Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000229, Fri, 8 Apr 1994 09:02:05 -0700

vncollation#4 (fwd)
Note from list editor: Suellen Stringer-Hye's latest list of para-Nabokoviana
is an intriguing index of Nabokov's penetration into Western culture:
psychology, fashion, ballet, film....and even literature. (And lest we
forget...library cataloguing. [See Nicolson Baker's recent NEW YORKER piece].)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 1994 12:10 CDT
From: HSS3728@TAMZEUS.bitnet
To: nabokv-l@ucsbvm
Subject: vncollation#4

Freud may be injured but Freud is not dead.

In the fashion section of the March 27 New York Times, an
uncomfortable reviewer of this spring's baby-doll look,
refuting a woman designer's claim that "...her inspiration was
very positive and innocent...nothing to do with perverted
sexuality..." asserts,

"...ever since "Lolita" in which Vladimir Nabokov
articulated man's sexual yearning for prepubescent girls, it
is hard to be wide-eyed and innocent about the notion of
sexually provocative schoolgirls."

And while upscale women revel in baby chic and models walk the
runways dressed as "Lolita-style schoolgirls in diaphanous baby
dolls.." , Rachel Billington the author of the newly published
"The Great Umbilical" a study of the mother-daughter
relationship explains,

"...most male designers have never broken the umbilical cord
and what they design is linked to their relationship with
their mother..."

The article goes on to inform us that Ms. Billinton is currently
researching a novel set in the fashion world. And from a
photographic bouquet of baby faces, Sue Lyon beams.

But maybe you agree with David Thomson of the _New Republic_ who
in the December 27, 1993 review of the book _Hollywood on the
Couch: A Candid Look at the Overheated Love Affair Between
Psychiatrists and Moviemakers_ queries:

"So it is easy to echo Nabokov's scorn for the "Viennese
Quack". Yet is not Lolita compelling because of its pursuit
of a taboo? And don't we know that "the first little
throb" of Lolita crept up on Nabokov in 1939 with the novel
"The Enchanter"? Does the fact that Woody Allen made a fool
of himself and victims of a few people, disqualify the
marvels of Radio Days and The Purple Rose of Cairo? Don't
we thrive, rather, on such contradictions?"

The ever analyzed Woody Allen, is further implicated in the
new star teaser, _If You Are Talking to Me Your Career Must Be
in Trouble_ ;a book its reviewer said was "...broken down into 24
delectable bite-size portions.." the first one of which, entitled
Baby Love:

"...explains in the rawest terms how Woody Allen's off-
screen dalliance with Soon-Yi Farrow is but a blatant
imitation of art, specifically Nabokov's "Lolita". He then
furnishes a list with hysterical commentary, of arty films
that warn older men not to mess around with teenyboppers."

More tales of the depraved-- _Lupe Velez and Her Lovers_ by Floyd
Conner reviewed in _Kirkus Reviews_ October 1, 1993 is the
...dizzyingly dreadful bio of the once famous Mexican Spitfire
who racked up lovers like billiard balls and married Tarzan,
a.k.a. Johnny Weismuller."

In this book it is claimed, without the necessity for
supporting evidence that Charlie Chaplin had a 14-year-old
mistress named Lilita Grey who served as the original for
Nabokov's "Lolita".

The reviewer describes this book as:
"A benchmark in the art of paste-pot bio -- and winner of
the Plan Nine from Outer Space Award as the worst movie book
ever written"

Still in Hollywood and revisiting Irving Lazar, Nabokov's agent
who recently died apparently loathing the name Swifty; a
profile of his colorful and contradictory personality appears in
the March 19 _Independent_. He was, according to the article

"...a tiny, bald man with black-rimmed Mr Magoo
spectacles...motivated by nothing more complicated than a
love of deal-making, a sport at which he was an expert. He
was a compelling combination of a street hustler and a
charming,conspiratorial, very refined friend."

