Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026562, Sat, 24 Oct 2015 23:50:53 -0200

[NABOVV-L] Back to Lolita covers, Conversation by Siobhan Lyons
<http://edition.cnn.com/> http://edition.cnn.com/

Cover girl: The difficulty of illustrating 'Lolita' persists, 60 years on


By Siobhan Lyons, The Conversation

Updated 1207 GMT (1907 HKT) October 23, 2015


Siobhan Lyons is a tutor in Media and Cultural Studies at Macquarie
University. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the
writer. CNN is showcasing the work of <https://theconversation.com/> The
Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide
news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The

(CNN)When it was published in 1955 by Olympia Press,
imir-nabokov> Vladimir Nabokov's seminal and controversial novel Lolitahad a
s,%20Paris.html> very simple, green cover design. Nabokov himself had wanted
his own particular cover: "I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately
drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in
furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls."

Some 60 years later -- and still frequently topping best-book lists --
Lolita has inspired <http://www.dezimmer.net/Covering%20Lolita/LoCov.html>
hundreds of front cover designs, many of which feature similar visual
tropes: endless lollipops, lips, lipstick, scrunchies, underwear, bathers,
heart-shaped sunglasses from <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056193/> Stanley
Kubrick's 1962 adaptation, sly references to the female anatomy
(strawberries, etc.), and a lot of pink.

In her work
gEACAAJ&redir_esc=y> The Lolita Phenomenon (2003), academic Barbra
Churchill, from the University of Alberta, wrote: "the Lolita image has so
pervaded popular consciousness that even those who have never read the book
usually know what it means to call a girl 'Lolita'. The moniker 'Lolita,'
translated into the language of popular culture, means a sexy little number,
a sassy ingénue, a bewitching adolescent siren."

While many of the double-entendre images of the female anatomy partly suit
Nabokov's mischievous writing style and his playful treatment of the subject
matter, many of these covers take this liberty a bit too far.

They convey the (false) impression of Lolita as a young seductress, when in
fact the character was <http://newint.org/features/1993/02/05/lolita/>
sexually abused by her step-father, the infamous Humbert Humbert, and robbed
of her youth.

The discrepancy between the cover designs and the themes of the novel are
stark. In 2013, The New Yorker's
<http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/designing-lolita> Rachel Arons
explained that "the sexualised vision of Lolita perpetuated by popular
culture has very little to do with the text of Nabokov's novel, in which
Lolita is not a teen-aged seductress but a sexually abused twelve-year-old

Rachel Arons, The New Yorker

Many of those covers are featured in John Bertram and Yuri Leving's book
<https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15945777-lolita> Lolita: The Story of a
Cover Girl, Vladimir Nabokov's Novel in Art and Design (2013), in which they
argue: "If there ever were a book whose covers have so reliably gotten it
wrong, it is Lolita."…Although we have been taught to disregard a book's
cover, media studies academic Nicole Matthews argues just the opposite in
her work <http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754657316> Judging a Book by its
Cover (2007)

The Lolita image has so pervaded popular consciousness that even those who
have never read the book usually know what it means to call a girl 'Lolita'

Barbra Churchill, University of Alberta

ideal cover was or has ever been created, and many contemporary cover
designs certainly would have baffled Nabokov.

The original green hardback design is hardly alluring or meaningful in any
way, and perhaps that is apt for a novel w
<http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jml/summary/v025/25.1moore.html> hose
protagonist is the unreliable narrator par excellence, and whose subject
matter is told with an eclectic mix of black humor and melancholy
reflections. Since the novel itself resists any sound interpretation, a
blank cover -- even now, 60 years on -- might be the way to go.

As Nabokov wrote in a letter to publisher Walter J Minton in 1958 from
Ithaca, New York:

"If we cannot find that kind of artistic and virile painting, let us settle
for an immaculate white jacket (rough texture paper instead of the usual
glossy kind), with LOLITA in bold black lettering."

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