera’s small business had gone multinational. I enjoyed learning that Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was given Lolita in prison and found it “unwholesome.”
One of the things that I really enjoyed finding out was that Nabokov reworked some of the descriptions that he wrote in his letters into his novels. Lipsky cites a passage (which in this case he wrote to his editor rather than Vera) in 1951 which wound up coming out very similarly in Lolita four years later.
It also makes me giggle a little to hear Lipsky disdainfully trash the cover of the book “its slightly repellent cover photo, the young couple overdressed in a way that seals them into the past” because it really doesn’t show what can be found inside. Much better is the photo included with the essay from 1971 which show a very different time.