restricted access A Portrait of the Editor as a Muggle
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A Portrait of the Editor as a Muggle: Among the perils of parenthood is having your children spend their allowance on treating you to two showings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I confess that half-way through the second showing I fervently wished that someone on the screen would start a casual conversation about what Big Macs are called in Paris or what constitutes appropriate punishment for giving a foot massage to the wife of one's boss. While the children in the Harry Potter audience identified various characters for their parents, I kept asking myself what Nabokov would have thought about Harry Potter. The question made sense because of Rowling's appreciation of Nabokov's writing, Nabokov's own interest in magic and enchanting , his relishing of his outsider status, and his superb talent for conveying the imaginative life of children. Yet by the time Harry had made it to the mirror that shows those who look into it their hearts' fondest desires, the better angels of my editorial nature appeared to whisper in my ear that speaking for Nabokov would be more than mildly comical. Such a ludicrous act could also have unwarranted consequences. A representative or a recognizable critical phenotype of Nabokov subscribed to publicly by the editor of a journal devoted to this polymath artist struck me as a singularly bad idea, and not only because I would be creating space for a slew of essays with titles like "Wizards are Never Alone: Nabokov and Rowling on Childhood Alienation" or "Romancing the Otherworld : Martin Edelweiss on Platform 9 3/4." Dwelling on undesirable but less humorous consequences of such a move, I recollected two incidents connected with the skewy logic of article submissions. Though they sound invented, I assure you they did take place. Like talking about money at those pool parties described by John Cheever, I suppose it is bad form to talk about particular editorial decisions and the reactions to them. But I feel compelled to violate decorum here and report these two anecdotes, since over the years I have come to think of the persons involved in them as astute and accomplished friends of the journal and since the two incidents describe the two most common misconceptions about our editorial process. They also suggest how such misconceptions may be cleared up. The first involved the author of a rejected manuscript letting me know that he bore me no ill will since he fully understood that his article was not suitable for Nabokov Studies given Nabokov 's "hang-ups" about homosexuality and the journal's failure to recognize that we live in the Age of Foucault. Free of all irony and full of righteous ardor, the statement stunned me but not because I had suddenly realized that we live in the Age of Foucault. Nabokov's interests do indeed define the thematic range of this journal. His "hang-ups," however, do not limit that thematic range since homosexuality is one of the persistent themes in his work. What stunned me was that the author of the putative article had never bothered to look over the previous Nabokov Studies issues of Nabokov Studies. Even a simple check of the table of contents would have revealed that neither Foucault nor homosexuality has ever been off limits. The second incident is a more curious one. Two years ago an offprint of an essay crossed my desk and made me pause over the disarming and charmingly old-fashioned hand-written message on the blue envelope: "One man's loss is another man's gain." On closer inspection the essay identified itself as one of the essays both outside manuscript readers had turned down during the previous editorial cycle. That the essay had just been published by another reputable journal explained the handwritten note. At first I did not quite understand the purpose of that little blue-enveloped cup of proverbial sour grapes. Now, however , in light cast by the dawn of the Age of Harry Potter, I understand why the offprint should have been intended to produce the heady drink of regret. I can register only comic indignation upon discovering that for authors of rejected...