Dear Volodya: Roger Straus lent me the MS of your book, and I read it when I was in New York — though rather hastily, because I had to give it back, and I have waited to write you about it till I could get some other opinions. I also had Elena and Mary read it. I enclose Marv's reactions from a letter to me, which she says I may quote to you. Elena seems to have liked the book better than either Mary or I - partly, I think, because she has seen America from the foreigner's point of view and understands how it looks to your hero. The little girl, for example, seems quite all right to her, though rather implausible to me. I am afraid that you will never get the book published by anybody except perhaps Laughlin. I have, however, written about it to a man named Weldon Kees, a poet, who has just written me that he is associated with a new publishing venture in California, and that they want to bring out books of a kind that might otherwise not be published. have also talked about it to Jason Epstein at Doubleday. It seems that, when they wiped out your part of the advance on that Russian book we were going to do, there was some sort of understanding that you would eventually submit novel. Did you ever send them anything? I also suggested that he might be interested in your translation of Onegin for his paperback Anchor series. This has been a huge success, and I have been making money out of the two books of mine they have published. They would give you a big advance, but, as a paperback, the book might never get reviewed. To me, this doesn't matter a bit, and I am going to give them a collection of my essays on Russian subjects. If I were you, I'd send Epstein the Onegin when you finish it. He's a highly intelligent boy, very well read and with a good deal of taste. Now, about your novel: I like it less than anything else of yours I have read. The short story that it grew out of was interesting, but I don't think the subject can stand this very extended treatment. Nasty subjects may make fine books; but I don't feel you have got away with this. It isn't merely that the characters and the situation are repulsive in themselves, but that, presented on this scale, they seem quite unreal. The various goings ‐ on and the climax at the end have, for me, the same fault as the climaxes of Bend Sinister and Laughter in the Dark: they become too absurd to be horrible or tragic, yet remain too unpleasant to be funny. think, too, that in this book there is what is unusual with you - too much background, description of places, etc. This is that makes with Roger Straus in feeling that the second half drags. I agree with Mary that the cleverness sometimes becomes tiresome, though I don't think I
agree with her about the “haziness.” (I have suggested a few minor corrections on the MS.) am sorry that we see so little of you. We're going to be in New York for a week beginning December 15. If you're coming on for the holidays, let us know. We'll probably be staying at the Algonquin, but if we're not, you can reach me at the New Yorker office. As ever,
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- Winter '16