Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003419, Mon, 12 Oct 1998 16:25:20 -0700

Re: Dmitri Nabokov Sues an American Publisher (fwd)

From: "Thomas E. Braun" <cawriter@sprynet.com>

I will say this: aesthetically, Dmitri has a valid point. Look at the bottom of
this e-mail, at the excerpts from both "Lolita" and "Lo's Diary." It's like
comparing Beethoven to Black Sabbath. Perhaps Dmitri would not object so
strenuously if the "plagiaristic" writer could actually write!

Thomas E. Braun

> She said that Nabokov had opened the door to her book by having his
> narrator, Humbert Humbert, admit, "I simply did not know a thing about my
> darling's mind." Speaking of Lolita, Humbert also says, "Oh, that I were a
> lady writer who could have her pose naked in a naked light."
> Nabokov's novel opens with a (fictional) literary editor, John Ray Jr.,
> explaining how he came to possess the ensuing memoir by Humbert, who had died
> in custody awaiting trial. The memoir details Humbert's passion for young
> girls, beginning with a delirious youthful love for a doomed sweetheart. As a
> bachelor professor, he boards with a lovelorn widow, Charlotte Haze, and her
> daughter, Dolores, called Lolita. He marries Charlotte to pursue the girl and,
> after Charlotte unmasks his secret and is killed in an accident, Humbert
> enacts his erotic fantasies as Lolita's stepfather, guardian and lover.
> Finally, Lolita is lured away by another pedophile, whom Humbert murders in
> revenge.
> Lolita marries someone else and dies in childbirth.
> "Lo's Diary," first published in 1995 in Italy, also begins with the editor
> John Ray, but this time he is visited by a young woman with her husband and
> son. She is Lolita, the former Dolores Maze -- the real Humbert Guibert
> disguised her name as he did his own, she relates -- and offers him her diary
> for publication. She never died in childbirth as Guibert wrote. Nor did
> Guibert murder her new seducer. The editor takes the diary, forgets about it,
> rediscovers it later and has it published, while Humbert Guibert, retired on
> the Riviera at 85, lives with a young mulatto wife and plays tennis and
> correspondence chess.
> Pera's book fills in Lolita's life before she met Humbert, relating the
> deaths of her father and young brother and her sexual escapades. It also
> details the bitter Oedipal rivalry with her mother, whom she describes with
> often scatological epithets.
> Most significant, perhaps, is that in this telling Lolita is a blatant
> seductress. From the moment she sees Humbert, she covets him.
> Calling him a guinea pig for her seduction technique, she says, "Possible
> variants: swing a foot back and forth, flutter your eyelids, fan yourself,
> snap your fingers to the music, blow a bubble then suck the gum slowly back
> into your mouth."
> After their first sexual encounter, she writes, "Maybe he hasn't yet
> realized what happened to him: that I seduced him."
> Later she finds him a bore in bed, then abusive and hateful. She takes her
> revenge with a fountain pen in a particularly graphic way.
> >From 'Lolita'
> She had painted her lips and was holding in her hollowed hands a beautiful,
> banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church. And her white
> Sunday purse lay discarded near the phonograph. My heart beat like a drum as
> she sat down, cool skirt ballooning, subsiding, on the sofa next to me, and
> played with her glossy fruit. She tossed it up into the sun-dusted air, and
> caught it - it made a cupped polished plop.
> Humbert Humbert intercepted the apple.
> "Give it back," she pleaded, showing the marbled flush of her palms. I
> produced Delicious. She grasped it and bit into it, and my heart was like snow
> under thin crimson skin, and with the monkeyish nimbleness that was so typical
> of that American nymphet, she snatched out of my abstract grip the magazine I
> had opened. . . ."
> 1955; (reprinted from Vintage International's 1997 edition)
> From 'Lo's Diary'
> Anyway, armed with my two red patches, lips and apple, and wearing my dress
> with dark and light pink checks, I go and sit on the sofa next to Hummie, who,
> poor guy, tries not to notice me for a while. And I seem to be there for
> reasons having nothing to do with him. Eventually I get tired of that, and
> start throwing the apple up in the air and catching it, concentrating so it's
> like I'm not even aware of Hummie sitting there next to me. The apple flies up
> in the air, and I catch it with a thwack, skin against peel. Finally he grabs
> it out of my hand, and I yell at him to give it back. Give it back right now,
> I yell, hurling myself at him. . . . The action begins! Battle! I grab the
> apple, being more alert than he is, and stronger and a hundred times more
> agile. I bite it, and it's like breaking a jar containing a love potion - the
> air is pierced with fragrance. Acidic apple and blood-sweet mouth warmth. But
> since I conceal the main frontal attack from him I take his hand off the
> magazine (diversionary tactic), and while I'm looking around for something or
> other for him to look at - to see better I stretch across him - my smell stuns
> him completely. I find a dumb but funny photograph of a naked lady, in marble,
> so then Hummie, who seems stupid yet very happy to keep playing the game,
> throws the magazine aside.
> (To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in July 1999)
> Saturday, October 10, 1998