Books: Chain Mail

THE NABOKOV-WILSON LETTERS: 1940-1971 Edited by Simon Karlinsky Harper & Row; 346 pages; $15

During their long, lively correspondence, they addressed each other as Bunny and Volodya. They agreed to disagree about Beauty and Truth but fell out over nits. They discussed collaborations but never consummated them. They longed for each other's company, then rejected invitations. They were by all counts the odd couple of American letters.

Bunny was Edmund Wilson, the great comparativist from Red Bank, N.J., who foraged ravenously through history, politics, sociology and at least half a dozen acquired languages to give U.S. literary studies an international style. Volodya was...

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