The Paris Review has put bits of its 50th Anniversary Issue online, but what particularly attracted me on the main page was a teaser for “Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Friendship and the Feud,” a selection from the 2,000 pages of correspondence between Nabokov and Edmund Wilson. A sample:
Tell me: Why do you think that Hamlet has always been so popular on the stage in the English-speaking countries? Of course it’s good but this can’t be the reason. Several of Shakespeare’s other plays ought to be more dramatically effective. It’s true that it gives the star a fat part, but there must be something more to it than this. Do give me the benefit of your opinion on this matter.
There are several reasons why Hamlet, even in the hideous garbled versions current on the stage, should be attractive both to the caviar eater and the groundling: (1) everybody likes to see a ghost on the stage; (2) kings and queens are also attractive; (3) the number and variety of lethal arrangements are unsurpassed and thus most pleasing—(a) murder by mistake, (b) poison (in dumb show), (c) suicide, (d) bathing and tree climbing casualty, (e) duel, (f) again poison—and other attractions backstage.