NABOKV-L post 0009008, Wed, 10 Dec 2003 15:56:39 -0800

Fw: Patricia Highsmith and Lolita's road trip
----- Original Message -----
From: "Susan Elizabeth Sweeney" <>
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 1:25 PM
Subject: Re: Patricia Highsmith and Lolita's road trip

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> Even odder to think of Quilty as a "sinister detective": perhaps Terry
Castle hasn't reread LOLITA lately.
> Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
> >>> 12/10/03 14:13 PM >>>
> EDNOTE. Rodney Welch has sent in a long review of books by and about the
late Patricia Highsmith that appeared in THE NEW REPUBLIC (the bible of my
youth). The review, entitled "The ICK Factor," is by Terry Castle who
offers the odd thought that there might be a connection between LOLITA's
road trip and a portion of the Highsmith novel. It appeared in the Nov. 10,
2003 three issue. I excerpt the relevant passage below.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------
> Re-reading The Price of Salt with the Senn story in mind, it is hard not
to fixate on the book's darker, even unwholesome, elements. It's not only
that the love story itself at times seems unwholesome--though female
homosexuality is always a tough sell, in literature as in life. Even now, it
is extremely difficult for writers to present lesbian desire in an
unabashedly positive light: Proust could not do it, nor could Woolf or Henry
James. At some fairly deep psychic level--an archetypal one?--lesbianism
still seems, alas, reflexively bound up with the themes of loneliness,
sterility, unnaturalness, and genetic abnormality. Highsmith's lovers are
far more attractive and appealing than those, say, in Radclyffe Hall's The
Well of Loneliness, but that doesn't rule out a subliminal ick factor that
may be intrinsic to the subject.
> Highsmith seems to have been well aware of the difficulty. She even takes
perverse advantage of it. When Carol gives Therese a supposedly comforting
glass of hot milk early in their relationship, the imagery is disquieting:
"the milk seemed to taste of bone and blood, of warm flesh, or hair,
saltless as chalk yet alive as a growing embryo." Elsewhere she hints
broadly at the quasi-incestuous nature of the women's liaison. At such
moments you don't have to be straight (and hung up) to feel slightly
> Yet most tellingly, perhaps, the stalking motif also re-appears, and in a
portentous literary form. I have long had a theory that Nabokov knew The
Price of Salt and modeled the climactic cross-country car chase in Lolita on
Therese and Carol's frenzied bid for freedom in the earlier novel. Humbert's
panic-stricken flight through the Midwest with his adored "Lo," the
crazy-sinister detective Quilty in hot pursuit, is one of the great
emblematic sequences in modern American literature, combining mania, danger,
and paranoia (and tacky highway scenery) with rhapsodic taboo romance.. Yet
the whole disturbing combination is quintessentially Highsmithian. Highsmith
was the first writer to mix roadside Americana, transgressive sex, and the
impinging threat of a morals charge--and she went about it as masterfully as