Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002334, Sun, 7 Sep 1997 16:18:02 -0700

Lolita as a landmark
In todays NYTBR _Lolita_ is used by a reviewer as one of the ingredients
to define the onslaught of a "new" era on "parochial English life" at
the end of the 1950s.

The review, which appears on p. 11, is of Penelope Fitzgerald's new novel
_The Bookshop_ and is written by Valentine Cunningham: "It is 1959.
Instant coffee is fresh on the market; _Lolita_ is just out; the snazziest
young women in London are starting to swap their stockings for tights."

_Lolita_ is apparently employed as the-end-of-the-era landmark within
the novel itself, where, according to the review, at some point the
pavement in front of a new bookshop somewhere "on the eroded seacoast of
Suffolk" is "blocked by locals thronging to purchase _Lolita_." One angry
old lady, who must have divined that if so many people want to
to buy the book it must be dangerous, apparently manages to appeal to
police who disperse the crowds on the grounds that they make the street

This, no doubt, is a much more complimentary reference to VN than the ones
which appeared in the last week's issue. The lunatics are probably not
those in a long line to buy _Lolita_, but the ones who are not willing to
wake up, have a cup of instant coffee, put on their tights, and join the
crowd. Yet the "lunatics" apparently win, for, in the end, according to
Cunningham, "small-time Little Englandism" succeeds both in closing the
bookshop and in "doing its philistine worst."

Galya Diment