LITERATURE

Lolita in the Afterlife: On Beauty, Risk, and Reckoning with the Most Indelible and Shocking Novel of the Twentieth Century

Vintage. Mar. 2021. 448p. ed. by Jenny Minton Quigley. ISBN 9781984898838. pap. $16.96. LIT
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In the six decades since its publication, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita continues to fascinate and disgust. Editor Minton Quigley's father took the risk in 1958 of publishing Lolita in the United States despite backlash and censorship threats. The 30 essays in this work present various aspects of Lolita, including a profile of the showgirl who first introduced the book to the American publishing world, its two film adaptations, its influence on modern music, and online message boards devoted to "nymphet culture" inspired by the novel. Numerous essays discuss the frequent disregard for the protagonist’s victim. Contributors include Stacy Schiff, Andre Dubus III, Erika Sánchez, and Cheryl Strayed. An essay by Ian Frazier describes his nostalgia for a vanished "Motel Age" preserved by the novel’s road trip scenes. Jessica Shattuck’s powerful essay offers the point of view of Lolita’s wronged and victimized mother. Many essayists recognize the novel’s brilliance despite the ugliness of its subject matter. They also question whether Lolita could even be published today in the era of #MeToo, trigger warnings, and cancel culture.
VERDICT The superb essays found in this book demonstrate the enduring impact of this novel. Highly recommended for readers interested in Lolita and Nabokov.

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