Sunday, October 27, 2013

Edmund Wilson's Memoirs of Hecate County and the aforementioned bacon apple sandwich

What follows is a funny correspondence between Wilson and Nabokov. Apparently there's over 2,000 pages of it collected. Might have a look in Powell's for it sometime. I am absolutely obsessed with wilson. His Memoirs of Hecate County from 47 is a sensation, the sordid suburban underbelly that paves the way for Yates, Updike, Cheever, et al. Exley wrote an entire book (pages from a cold island) hilariously obsessing over it. It's laugh-loud funny too. I spent a delirious bus ride home the other morning in a fit of reverberating chuckles.  


 I detest Plato, I loathe Lacedaemon and all Perfect States. I weigh 195 pounds. February 1, 1946 . . . Dear Bunny, . . . I was wrong in saying that there were no Russians in Sherlock. It is queer that I should have forgotten the lady nihilist [NEE-hilist] who lost her, or the lovely sentence: "He was an elderly man, thin, demure, and commonplace, by no means the conception one forms of a Russian nobleman." In reviewing various details of my very pleasant stay, I notice with horror that when speaking to Auden I confused him with Aiken and said flattering things about the latter’s verse, in the second person. I understand now the wild look that passed in his eyes. Stupid, but this has happened to me before. I have read your book Memoirs of Hecate County in one swallow. There are lots of wonderful things in it. You have given your narrator’s copulation mates such formidable defenses (leather and steel, gonorrhea, horse-gums) that the reader--or at least one reader, for I would have been absolutely impotent in your singular little harem--derives no kick from the hero’s love-making. I should have as soon tried to open a sardine can with my penis. The result is chaste, despite the frankness. I am really looking forward to seeing you. Your book is causing quite a "sensation" among my literary friends here! 


Dear Volodya: Nihilist [NI-hilist] is pronounced the way I pronounce it--not NEE-hilist. See any dictionary. Thanks for your letter. But you sound as if I had made an unsuccessful attempt to write something like Fanny Hill. The frozen and unsatisfactory character of the sexual relations is a very important part of the central theme of the book, indicated by the title, which I’m not sure that you have grasped.

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