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Chasing Lolita : How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov's Little Girl All over Again
"In his outrageously readable literary criticism-slash-pop culture survey of her fate, Graham Vickers is determined to defend Lolita's honor through a keen analysis of Nabakov's original novel." --Toronto Star
In the summer of 1958, a 12-year-old girl took the world by storm--Lolita was published in the United States--and since then, her name has been taken in vain to serve a wide range of dubious ventures, both artistic and commercial. Offering a full consideration of not only "the Lolita effect" but shifting attitudes toward the mix of sex, children, and popular entertainment from Victorian times to the present, this study explores the movies, theatrical shows, literary spin-offs, artifacts, fashion, art, photography, and tabloid excesses that have distorted Lolita's identity with an eye toward some real-life cases of young girls who became the innocent victims of someone else's obsession--unhappy sisters to one of the most affecting heroines in fiction. New insight is provided into the brief life of Lolita and into her longer afterlives as well.
For 50 years, the nymphet Lolita (whose real name is Dolores Haze) has existed in the collective imagination. This sleek and knowing book takes an activist approach rather than a voyeuristic one to search out, first, the sources of Nabokov's once-censored novel, and then its impact and all the misunderstandings surrounding his celebrated character. Vickers (coauthor, Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero) examines the possible sources of inspiration, from Alice Liddell of Lewis Carroll fame to Fanny Brice's Baby Snooks; from an obscure German writer with the suggestive name von Lichberg to Edgar Allan Poe; from Chaplin's life story to a then unpublished novella by Nabokov himself. Most of the book is a romp through popular culture: the Stanley Kubrick film and Adrian Lyne's remake--the release unfortunately coincided with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey--as well as dismal stage adaptations; Brooke Shields's roles and ads and Japanese gothic Lolita fashion. Vickers succeeds admirably and entertainingly in his goal of separating Nabokov's character from the many copied and counterfeited Lolitas. 27 b&w photos. (Aug.)
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Chicago Review Press
July 31, 2008
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