If the American Left Reviewed Lolita

The media opportunism surrounding Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper — where both the right and left see what they want in it and applaud or condemn accordingly — led me to imagine, in humor, what such a review of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov would look like, as I recently began reading the book.  This is the product of that imagination:

If the modern American left were around when Lolita was first published, they would have called it a terrible book because its narrator is unreliable and a pedophile. Immediately petitions would circulate to ban its author from speaking at college campuses on the premise that 24-year-olds, in their omniscience, already know how they feel about it, that the feeling is unpleasant and unchangeable, and that those who do not already know how they feel are not entitled to find out.

“It does nothing to advance dialogue forward,” one review at Salon would read. “Its perspective is narrow, involving, in its entirety, as if no other opinions even mattered, the ignorance and perversions of just one man.”

Continuing without a sense of irony: “An uncritical reading of Lolita would make its reader think all European men were perverts, but all-hyperlinked-data shows that’s not the case. Why then does Lolita simply leave us with exactly that impression? Why was the protagonist not more representative of the diversity and value and beauty of European culture? HH does not represent the totality of European experience, but, in insisting otherwise, the book amounts to a blatant appeal to the chauvinism and anti-European racism of America’s xenophobic right wing, who daily rally against the “dangers” of “European socialism” and prop up capitalism as a kind of paradise when it is really the Humbert Humbert to the Lolita of the Earth. I won’t speculate or even hint — and I especially won’t denigrate a complex issue into petty identity politics — as to why Nabokov, a born Russian, would cast Europeans in such a light.”

Asking further: “Why was so little time given to the feelings of the little girl? Nabokov wants us to believe in a world where little girls don’t matter, and does everything he can to inch us closer to that nightmare.”

And finally ending: “Though I haven’t read the book, members-of-my-tribe-have-written-lots-of-scathing-reviews-about-how-dangerous-it-is, and some of them have read it, and the book is the worst kind of pro-pedophilia propaganda. Why else would a notorious pornographic outfit like Olympia Press publish it when Nabokov had no luck finding a more reputable suitor? Those apologizing for this insensitive, divisive piece of “literature”, and the man who wrote it, are undeniably part of the problem.”


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