Lolita

Lydia Kiesling in The Millions:

Lolita1 Lolita has caused so many people to wring their hands and besiege librarians on behalf of those delicate blossoms, the children. To be sure, it is a very disgusting book. The rape of Lolita: “a last throb, a last dab of color, stinging red, smarting pink, a sigh, a wincing child,” after which the fiend Humbert buys “four books of comics, a box of candy, a box of sanitary pads, two cokes, a manicure set,” and so on.

And then, “At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.”

This is viscerally horrible. And yet this book, with its veritable panoply of horrors, is maybe the most bracing and perfect work of art I know. Nabokov said “for me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss.” By that arresting measure, Lolita is a triumph, the ne plus ultra of the novel form.

More here.

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