loIt was 50 years ago this year that Vladmir Nabokov successfully published the novel that his publisher initially told him was "excellent," and that "if he published it they would both go to jail." Happily for all of us the publisher eventually got over his fear, and Lolita was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. There aren't a lot of books that I wish I had read in a college classroom, but Lolita is one of them. Read on my own, the book astonished me in its thoughtfulness, complexity, and wit - and I know I missed oceans of Nabokovian depth. What makes the work all the more mind-blowing (for me, anyway) is that it was written in English by a Russian emigre. My regard for books like this - I have the same awed reaction to Heart of Darkness - probably has more than a little to do with my ineptitude with languages. But still! To manage that sort of language in something you didn't grow up speaking is incredible.

Shortly after the book's publication, Nabokov penned the script for Stanley Kubrick's brilliant screen adaptation. Restricted to innuendo and suggestion by the production code, Kubrick still managed to make it abundantly clear what was going on between Humbert and his Lo. Has there ever been a more horribly erotic nail-painting scene? Though the strength of James Mason's performance as Humbert Humbert went unrecognized by that damned Academy (The winning performance that year was Gregory Peck's as Atticus Finch – "A very different," I once read, "kind of father"), his customary weariness and apparent terror of what resided inside of him lent awesome depth to both the tortured Humbert and the film itself.
categories Cinematical