NABOKV-L post 0011848, Mon, 12 Sep 2005 11:36:39 -0700

Re: Spam: Fwd: 'Lolita' gets a 50-year check-up ...

----- Forwarded message from -----
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 14:00:20 -0400
From: "Brown, Andrew" <>
Reply-To: "Brown, Andrew" <>
Subject: RE: Spam: Fwd: 'Lolita' gets a 50-year check-up ...

I love book chat of this sort that offers so much more than the "shimmer of
errors" that Humbert assures Charlotte should adorn a true society
announcement. Anyone familiar with the workings of the press, and who has read
some VN, must suspect that book reviewers have their own vocational association
known as the Sons of Kinbote.


> ----------
> From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum on behalf of Donald B. Johnson
> Reply To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
> Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 11:17 AM
> Subject: Spam: Fwd: 'Lolita' gets a 50-year check-up ...
> EDNOTE. I run this singularly ill-informed item for the sake of its references
> to remarks by novelist Jane Smiley.
> -----------------------------------
> ----- Forwarded message from -----
> Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 09:21:06 -0400
> From: "Sandy P. Klein" <>
> Reply-To:
> Subject: 'Lolita' gets a 50-year check-up ...
> To:
> Sunday, September 11, 2005By Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
> She's not a nymphet anymore. "Lolita" turned 50 this month.
> While she's not the cause celebre she once was and perhaps her
> literary luster has tarnished over the years, let's not dismiss her
> quite yet.
> "Lolita" was Russian emigre Vladimir Nabokov's first attempt at
> writing in English, a language that gave him the chance to practice
> his love of word play.
> As he and devoted wife Vera chugged around the American West in the
> early 1950s hunting butterflies (he made significant contributions to
> their study), Nabokov soaked in the peculiar culture of his adopted
> land -- the motels, the pop music, the highway diners and most of
> all, Americans.
> These travels became the backdrop for the book's best scenes, views
> of the New World through the bewildered eyes of someone from the Old.
> He finished the book during a butterfly trip and, despite a friend's
> reservations, tried to publish "Lolita" under his own name.
> As Nabokov related in his wicked, witty afterword, "four American
> publishers, W, X, Y, Z who in turn were offered the typescript and
> had their readers glance at it were shocked by 'Lolita' to a degree
> ... not expected."
> It was rejected by the four with publisher "Z" telling Nabokov that
> if he published the book "he and I would go to jail."
> The real reason, he surmised, was that his tale of a pedophile in
> love was one of three "taboo" subjects in American publishing. The
> two others are (he wrote this in 1958):
> "A Negro-White marriage which is a complex and glorious success
> resulting in lots of children and grandchildren and the total atheist
> who lives a happy and useful life and dies in his sleep at the age of
> 106."
> French publisher Maurice Girodias had no such qualms. He released
> the Olympia Press version in September 1955, creating a buzz that
> resisted legal threats and led to the American publication in '58.
> "Lolita" lifted the obscure Cornell professor and his previous work
> into the literary public eye and gave him the money to abandon
> Ithaca, N.Y., for Switzerland. There he wrote "Pale Fire," "Ada," his
> memoir, "Speak, Memory," and translating his earlier fiction.
> "Lolita" would not go away, however. Nabokov wrote a screenplay (not
> used) and endured Stanley Kubrick's sanitized 1962 film version with
> an actress who could have passed for 25 playing Lolita.
> Nabokov's Lolita was 12 when she was molested by the middle-aged
> Humbert, a circumstance is as repellent today as it was in 1955.
> Yet, take away the crime and "Lolita" is little more than a sad>
> romance although it's brilliantly written, slyly funny and
> occasionally moving. The book's contribution to 20th-century fiction
> is its daring to present depravity as a condition of being human.
> As Nabokov said, "There are gentle souls who would pronounce
> 'Lolita' meaningless because it does not teach them anything ...
> 'Lolita' has no moral in tow.
> "For me, a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what
> I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being
> somehow, somewhere connected with other states of being ... where art
> is the norm."
> In the broadest sense, call it entertainment.
> Jane Smiley, author of such novels as "Good Faith," "Moo" and "A
> Thousand Acres," sees the book as "more or less meaningless except as
> an expression of [Humbert's] aesthetic." (She's clearly read Nabokov's
> afterword, but unwittingly becomes one of his "gentle souls.")
> Smiley argues that Humbert's only "higher faculty is a particular
> aesthetic response to a certain sort of girl" whom he can use as
> "artistic materials."
> And, that's what Nabokov does as well, says Smiley, taking deeply
> flawed characters and creating "beautiful and interesting" patterns
> from them without considering the social or moral issues their
> actions raise.
> She concludes that the book is "an example of artistic
> experimentation," but has little other value. (Her comments can be
> found in her new book, "13 Ways of Looking At The Novel," Knopf,
> $26.95.)
> What Smiley doesn't exactly say, but implies, is that fiction should
> have a purpose. Nabokov feels otherwise. I would argue that "Lolita"
> is a worthy book deserving of a 50th anniversary, but not a
> full-blown party with cake.
> It is a singular book, thoroughly foreign to American readers (like
> Smiley) raised on the American belief that all art must have a
> function. To the Russian sensibilities of Nabokov, a good novel can
> take you to a place where "art is the norm" and that's enough.
> Vintage Books is releasing an anniversary editon of "Lolita"
> ($12.95) with the author's original afterword to the 1958 edition.
> -------------------------
> _(Post-Gazette Book Editor Bob Hoover can be reached at
>[2] or 412-263-1634.)_
> Links:
> ------
> [1]
> [2]
> ----- End forwarded message -----

This message and any attachments contain information, which may be confidential
or privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, please refrain from any
disclosure, copying, distribution or use of this information. Please be aware
that such actions are prohibited. If you have received this transmission in
error, kindly notify us by calling 1-800-262-4723 or e-mail to We appreciate your cooperation.

----- End forwarded message -----