...[a] smart, agile, good-natured account of one of America’s most famous literary brawls ... On one level this is a farce. On another, which Beam wisely allows to suggest itself in this knowledgeable and readable volume, it is a sort of minor tragedy — two men, driven to literature at least in part by feelings of insecurity and loss, found and then lost to each other in that same refuge. The Feud brilliantly contours both Wilson and Nabokov in their human rage against each other, places them finely in their milieu, and ultimately elicits in us what each, so profoundly prideful, would have least wished to have from posterity: pity.
...a deliciously smart read ... The Feud is also a spellbinding — and sobering — cautionary tale about how ego and envy can destroy even the most brilliant friendship ... Beam deftly rounds up all the ammunition for their eventual shootout. Nabokov, firing with anything but neutrality from Switzerland, where he retreated after the success of Lolita, does not come off well ... Beam, a witty, concise writer with a nose for sharp zingers and an ability to extract highlights without compromising substance, addresses his reader genially.
The considerable pleasure of The Feud derives from the agile way Beam shows how those differences manifested themselves in the first two decades of the friendship and then erupted into enmity in the third. Beam wears his learning lightly. He has a keen sense of the absurd and is mischievous but not malicious in exposing the foibles of these frenemies ... Beam addresses all these issues and has great fun with them. But his book mostly leaves you asking yourself how prideful and pig headed even the smartest men can be.