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19 February 2010

Flickr set of mock covers for Nabakov's Lolita Boy howdy do some of them really miss the point of the book and land squarely in creepy grosstown. On the other hand, some are quite affecting.
No kidding, a lot of those are more about the cultural shorthand 'Lolita' than the book. (One of my favorite books, by the way.)
posted by mudpuppie 19 February | 13:43
What I love about the novel is how tactile Nabakov makes the words. You get all caught up in this very sensuous lush flow of language, then your brain screams at you to remember what's being described and you get all oily from the wrong. It's a book I'm sorry I never read for a class, cause I wish I'd had a guide, reading it.
posted by crush-onastick 19 February | 13:48
These are really intriguing. I haven't read the book, though- which ones do you think capture it particularly well?
posted by BoringPostcards 19 February | 13:54
If you haven't seen it, there's a post over on the blue about actual Lolita covers.
posted by DarkForest 19 February | 14:04
I really hate that a couple of the covers are using Veruca Salt as Lolita.
posted by plinth 19 February | 14:19
I liked this one, this, and this. Clearly missing the point.

Lolita is a construct throughout the whole novel, or at least until the point where she runs away. The covers which picture "a lolita" buy into the construct. The construct itself isn't what the novel is about on either a metalevel or at face value.
posted by crush-onastick 19 February | 14:23
Lolita is one of those books written by someone for whom English was not his native language yet it's so masterful. (Certainly better written than that last sentence of mine!)
posted by Obscure Reference 19 February | 14:25
Digging the project and the stuff on the blue on this. I've never thought about the huge challenge book jackets can be.

At the risk of being called out for not understanding graphic design, I like this one. Inexorable journey and all that.

I agree not to use a representation of Lolita's face. Still less would I use a representation of Humbert, though. Those were the strangest ones to me, other than the off the mark sexy ones.
posted by rainbaby 19 February | 14:59
Clearly missing the point.

I agree, crush, but that first one is a take on the famous movie poster from Kubrick's Lolita. That's an image a lot of people have in their heads, I'd hazard.
posted by mudpuppie 19 February | 15:04
D'oh! You're right, mudpuppie. I totally missed that.

rainbaby: You, too, are right. The covers that focus on Humbert alone minimize the humanity of and devastation to Dolores, but that's what the narrative does, so they don't strike me nearly as jarring or wrong as the ones that present a sexy Lolita or even the Vanity Fair drop quote about "truest love story" (or whatever it is).
posted by crush-onastick 19 February | 15:28
Still less would I use a representation of Humbert, though.

I'd love to hear you expand on this idea, so I could understand your feelings better.

To me, the book is so clearly Humbert's story that an image of him (or him and her) seems like a very reasonable cover; even though he thinks he's also telling Lolita's story, he's really spinning on about his own obsessions and delusions with very little reference to the actual interior life of the girl.

I don't understand enough about graphic design to make a pick, but something about this image speaks to me. I think it's the smudgy, faint background of a girl, with the harsher lines superimposed upon it, as if by another hand. Though I don't love the image itself, that motif feels very right to me.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 15:35
The covers that focus on Humbert alone minimize the humanity of and devastation to Dolores

Aaaah, that's a good explanation. God, the book is so heartbreaking.

And yeah, the sexxxxxxy covers give me the wiggens.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 15:36
I came in all ready to fight about how ignoring the sexual aspects of the lolita 'construct' seems disingenuous but then I clicked the links and yeah, they're really missing the point.
posted by Firas 19 February | 15:51
Yes, what crush-onastick said, for one.

An image of him almost elevates his status for the reader going in, which I think is wrong. And Humbert wouldn't tell a story called "Humbert," at least I don't think his mind would allow him to do that, even thought that's what he does.

