When Lorrie Moore, acclaimed author of A Gate at The Stairs and Birds of America, released Bark, her first short story collection in 16 years, on February 25th, critics were dismayed to find that such a long wait had produced such a slim body of work. “I’ll admit that when I first saw its modest size and table of contents—eight stories? One every two years?—I felt let down,” David Gates wrote in The New York Times Book Review. Philip Hensher at The Guardian also lamented Moore’s production rate in crafting a modest volume of stories, writing, “Eight stories since 2003 is not a great deal, especially when three of them weren't worth publishing.”
Moore herself, however, explained to The New York Times that it’s difficult to both publish and maintain her day job as a writing professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Moore, a divorcée and single mother, noted, “There are some men I know who are teaching and writing who are single fathers. But not many. Most of them have these great, devoted wives, some version of Vera Nabokov. Writers all need Vera.”
Twenty-three years after her death, Vera Nabokov remains a revered figure in capital “L” Literature—not necessarily for her own work, but for devoting herself fully to that of her husband, the great Vladimir Nabokov. Vera not only performed all the duties expected of a wife of her era—that is, being a free live-in cook, babysitter, laundress, and maid (albeit, she considered herself a “terrible housewife”)—but also acted as her husband’s round-the-clock editor, assistant, and secretary. In addition to teaching his classes on occasion (in which Nabokov openly referred to her as “my assistant”), Vera also famously saved Lolita, the work that would define her husband’s career, several times from incineration, according to Stacy Schiff ‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2000 biography, Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). With Vera by his side, Nabokov published 18 novels between 1926 and 1974 (both in Russian and English). Through 1976, the year before his death, he also published 10 short story collections and nine poetry collections along with criticism, plays, uncollected short stories, and translations.