Lolita seems to have gone missing (second library book in as many months, which isn’t good). She’d just come home from the hospital. I’ve since finished Breakfast on Pluto and am reading The End of the Affair.
In comments to, I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Smart, Mighty Ponygirl said,
The problem is that you have people like Amanda Marcotte saying that Lolita is one of her favorite books, and you have people like the Derbert saying that Lolita is one of his favorite books. Now, I can say with a good deal of confidence that Amanda doesn’t make this call because she fantasizes about raping underage girls–and I can say with a good deal of confidence that John Derbyshire makes this call because he does.
But honestly? I don’t really want to take the time to figure that out. When someone tells me that Lolita is one of their favorite books, I’m not really interested in finding out which camp they fall into. Are they lit lovers who enjoy the prose, irony, and allegory of the novel? Are they perverts who feel that HH is the person they’d like to be? Are they just dipshit hipsters who grabbed the first book on the indie-cred list and clung to it like a life preserver?
Unless I know the person pretty well, I just don’t care to invest the energy to find out.
I empathize. I read a lot, especially now that I’ve rediscovered the joys of a library card (for example: you only have to pay for the book if you lose it). I’ve been covering some of the classics recently. I also take figure-drawing classes, which puts me in the path of a larger-than-average share of pretentious old farts. This means that they will occasionally comment on The Adventures of Augie March or The Pagan Rabbi. They are impressed that a young whippersnapper like me is carrying around a book, never mind opening and reading it with apparent interest. Their opener is usually something like, “Is that for school?” The interview goes on through, “Have you read this by them? Have you heard of so-and-so? Isn’t she/he (usually he) wonderful!”
No book has gotten me anywhere near as much attention as Lolita, especially from guys like this. I’ve been ashamed to read it in public, even though it’s not a graphic book at all. I’m very conscious of seeming like a young man–a teenager–holding a famous softcore pedophilia masterpiece. It makes my palms sweaty. If I were still presenting as a woman, I’d still be anxious, but in a very different way. It never ceased to amaze me how little men realized that they were being creepy, intrusive, or inappropriate. I know that it wouldn’t occur to them that a woman might be a little uncomfortable about bonding with a middle-aged man over a rhapsodical treatise on child rape.
These men do wax rhapsodic. I want to ask, Aren’t you embarrassed? Doesn’t it seem a little weird to you that you can quote the opening paragraph of this book, when last month you couldn’t remember whether it was Cynthia Ozick or Grace Paley who had written The Shawl (which you called a masterpiece)? Do you ever feel a little, I don’t know, gross? Does Humbert Humbert implicate you in any way? Does Nabokov make you think, or did you just find it funny when HH finally got laid?
And then I want to say, Listen, you smug son of a bitch. I was a woman. I was a little girl. I could have been someone’s little Lo. This isn’t a joke. You aren’t sophisticated. You’re just dense.