NABOKV-L post 0011809, Thu, 8 Sep 2005 19:50:13 -0700

Jo Morgan response to Holland-Batt review of_Solving LOLITA's
Riddle_: Part
Response to Holland-Batt’s review of Solving Nabokov’s Lolita Riddle – Part

Sarah Holland Batt’s review leaves the unfortunate impression that my
queries re the ‘erotic’ and tantalizing effects of Lolita are unjustified,
or merely my own. However, in SNLR I cited a deeply worrying letter that
was published anonymously in the Sydney Morning Herald on 12 March 1999:

“Until 1966 my father was a responsible, church-going family man. In 1967
he bought a copy of Lolita and read it often over the next year or so. My
mother told me that she was worried about him reading the book and that he
stopped having sex with her at that time. Five years later we discovered
that he had begun to sexually assault my young sister (then aged nine). His
later defence was that she incited him; that she was being seductive and
that it was a mutual love experience. My sister’s experience was of
profound betrayal, abuse and psychic shattering. She, and our whole family,
has never recovered from this trauma. I recognise that a book or a movie
cannot, by itself, entice a man into corruption, but this book helped my
father to feel OK about being a pedophile. That is why I support John
Howard [Australia’s Prime Minister] in his attempt to ban this movie.”

My book also includes an appendix where an adult survivor of incest
recounted at length how Lolita was used by her step-father as a ‘how to’
guide for his sexual abuse of her. This is precisely what some defenders of
Lolita have point-blank denied could ever happen.

Given Nabokov’s strategy of building patterns across his novel, I have put
the argument in SNLR that the davenport scene in Lolita may actually
involve a deliberate patterning of Nabokov’s confessional ‘come over’ error
in Conclusive Evidence. I stand by my claim that there are very real
concerns about the masturbatory incentives the davenport scene could
provide to the (unthinking) reader. These concerns are reinforced by my
general argument about Lolita’s dangerous propensity to validate and
reinforce pedophilic ‘cognitive distortions’ of children as the intentional
seducers of adults.

Can I please clarify that I argued that Nabokov’s account of Humbert’s
initial grooming of his nymphet was ‘woefully inadequate’, not his
electrifying writing.

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