NABOKV-L post 0021761, Sun, 26 Jun 2011 15:14:40 -0400

reading “Lolita’’ in the company of hundreds of 11-year-old children and their parents ...

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Send me an iPad yearning to be free
(Douglas Jones for The Boston Globe)
By Brock Clarke
Globe Correspondent / June 26, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from someone named J.G. Ekizian. I immediately assumed it was a fake name, and a clue to a mystery that I probably wasn’t going to be able to solve without some help. I made this assumption because when I got the e-mail I was in the middle of rereading Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,’’ and it seemed to me that “J.G. Ekizian” was a highly Nabokovian name.

This is what that great novel does to you: It makes everything in the world seem as if it might be part of it. In other words, the novel, which is about impaired judgment, also makes you feel as if your judgment might be impaired (as an aside, right before I received Mr. Ekizian’s e-mail, but during my rereading of “Lolita,’’ I went to my son’s citywide elementary school track meet, and I almost brought “Lolita’’ with me to read during the hours between races. But then I thought how terrible that would look — a sunburned and sunglassed 42-year-old man wearing a baseball hat and reading “Lolita’’ in the company of hundreds of 11-year-old children and their parents — and I remembered how I’d done similar, perfectly innocent but suspect-looking things in the past (like the time I couldn’t find this same son’s water bottle and so sent him off to his soccer game with water in a martini shaker) and how I’d sworn many times to smarten up, someday — and so I did not bring “Lolita’’ with me, and felt proud of my prescience, and instead brought along another novel, an under-read book that was not about a pedophile but because it’s under-read no one would know that, titled “The Man Who Loved Children.’’) But I also made the made-up-name assumption because Mr. Ekizian’s e-mail subject header read: “Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ is poetry’s first-ever iPad app of the week.”

[ ... ]
I did hear back from Henry Volans at Faber and Faber — not directly, but through Mr. Ekizian, who I began to think of as my Tiresias, whom Eliot employs as the poem’s seer, and also as my Clare Quilty, whom Nabokov’s paranoid Humbert Humbert sees everywhere — and Mr. Volans did make me feel better about the relationship between technology and literature. And while Mr. Volans completely ignored my request for a free iPad — there’s no answer more edifying than the one you get when your question is ignored — he did answer my question about what he thought Eliot’s response would be to the whole project: “I try hard not to second-guess what a writer would have thought, but I hope and suspect Eliot would have approved.” Maybe he’s right. I do like to picture Eliot in the afterlife, watching “The Waste Land” app on his iPad. I just hope he’ll let me borrow the machine once he’s finished with it.

Brock Clarke, the author most recently, of “Exley,’’ teaches at Bowdoin College. He can be reached at

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