My good friend Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac say that today is the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita in New York. Nabokov finished the book in 1955, but couldn’t get it widely published until 1958, when Putnam took it up. Publishers avoided the book for obvious reasons - the same reasons that make Lolita more widely known by reputation, like in the titles of other bestsellers or as nicknames for young girls, than it is widely read.
But I wanted to pay tribute to the book because I think it’s just an astounding piece of work - the level of craft is flat-out intimidating. It’s a marvel. I’d love to write something like this, but I don’t know how.
While I understand how difficult the topic of child abuse is for people, even at 50 Lolita is a widely misunderstood book that I wish more people would read.
There was a discussion of Lolita here years ago (I think the movie remake had just come out) and one lady just was going ballistic about how the book championed pedophilia and anyone who liked the book was to some degree sympathetic to pedophiles.
Then someone suggested that her reaction was a bit “hysterical”.
She left the SDMB soon thereafter.
Alas, putting Lolita & hysterical in the Search does not raise the thread. It may have perished in one of the purges.
That’s just one of the many amazing things about this book: just how such an eloquent, passionate, and beautiful book can be written about such a a dark, disturbing subject. Only the greatest of masters can pull off such a delicate balancing act. And Nabakov was writing in, what, his third language when he wrote Lolita?
“Lolita - light of my life; fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lolita - the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap at the teeth. Lo. Li. Tah.”
I am sure I botched that quote (darn posting from a BlackBerry!) But damn he can write. I like to say that there is a genre of writer who impose their voice on the story so much that you are required to acknowledge it as a character - I am looking at you, Toms Robbins and Wolfe - but only Nabokov pulls it off.
I have a first US edition of Lolita - the true first was published in 2 volumes in Paris and goes for much more $. I got the US so I could have it in my collection - I love that book…
Not sure there’s any official meaning–the reason I like it is it sounds like 3 different things:
–Shades of gray–everything is imperfect in this world in some way
–Imperceptible shadings between reality and imagination (gritty world v. what we desire in our hearts)
–What you get if you cross Snow-White and Rose-Red in the fairy tale about the two rose bushes by the front door (which is not so far-fetched–Nabokov was interested in fairy tales, Cinderella in particular)
I remember picking up this book with trepidation, but it defied all my expectations. Now, I consider it my favorite book. I think its a testament to the power of Nabakov that a lolita is a sexually precocious girl and not a victim of sexual abuse. Dolores Haze was an innocent victim and Humbert Humbert was a bad man, but damn that book is great.
Actually, Lolita is one of the few movies that was excellent as a remake of the original (strictly from a movie aspect). I love both versions of the movie. And you’re right. Jeremy Irons was superb. I think it might be the best thing he’s ever done.