Famed literary journal and titty mag Playboy acquired the exclusive serial rights to the unfinished final novella of author Vladimir Nabokov. They won the rights with flowers! And also lots of money. And also The New Yorker turned it down.
Playboy actually first excerpted Nabokov's Ada or, Ardor back in 1969, when they were a very popular and highbrow titty mag. But the years have not been kind to Playboy, because the years invented the internet, and everyone forgot both how to read and how to masturbate to magazines.
And do you know who we don't envy? Playboy's literary editor, Amy Grace Loyd.
So. Vlad Nabokov, one of the most brilliant English-language authors ever, had not finished his last work, The Original of Laura, when he died. And he demanded that it never be published, because he was a bit of a perfectionist. Vlad's son Dmitri complied with his dad's wishes for many years, until he decided to just let it be published, because why not. So "super-agent" Andrew Wylie took over, and Amy Grave Loyd attempted to woo him with orchids, a reference to Ada.
Ms. Loyd was disappointed, figuring the honor of first serial was more likely to go to a place like The New Yorker, which had its own long history with Nabokov, and had in fact just last summer published one of his newly translated short stories. Ms. Loyd's worry was not unfounded: Mr. Wylie had indeed sent Laura to the The New Yorker months earlier. But as it happened, according to a source at the magazine, the fiction department was not interested. (Fiction editor Deborah Treisman had no comment.)
On the first of June, Mr. Wylie changed his tune and wrote to Ms. Loyd asking her what, hypothetically, Playboy would be willing to pay for an exclusive.
They were willing to pay more than they have ever paid for a book excerpt before, and they were willing to pay this much without even reading a word of it. And it kinda turns out that the book might not be very good! "There are parts of it that are much more cohesive than others. But I found it fascinating in that way," Loyd says.
But 5,000 words of The Original of Laura will run in the December Playboy, presumably next to reviews of the latest in hi-fi gear, Canadian whiskey ads, Gahan Wilson cartoons, a lengthy Q&A with Mort Sahl, and nude pictures of Barbara Carrera. Pick it up at your local newsagent!