At the Atlantic, Koa Beck writes about the spouses of famous writers who supported their partner’s writing careers, often devoting their lives to it. Vera Nabokov epitomized this: She not only performed the duties of cleaning and cooking expected of her as a wife in her era, but also worked as her husband’s “round-the-clock editor, assistant, and secretary”:

To some writers, Vera Nabokov remains much more than “just a wife,” but rather a template for an enviable asset. It’s undeniably easier to prioritize one’s art with a 24/7 writing coach who also manages “the mini-country that is home,” to quote novelist Allison Pearson.

As Laura Miller recently pointed out in Salon, Virginia Woolf and Edna St. Vincent Millay each benefited greatly from truly anomalous marriages of their time, in which their respective husbands assumed a Vera-esque role. Millay’s husband, Eugen Boissevain, reportedly described himself as a feminist and “married the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay with the express purpose of providing her with a stable home life and relieving her of domestic tasks so she could write.” By the time Millay died, she had written six plays and more than a dozen books of poetry. While Leonard Woolf cared for Virginia during her bouts of mental illness, he also managed the household, tended to the garden, and co-founded the couple’s literary press. Throughout his dedication to his wife’s craft—and her general well-being—he also managed to have a literary career of his own, producing both novels and stories while maintaining editorships at several journals. Claire Messud wrote in The New York Times that the Woolf partnership was one of “extraordinary productivity.” In her lifetime, Woolf published nine novels, two biographies, and several collections of essays and short stories—among other works.

But not all gifted writers are blessed with Veras (or Leonards or Eugens for that matter). At a promotional reading of Bark at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, [Lorrie] Moore clarified to me—and a room’s worth of fans—that she absolutely does not have a Vera. “I do every little thing myself,” she said.

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