NABOKV-L post 0002276, Fri, 8 Aug 1997 18:09:25 -0700

Re: Charlotte's Haze's End (fwd)
EDITORIAL NOTE. Stephen Schiff, originator of the note just below is, in
addition to being a _New Yorker_ staff writer, is the author of the script
for the new Adrian Lyne LOLITA film.
I think that Nigel Nicolson's literacy can be safely assumed, and that his
mistake about Charlotte's death was not a case of misreading so much as a
case of misremembering. Perhaps he became confused under the influence of
those who have been writing up a storm about our film in the British
press--among them DN's _bete noir_ the Reverend Mr. Oddie, whose literacy I
for one hold in very grave doubt. (Oddie's reading of the book appears not
to have required any actual perusal of its pages.)

Of course VN's account of the death of Charlotte is subtly and very
beautifully rendered, but it is also, I think, crystal clear: if you read
it, you'll get it. By the way, you'll also get it if you ever see the film
that Adrian Lyne and I made of the book. In our account, too, Charlotte's
death is very plainly an accident, albeit one influenced by the
machinations of Aubrey McFate.

May I also take this opportunity to thank DN for his recent kind words on
this list about our film? I hope he knows how much his praise means to
those of us who worked so hard to make the film genuinely Nabokovian.

Stephen Schiff

---------- > > To: NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.UCSB.EDU > Subject: Charlotte's End
(fwd) > Date: Tuesday, August 05, 1997 11:36 AM > > This message
submitted by J.Goodenough@UEA.AC.UK > > > DN's recent message pointing out
the recurrence of a gross 'Oddieism' concerning > the fate of Lo's momma
forces me to write to you, since there is too much of > this sort of thing
going on. As evidence I supply the following two examples > from Britain.
> > 1) 'The Guardian' newspaper carried an interview with Jeremy Irons on
July 22. > Mr I is somewhat embarrassed by his earlier threat to leave
the country if > 'Lolita' isn't released here. (Badly timed - the threat
energed at about the > same time as a number of show-biz figures were
threatening to leave the country > if Labour won the election. None of
them did, but how we would have missed > Andrew Lloyd-Webber....) But he
comes over as a passionate defender of the film > and says that he tries
to portray Humbert as a good father as well as Lo's > lover, and wants the
audience to be shocked by the constant tension between > these two roles
that HH has to play. But the interviewer (NOT Mr I) spoils it > for me by
referring to Humbert's murder of Charlotte. > > 2) Nigel Nicolson's
autobiography, 'Long Life: Memoirs' (published in the UK by, > of course,
Weidenfeld & Nicolson) is due out on 11 August. In extracts previewed > in
the press, NN relates how the firm published 'Lolita' and what problems it
> caused him. (At the time Nicolson was a Conservative Member of
Parliament and > was also engaged on the Parliamentary Select Committee
considering the law on > obscene publications, which afterwards gave birth
to the Obscene Publications > Act of 1959 - the major statute on obscenity
in force in England & Wales today.) > > NN says: "I had not read the book
before the contract was signed, and when I did > I was shocked by it. It
seemed to me saturated with lust. I implored George > Weidenfeld and his
two new partners, Nicolas Thompson and Anthony Marreco, to > test legal
opinion by some form of token publication, and to say publicly that > if
the authorities made it clear that they would prosecute us we would
abandon > the idea completely." > > Nicolson's defence of the book
remained lukewarm, and he later wrote to > Weidenfeld "If I have to choose
between 'Lolita' and my career, I will choose my > career. But the test
case obviates the choice." In fact, with the new act in > force and a more
liberal climate generally, W&N's test printing went > unchallenged,
despite a previous warning by the truly appalling > Attorney-General, Sir
Reginald Manningham-Buller, that "If you publish 'Lolita' > you will be in
the dock." It was made known to Nicolson informally that the > book would
not be prosecuted, and W&N went on with a full printing and sold > 100,000
copies. Shortly afterwards Nicolson was de-selected by his local party >
association and so his political career was terminated. Given the
narrowness of > the vote, he feels that the Lolita affair may just have
tipped the balance > against him with his more conservative Conservative
party-members. > > But one must assume that Nicolson was so shocked by
the great amounts of lustful > saturation he found that he was incapable
of reading properly. He writes of > Humbert "He marries and then murders
Lolita's mother in order to gain access to > the child". > > It seems to
me (as a mere philosopher) that the fact that Humbert does NOT > murder
Charlotte, despite his previous homicidal raging and fantasising, that >
Charlotte is removed by a purely gratuitous accident caused only
indirectly by > her discovery of what is going on, is a crucial
psychological point in the book. > And it is a point where Nabokov's
narrative most clearly echoes the thinking of > real-life paedophiles. All
too often such people seek to lay off the > responsibility of their
actions on to others, on to fate or God or whatever. > Humbert can do the
same. Fate gives him the green light with its removal of Mrs > Haze, a
sign that his relationship with Lo is somehow meant to be. > > Does this
alter Humbert's moral status? This, I suppose, depends on whether we >
feel from all we know about the man that he would genuinely have attempted
to > murder his wife. (And whether, as the later grotesque Quilty episode
shows, he > could ever have had the competence to succeed at the job!)
Perhaps it is > precisely because this question is left open that Humbert
remains such an > interesting character - we're never quite sure just how
evil he really is. > > One question: can anyone who has seen the new film
or read a final script say > how Charlotte's end is handled? Does the Lyne
movie make it clear that she dies > accidentally? (Or does he, strange
thought, have HH kill her? Film-makers don't > always stick to the book!)
In the book it is handled so subtly, amidst such a > crisis of passions,
that apparently quite literate people seem to misread the > episode
entirely. A tribute to Humbert's powers of persuasion, perhaps, that so >
many should come away seeing the world through his eyes and desires to the
> extent of being unable to read the words on the pages before them. > >

Dr. Jerry Goodenough > Philosophy Sector > School of Economic & Social
Studies > University of East Anglia > Norwich NR4 7TJ >