Nabokov (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
“Do you know this man now?” As Field asks in the conclusion to this book, the question is, of course, the ultimate one to be asked of every biography. The answer in this case is not a simple one. Auden, Eliot, and Nabokov himself have long maintained that their works should stand alone, speaking for themselves. Yet scholars have long agreed that to appreciate fully a given author’s imaginative scope and creative ability, a thorough and perceptive literary biography can be of immense aid. Field—in the title, throughout the book, in the conclusion—points to the inconclusive and often contradictory nature of facts, both personal and historical, and the elusive nature of trying to “capture” a real person in time and place. At moments, Field succeeds brilliantly; at points, his failures are irritating.
In attempting to write an unconventional and inventive biography, Field has created unnecessary stumbling blocks for the reader. Time sequences are often confusing, with phrases such as “but that was later” or “but that was earlier”; incidents which begin in the present suddenly drop back three or four years. Chronological problems abound. If Field wanted to avoid the usual ponderous overdating which often makes many scholarly biographies such dull reading, he should at least have added an appendix of names and events in chronological order. A bibliography of his sources would not have been amiss either, for he uses no footnotes, leaving...
(The entire section is 1742 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
Atlantic. CCXL, August, 1977, p. 94.
Best Sellers. XXXVII, September, 1977, p. 178.
Guardian Weekly. CXVII, July 24, 1977, p. 18.
New Statesman. XCIV, July 29, 1977, p. 154.
New Yorker. LIII, July 4, 1977, p. 88.
Sewanee Review. LXXXV, October, 1977, p. R102.
Times Literary Supplement. October 7, 1977, p. 1142.
(The entire section is 35 words.)