Vladimir Nabokov’s United States immigration ID, from the fascinating story of how he became an American.
Just a few days after Nabokov’s death, there was an invasion of butterflies out in Springs, Long Island. It probably happens every year. But the reason I noticed the butterflies this time was the presence—or the absence—of Nabokov.
Q: Is writing your novels pleasure or drudgery?
A: Pleasure and agony while composing the book in my mind; harrowing irritation when struggling with my tools and viscera — the pencil that needs resharpening, the card that has to be rewritten, the bladder that has to be drained, the word that I always misspell and always have to look up. Then the labor of reading the typescript prepared by a secretary, the correction of my major mistakes and her minor ones, transferring corrections to other copies, misplacing pages, trying to remember something that had to be crossed out or inserted. Repeating the process when proofreading. Unpacking the radiant, beautiful, plump advance copy, opening it — and discovering a stupid oversight committed by me, allowed by me to survive. After a month or so, I get used to the book’s final stage, to its having been weaned from my brain. I now regard it with a kind of amused tenderness as a man regards not his son, but the young wife of his son.
Which is the worst thing men do?
To stink, to cheat, to torture.
Which is the best?
To be kind, to be proud, to be fearless.