by Suellen Stringer-Hye
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
Vanderbilt University

How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?--Is America ready for Lolita? Why is the interrogative essential for marketing Lolita? As has already been announced on this list, RandomHouse Audio has recently released the "Unabridged, Uncensored" 12 hour, 8 cassette reading of Nabokov's Lolita by Jeremy Irons. Irons does a superb job of rendering through intonation and phrasing Humbert's subtle diabolism and supreme blindness. Several reviews have appeared, not the least of which is Jeff Edmunds' blurb in Zembla

In the April 18 Entertainment Weekly it was called: "the bedtime story of the week." Ben Harte, in the May 12 People Weekly, said:

Jeremy Iron's air of faintly arid detachment and a penchant for the minor key add up to an ideal match for Vladimir Nabokov's mordant and melancholy classic.

Favorable reviews appeared in both the March 3 Publisher's Weekly and the April 15 Library Journal.


Not only songs with Lolita as a theme (See NABOKV-L post , 4/14/97, "Lolitology in Song & Worse") but an entire genre of music called "Lolita Music" apparently exists. At the web site devoted to the Slovenian band Lolita 95, a hint at the origins of this musical type is found in the explanation of the band's name.

Lolita got its name after a certain book of a Russian immigrant. Somebody also shot a film. Lolita is a girl, of 12. She has got a step father, who is such and such. Lolita can be everything-also 'porno'. Lolita is interpreted by each of lolitas (see SSKJ, 2. edition, DZS 2010 lolitovec-a, a kind of a man who belongs to the musicians of Slovene cult group Lolita, lolitas sent his audience into raptures) in his own way. In Slovenia the name of the group, which plays 'lolita-music.' It differs from groups of the same name in Sweden (12 Lolita groups) and the USA (6 Lolita groups).

Below are the URLs for several songs that fall into this category. I have included a representative lyric from each song.

I don't want you
Hanging round my door
I can't stand it anymore baby
'cos you're jailbait (website no longer exists)
and it smells like razor blades
I've been dead for days
God bless Lolita
for taking it all away
God bless Lolita, Lolita

Loli-con, or the Lolita Complex, the Japanese name for a prevalent psychological complex in which middle-aged men obsess over school-aged girls is discussed in the April 20 New York Times. Japanese men participate in club activities reminiscent of those offered at the establishments of David Veen.

This is an ''image club,'' one of several hundred in Tokyo where Japanese men pay about $150 an hour to live out their fantasies about schoolgirls. In this club, customers can choose from 11 rooms, including classrooms, a school gym changing room, and a couple of imitation railway coaches, where, to the recorded roar of a commuter train, men can molest strangers in school uniforms.

Actress Drew Barrymore, originally famous for her juvenile role in Steven Spielberg's film, ET: The Extraterrestrial said in a People Magazine Online profile:

"..Sue Lyons, ( whom she saw at age six in the film Lolita) was an inspiration: ...She was so [bleeping] sexy in that movie.... Every little detail I totally grooved on. Lolita became, like, this idol thing, you know? I totally fell into it."

The association of Lolita with fashion and fashions has been documented, perhaps to the point of tedium. On the web page for the fashion house Lolita Lempicka, one more example of this connection is again encountered.

Fashion houses are often named after their founding designer, but Josiane Pividal went about it differently. In 1983 Josiane and her husband Joseph, an interior designer, created their label, "Lolita Lempicka," in homage to Nabokov's novel and to the painter Tamara de Lempicka. As the fashion house took off, the couple found it simpler to change their names to Lolita and Joseph-Marie Lempicka.

The two excerpts below treat the Nabokov and fashion theme in an unconventional manner and they are in "elegant correspondence" with Ada's twin colors blue and green.

From the April 13, 1997 Feature section of the Times of London, in the section "25 years ago this week" a letter Nabokov wrote to Kate Rand Lloyd, editor of American Vogue on April 13, 1972 is reproduced:

I thank you for sending me a copy of the April 15 issue of Vogue...Simona Morini's questions are admirable and my replies to them are reproduced with a rare fidelity--to which I am not accustomed in most published interviews. The pictures, alas, are not as good as the text.

The one of Mr and Mrs Nabokov relaxing in the "green salon" not only disfigures my wife and me, but hypertrophies our lower limbs in a grotesque and incomprehensible manner. The facade of the hotel on p. 74 is, on the other hand, charming and somehow in elegant correspondence with my Givenchy tie on the opposite page!

In the April 20 Observer, the fashion writer advises:

If you wear red you're sexy, and if you wear black you're chic. But what is a woman in blue? Blue is elusive as well as sexy; it's soft as well as smart. In Vladimir Nabokov's novel The Gift, the hero is looking round a lodging house, wondering whether to stay, when he sees in one room 'a high-backed armchair: across its arms there lay in airy repose a gauze dress, pale bluish and very short'. Suddenly falling in love with the dress, or the girl who would wear such a dress, he takes the room.

"Gonzo" journalist, Hunter S. Thompson, in an interview published in the November 28, 1996 Rolling Stone, offered a typically skewed and one would assume intentionally spurious second-hand account of Nabokov's travels to SunValley, Idaho. These outings, Thompson suggested, made it possible for Nabokov to write "from experience" , while composing Lolita.

"it was investigative journalism..I am new and rare" You were after all looking into things: albeit those things don't exist....

