Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017223, Sun, 26 Oct 2008 22:35:16 -0400

SIGHTING: Lolita in Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop
Jansy Mello writes:

I wonder if details concerning Lolita ,as put up for sale, in 1959, in a small East Anglian town, are historically accurate references in Penelope Fitzgerald's novel "The bookshop" (1978).

P.74: " 'You really need something like this,' Milo said, not at all urgently. Under his arm he had a thinnish book, covered with the leaf-green paper of the Olympia Press. 'This is volume one.' Mrs. Green asked him if there was a volume two. Milo answered positively but confessed that he "had lent it or left it somewhere." The title of the book:"Lolita". The author's name, Nabokov, "sounded foreign - Russian,perhaps."

On p. 83 Mrs. Green states "I've ordered an inspection copy. I'm confused by what the American papers said about it. One of the reviewers said it was bad news for the trade and bad news for the public, because it was dull, pretentious, florid and repulsive, but on the other hand there was an article by Graham Greene which said it was a masterpiece.". When the inspection copy of Lolita arrived (p.92) Mrs. Green "took off the jacket and looked at the black cover, stamped in silver."

More quotes: Mrs. Florence Green read Mr. Brundish's opinion(p.101): "I don't attach as much importance as you do, I dare say, to the notions of right and wrong. I have read Lolita, as you requested. It is a good book, and therefore you should try to sell it to the inhabitants of Hardborough. They won't understand it, but that is all to the good. Understanding makes the mind lazy."

In answer to her solicitor's letter advising her to "cease to offer for sale the complained-of and unduly sensational novel by V.Nabokov", Mrs. Florence Green wrote: "Dear Mr. Thornton, A good book is the precious life-blood of a masterspirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity." The object of complaint was in display at the shopwindow,"the Lolitas arranged in pyramids, like the tins in the grocer's." Their exposition had stimulated 'the general public to assemble in the narrowest part of the High Street', thereby causing its obstruction. Nevertheless, as the solicitor informed her next, the "Herring v. Metropolitan Board of Works 1863" could not be cited "in this instance as the crowd had not assembled as the result of famine or of a shortage of necessary commodities." (p.104/108)

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