Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita and Pale Fire who is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, was also (with his wife Vera) a profound admirer of President Nixon from the days of the Hiss case, ready to defend the thirty-seventh President and his policies to anyone who criticized him (as attested in several biographies).
Now it turns out that the Russian-American writer also gave a thumbs up to RN’s second cousin, the novelist Jessamyn West, best known for her saga of Indiana Quaker life in the Civil War, Friendly Persuasion, which was filmed with Gary Cooper. Ian Frazier of the New Yorker, in a Talk of the Town essay about annotated books in the collection of the New York Public Library, writes:
Nabokov was also a professor of literature, and in his copy of the New Yorker anthology [a collection of stories that appeared in the magazine from 1940 to 1950] he gave every story a letter grade. The way he wrote each grade in the table of contents next to the story’s title carried the authority of one who expects that hearts will soar or plummet at the sight of his boldly printed capital. Many of the stories did not fare too well, and would not have got their authors into a selective university. Top marks went to Jessamyn West’s “The Mysteries of Life in an Orderly Manner” (A-) and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (A). Prof. Nabokov awarded only two stories in the anthology an A+: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” by J. D. Salinger, and “Colette,” by Vladimir Nabokov.