Copies of "The Miracle Worker" with just Helen Keller on the cover would bother me, for example, because it ain't called "The Miracle Workee." I know that's a very different piece, both women's images on that cover might be fine, but it's the example of Title respect that jumped into my head.
posted by rainbaby 19 February | 15:59
Does this one get the point? I think it does. Too much?
posted by rainbaby 19 February | 16:04
rainbaby, that cover happens to be the same as the paperback we have on the shelf at home. (I also have this one, which I bought at a library sale without noticing it's in French. Which I can't read. Oops.)

I think the saddleshoes cover is about right: it suggests the right age for Delores, but doesn't present her in sexualized costume or pose, or suggest a great deal of sexual agency or aggressiveness on her part.

Firas, I agree that to ignore or bury the sexual content of the novel is an error. It's important to see that Delores is exploring her sexual impulses and sexualized power, as young people do. But of course, a healthy father-figure would be enforcing boundaries, not erasing them. A central tragedy of Lolita is that the child in his care relies upon Humbert to care for her, and he violates her trust as well as her body. This, as you say, is a point that the lace panties covers get completely wrong.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 17:04
I don't the panties covers miss the point at all. They represent Humbert's obsession and fantasies of nymphets.

Side note: Imagine a set of mock covers for Terry Southern's Candy.
posted by Ardiril 19 February | 17:29
But even then, Ardiril, Humbert isn't fantasizing about that lace-panties version of sexuality. His delusion is that young girls, with their still-childish garb and still-forming personalities, are fully realized sexual agents. The lacy panties covers really are misrepresenting the sexual motifs of the novel, even the ones he harbors in his head.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 18:03
His delusion is that young girls, with their still-childish garb and still-forming personalities, are fully realized sexual agents.

This seems to be the delusion of a lot of high school girls I pass in the hallways these days. It's disturbing.
posted by danf 19 February | 18:08
danf, there's a throwaway line from "30 Rock" that cracks me up every single time, even as it makes me cringe: Pete bemoans the possibility of losing his job and says he can't go back to teaching. He cries, "Those girls pretend they're not women, but they are!"

As I said above, I don't think Delores is a completely oblivious sexual innocent. I think she may even be engaging in a little experimental sexual manipulation of Humbert, to see if she can. She is (as young people do) testing the boundaries, trying on her role as a sexual being, then reverting to the safety of being a child. This is not unusual, especially for someone with a parent as overtly interested in sexual recreation as Lo's mother is.

If Humbert were a healthy, responsible adult, he would perform an adult's task: clarifying the social and sexual boundaries for her, so she can learn that just because she feels sexual impulses doesn't mean she may act upon them.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 18:25
Aaaaaand I just realized that, though I know him to be a perfect example of an unreliable narrator, I've never questioned Humbert's description of Mrs. Haze's sexual voracity. Duh.
posted by Elsa 19 February | 18:27
rainbaby: i think the problem with that one is it, too, buys into Humbert's construct and just reduces Delores to his interpretation and presentation of her as Lolita. An important layer of the novel is the immersion in, and recognition of, *how* he builds that up out of what is not really there. Rather than making us complicit in HH's fantasy, it just presents the fantasy as the story, when it's really not.

This is the cover of the copy I have. Unlike the saddle shoes cover, it doesn't reduce the child to her parts; it doesn't depersonalize her by decapitating her. It leaves all the alienating of the person and child Delores from her life, her body and her experience, to the machinations of the narrator's presentation of the story. Instead it shows an ambiguous child, a lot of flesh showing, but not a provocative article of clothing. A possibly sexual stance, but not a coy stance or a leering camera angle. You can see in this image a child who will become a sexual person, or you can see one who already is a sexual person, or you can see neither. That is, I think, a critical element in separating the (fictional) truth of what really happened to Delores Haze from Humbert's telling of what happened to him because of Delores Haze.

Or something. Like I said, I wish I had read the novel with someone who could help me unpack it.
posted by crush-onastick 19 February | 18:32
Like I said, I wish I had read the novel with someone who could help me unpack it.

As do I! Ideally, I'd like to have some structured guidance, but even without it, a more in-depth conversation would be fascinating.

Maybe we could have a MetaChat book club!
posted by Elsa 19 February | 18:39
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