Is writing about sex as hard as writing about drugs?

It's difficult to do.

Are there any writers who you think do it effectively, honestly, dirtily, and honestly.

Well I think Nabokov could.

A beautiful writer.

Hell of a good writer. A friend of mine, Mike Sondheim was up in Sun Valley [Idaho] back in the 60s. He told me that Nabokov used to come to Sun Valley Lodge with an 11 year old girl. He said it was weirder than Lolita. "It's very nice to meet your niece, Mr. Nabokov."

(NABOKV-L EDITOR'S INTERPOLATION [dbj]. VN had left the US for what proved to be permanent European residency in Sept. 1959. He briefly returned to write his Lolita script for Kubrick (May-October 1961) and for the Lolita film premier in June 1962.)

Well that goes back to the New Journalism question, about writing from experience.

When you read it you knew this was from real experience. This was not Thomas Mann writing Death in Venice which seemed to be a student's idea of what a hopeless crush would be, ...

And the reason for that is, Nabokov was up at Sun Valley with an 11 year old girl.

I'm afraid Lolita strictly fits into the gonzo framework. But man, that's where the fun is, you know why write about other people's experiences?

A student's request for unpublished papers on the autobiographical theme in Nabokov's Mary, was duly admonished when it was posted on NABOKV-L. The same request, which must have been crossposted to several lists, provoked this amusing and clever response on some newsgroup, the name of which is no longer traceable since the file has disappeared from its original site on the Internet:

"I am writing an English paper on Nabokov's use of his own life and experiences in his work Mary (Mashen'ka). If you have an unpublished term paper, essay, thesis, etc. PLEASE send it to me. If it has internal citations and a bibliography (works cited) page that is even better. Anything would be very helpful. Thank you."

Well, I'm glad you asked. While I am certainly no authority on Nabokov, I was privileged to meet him shortly before his death. I was a young medical student at the time, and he had been admitted to Vanderbilt Medical Center for palliative therapy for the cancer that was to kill him. He told me a great deal about his life and his influences. Much like you, I didn't understand much of it, since, like you, I had never actually *read* anything of his or seriously thought about it on my own. I always thought it was sad that a great writer had to spend his last days with someone who was too lazy to pick up a book, but that is one of the great tragedies of the human condition. But, in my own defense, my medical studies took precedence over the ramblings of a pain-crazed old man, just as you are too busy drinking beer until you vomit to do original work. We are much the same, you and I.

In this vein, the writer goes on to tell of Nabokov's immigration from Uzbekistan to America where he meets a young girl by the name of Mary. Together they become information brokers and insurance agents until this becomes tiresome and the pair " hop.. a riverboat on the Hudson and decide... to head off to the Mississippi." Upon arrival in New Orleans, they purchase their own Mississippi Riverboat. Throughout the "post" are threaded the lyrics to the Ike and Tina Turner song "Proud Mary." The note ends with an amiable "hope this helps!"


Nabokov's works are sometimes used in class assignments to explore the use of "new technologies" in the creation of art.

Graphic designer Angelyn Grant's course at MIT, Expressive Typography and New Media, consisted of students ranging from undergraduates to graduates, from various disciplines , who during a one month winter session, meeting 3 times a week, used Nabokov's short story "Signs and Symbols" to produce an experimental, online "book." Projects extended from the creation of simple HTML text to "live action" typography utilizing motion and color to express individualized interpretations of the story. Starting with the assumption that the reader of the "book" had already read "Signs and Symbols" the "expressive typography" and "metaphoric reading structures" were designed to offer insights into the story and "aid the reader in further exploring the work."

Some of these projects require special software for viewing. Sophisticated design technique and a sensitivity to the nuances of Nabokov's story, make perusing these "books" worthwhile.

In a Hypertext and Literary Theory course offered at Brown University in 1993, Jason Hammel, for his class project, used the plotline of Pale Fire to further illustrate the questions of authorship and ownership of text that Pale Fire itself addresses.

I chose to do another rewriting of V.N.'s book. I invented a New Year's Eve party at which various university types--none, though, from the novel--flirt, sip champagne, and gossip about Shade's new poem. Kinbote is, of course, present but no where to be found--he is rummaging through Shade's things for evidence that Sybil, John's wife, had ordered the poet to rewrite sections which chronicled Kinbote's own royal adventures.

My concern with the web is that it rediscovers the material already thrice authored in V.N.'s original book. Meshing my text with his, I hoped to pose questions of ownership--do I have the rights to another poetry? Clearly Kinbote thought he did, as he rewrote and wildly interpreted Shade's masterpiece. And I. . .I felt, at last, freedom of words, and the chance to command their patterns alongside V.N.'s prose tapestries.


Throughout the many volumes of criticism that I have read on Nabokov, I have never seen this metaphor used to describe Nabokov's concept of "reading" :

From Spike

Nabokov reminds us that reading is a bungee jump... where we may become so engrossed in the rush and thrill of the story that we forget we are tethered to the author. Nabokov had a kind of withering, yet paternalistic, disregard for kidding ourselves: he had a fondness for snapping on the ropes and shouting down, "You idiots!"


From Cosmopolitan, March 1997, the section entitled "The moment I knew I was in love"

"He knew the first chapter of Lolita by heart. One night he pulled out my copy and without opening it, started reciting. Those are my favorite pages of anything I've ever read." ---Julie, 29, writer

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