Nabokov and Edmund Wilson: the feud

La-ckellogg-1480989670-snap-photoTyler Malone at the LA Times:

Novelist Vladimir Nabokov is not only one of the midcentury masters of prose but also, arguably, our greatest literary cartographer. The author of such masterworks as “Lolita” and “Pale Fire” often sketched maps of the settings of his favorite novels. One can easily find online his diagram of the trek Leopold Bloom takes across the Dublin of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” his layout of the Samsa family flat in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and his topography of Sotherton Court from Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park.” The ability to create maps from text, to envision spatially the events of a novel in detail, is a special one, and it typifies the obsessive creativity of Nabokov, one of the gods of both Russian and American letters.

Alex Beam, in his new literary biography, “The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship,” becomes a cartographer of a different type as he maps out the contours of a friendship-turned-feud. Edmund Wilson, Nabokov’s foil here, is less known now than his Russian competitor, but there was a time when he was one of the premier American critics.

Beam’s book gives us a brief but detailed sketch of how two erudite men of letters went from intimate confraternity to bitter enmity in the span of a few decades.

Their friendship began in 1940 when Nicolas Nabokov, an émigré composer who rented a house across the street from Wilson in Wellfleet, Mass., asked his neighbor if he would help his cousin Vladimir, a struggling novelist who had recently arrived in the States. “Do whatever you can,” he implored.

more here.