Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022080, Thu, 13 Oct 2011 01:43:36 -0300

Re: Hazel Shade-Lolita and Dorothy Parker
Frances Assa [to JM's N-L query*]: "Hold on a minute. Nabokov had already written and submitted the ms. of Lolita to Katherine White of the New Yorker before that magazine ever published Dorothy Parker's short story of the same name. Ergo neither Nabokov nor Parker could have known of each other's work. Pure coincidence, no? "

JM: I did a quick search using the Google. Your information about D.Parker's 1955 "Lolita" in The New Yorker is confirmed in an article written by Leland de la Durantaye.** Another interesting item is Dorothy Parker's review of Nabokov's "Lolita."***

However, in a Penguin edition ("The Sexes", 2011) the original short-story "Lolita" by D.Parker was mentioned as one of the stories published in "The Portable Dorothy Parker" in 1944. I no longer have the copy to check again if I misunderstood their information.
Besides, Hazel Shade was created in the early sixties and now it seems that Nabokov could have read Parker's 1955 "Lolita." My comparison was unrelated to the text or the style in the two Lolitas, but to a kind of cynicism which might have been shared by both writers and inspired the creation of Hazel. As you poointed out I got no objective data to confirm my hunch.

* - "The cynical trait lurking behind the creation of sweet John Shade seems to have impressed me more than it seems to have struck Pale Fire's throng of admirers.
Today I found an echo for it, as improbable as it seems to be. It derives from cruelly finnicky Dorothy Parker's writings..I glimpsed Hazel Shade in Lolita! ("The Portable Dorothy Parker," 1944. Reproduced in part by Penguin Modern Classics, in 2011) Although I set J.Shade's lines close to D.Parker's, it's not because there's a possible literary match between them. Not even in spirit! A match, if there is one, would lie in V.Nabokov's and D. Parker's shared cruelty to their characters, particularly the smug relationship bt parents and their children and self-absorbingly detailed conversations."

** Nabokov sent his manuscript to his editor at The New Yorker, Katharine White, stipulating that no one but her or her husband was to read it. He was understandably perplexed some months later when he found in that same magazine a story by Dorothy Parker telling of a widow and her daughter competing for the affections of an older man—entitled "Lolita." White assured him that this was pure coincidence. The Original of Lolita, Sep 6 2005, Leland de la Durantaye. The Original of Lolita - Page 1 - Books - New York - Village Voice

*** Hefner, Lolita and Dorothy Parker's review of Nabokov circa '58 - "Hugh Hefner acquires serial rights to Nabokov's unfinished work however, I've mixed feelings, like many. My mind rewinds to the time I read Dorothy Parker's review of Lolita.Here's her review for your purview, for Esquire, in '58. She begins by outlining the publishing troubles both in England and Paris, then quotes one review by the English critic, John Gordon of the London Sunday Express. "Without doubt it is the filthiest book I ever read. Sheer unrestrained pornography."
Ms. Parker begins; "I do not think that Lolita is a filthy book. I cannot regard it as pornography, either sheer, unrestrained, or any other kind. It is the engrossing, anguished story of a man, a man of taste and culture, who can love only little girls. They must be between the ages of nine and fourteen, and he calls them nymphets."
The middle bits focus on Lolita, "She is a dreadful little creature, selfish, hard, vulgar, and foul-tempered. He knows that he knows all of what she is. That the knowledge cannot turn away his obsession with her is his agony. An anguished book, but sometimes, wildly funny, as in the saga of his travel across and around the United States with her; and in the account of that trek are descriptions of the American hinterlands that Sinclair Lewis could never touch." Then she heads towards the end with "It is in its writing that Mr. Nabokov has made it the work of art that it is...his command of the English language is absolute, and his Lolita is a fine book, a distinguished book-all right, then-a great book. And how are you, John Gordon, Esq., of the London Sunday Express?" This, I find, is the difference between reading a 'thrilling modern critic' critique the world by keeping it average, like Ellsworth Toohey, and reading one writer's adroit review of another, so verily well. Hefner, Lolita and Dorothy Parker's review of Nabokov circa '58
baileyalexander.typepad.com/.../hefner-lolita-an... - 10 Jul 2009 –

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