With him,
"....books and movies were bought and sold on impulse over
vintage champagne and caviar."

He was rich but could have been richer for he was not _only_
interested in money but also in "... quality and style."

Mr. Lazar was a strange man--he was terrified of germs. We are
offered an anecdote illustrating this fact:

"He was once stranded in a gentleman's lavatory in Las Vegas
with Howard Hughes, who had a similar phobia. Both men were
waiting for someone else to come in, so that they could
leave. Neither would touch the door handle."

Yet from the transactions of Irving Lazar, echoes this resonant recitation:

"Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams, Ernest
Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra,
Walter Mathau, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack
Nicholson, Michael Caine, and ... Richard Nixon"

Back to Freud and coursing the hopeless circuit of accusations
and denials, victimizers and victimized; recalling or
falsely remembering childhood incest a 36 year-old- cognitive
psychologist at the University of California charges her parents
with "a pattern of violation". Among other offenses, her
father is said to have:

"encouraged her to read Nabokov's Lolita when [she] was of
an age that allowed [her] to identify with Lolita."

Her father's claim? He does not remember "encouraging" the book
but had she been reading it:

"[He] would have said it was an important piece of
literature that's about a number of other things than what
it's supposed to be on the surface."

What a relief then to come to Paris, where Roland Petit, who
just celebrated his 70th birthday, presented a ballet at the
Opera Garnier on March 19, 21, and 22. Clement Crisp of the
Financial Times reviewing the ballet glowingly, calling Petit,
"...(the)choreographer to the great ..." the "..elegance
and passion..." of his latest work showing him "...as
dazzlingly a man of the theater as ever". "It is the sheer
craft,the mastery of means, that alone tell Petit's age and
experience: no young choreographer today could be as
daring, and tread the creative high wire with such aplomb."

The review continues:

"Petit's dramatic taste has often seemed haunted by death,
and never more frankly so than in Camera Obscura which
closes the bill. This is a trio whose emotional situation
was sparked off by Nabokov's novel, "Laughter in the Dark."
Petit subtitles it "Love is Blind", and the love of the
wealthy Albinus (Patrick Dupond) for a sluttish cinema
usherette, Margot (Marie Claude Pietraalla), is blind in its
obsession, as in the fact that he is deprived of sight
after a car accident. Albinus becomes aware of Margot's
passion for the youn Rex (Nicolas Le Riche). He seeks to
shoot him but is instead shot by Margot.

It is not his grubby narrative that occupies Petit, but its
inner world of sexual obsession. To convey it, the
choreography becomes more frank, more greedily sensual, than
anything I have seen from him before, the dramatic scheme
more allusive and more potent. The score, assembled from
Schoenberg piano works, is ideally resonant. Performances,
like the feelings they convey, are incandescent:
Pietragella, presented as irresistible flesh is superb.
Dupond catches all Albinus' sexual hunger; Le Riche
admirably shows Rex's luscious physical allure as well as
his miserable lack of courage."

In closing, a quick citation to an article that may not appear
in the usual literary sources:
Feeney, Ann "Lolita and Censorship: A Case Study," _Reference Services
_Review 21:(1992):67-74,90.

The article gives a popular overview to the books' plot,
themes and history comparing it to _The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn_ where "anti-racist views expressed by the work as a whole
counteract the racist statements made by characters in the
story..." and to rap songs like "Cop Killer" accused of inciting
or glorifying rape murder and violence.

While nothing new for the Nabokov scholar is uncovered, and a
comparison between Ice T and Nabokov perhaps unwelcome,
nevertheless, the article provides an excellent introduction to
the undergraduate interested in intellectual and artistic
freedom. The annotated bibliography directs the reader to
sources ranging from Boyd's _Vladimir Nabokov: the American
Years_ to the Jean Kerr "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" parody of
a _Ladies Home Journal_ column in which Lolita and Humbert's
relations are explored.

Any suggestions, comments or queries about this column can be
sent to me directly. Until next month...