Two things bother me about Letters to Véra, Vladimir Nabokov’s letters to his wife, Véra Slonim. One is lepidoptery, the other is gush. They strike me as self- or wife-indulgent, these missives headed and peppered with declarations of adoration, yearning in separation, brimming with anticipation, glorying in fulfillment, amounting often to verbal slobber. A fifty-two-year loving marriage may well stand out laudably among literati, but need it be swooningly verbalized in letter after letter?

As for lepidoptery, which takes up progressively more and more space, it strikes me as both cruel and childish, unless you are a professional lepidopterist, which Nabokov only briefly was. Why hunt down these exquisite creatures that hurt no one as they embellish realms through which they flutter, to be killed and pinned down for gawkers to crow over? Fine for the boy...


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