Paul Zukofsky is a small minded little jerk

28 10 2009
"A"

"A" By Louis Zukofsky

Ok. So, I’m a mellow kinda guy. I don’t get worked up very often, and when I do it’s usually because I’ve had far too little sleep, far too much coffee, and some ass-hat has just sat behind me on a peak-hour bus making loud conversations on his cell phone about how ‘Jonno, nah mate, Jonno. No, Jonno!!, no, not Mark, it’s Jonno. Yeah mate, nah, I’m on a BUS!!’ Put the goddam’ phone down you retarded douche-canoe! *pant pant*

 Anyway…

 My zen-like calm was punctured yesterday after the Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet pointed out , to the internet at large, a document written by Paul Zukofsky about his father’s work.

 PZ is the son of Louis Zukosky, the Objectivist poet. Louis is now sadly departed (1904-1978) and his copyright falls to his son, who has been making noises about copyright that Kenneth Goldsmith of the Harriet blog rightly describes as ‘draconian’.

All Louis and Celia Zukofsky is still copyright, and will remain so for many many years. I own all of these copyrights, and they are my property, and I insist upon deriving income from that property. For those of you convinced that LZ would find my stance abhorrent, the truth is that he kept all copyrights (initially in his name) as he had the rather absurd idea that said copyrights would be sufficient to allow for the economic survival of my mother, and their son. My stance is congruent with that hope.

Draconian and anachronistic? Yes, but this initial stance is, well, fair enough. He owns the estate, so he should get paid for it. Don’t steal copyrighted books, buy books legitimately. Paul Zukofsky’s attitude goes far beyond this, however, into something much more insidious, and, well, see for yourself:

Despite what you may have been told, you may not use LZ’s words as you see fit, as if you owned them, while you hide behind the rubric of “fair use”. “Fair use” is a very-broadly defined doctrine, of which I take a very narrow interpretation, and I expect my views to be respected. We can therefore either more or less amicably work out the fees that I demand; you can remove all quotation; or we can turn the matter over to lawyers, this last solution being the worst of the three, but one which I will use if I need to enforce my rights.

1– people who want to do their dissertation on LZ, or want to quote from him in their diss., must, if only as a common courtesy, inform me of their desire to use this material, and obtain my permission to do so. If you do that, and if I agree, the permission will be only for the purposes of the diss. and there will be no charge for limited use within the diss. You will not be allowed to distribute the diss. publicly. Distribution via on-line publication is not allowed. I urge you to keep quotation to a minimum, as the more quotation, the less likely I am to grant permission.

Paul Zukofsky is a small minded little douche-canoe who can kiss my postgraduate arse.

I can perhaps understand your misguided interest in literature, music, art, etc. I would be suspicious of your interest in Louis Zukofsky, but might eventually accept it. I can applaud your desire to obtain a job, any job, although why in your chosen so-called profession is quite beyond me; but one line you may not cross i.e. never never ever tell me that your work is to be valued by me because it promotes my father. Doing that will earn my life-long permanent enmity. Your self-interest(s) I may understand, perhaps even agree with; but beyond that, in the words of e.e.cummings quoting Olaf: “there is some s I will not eat”.

Douche-Canoe

Paul Zukofsky is a Douche-Canoe

Paul Zukofks holds academia in obvious contempt. It’s a little boggling. I would be tempted to imagine that this is a hoax, some sort of satire. Hopefully this is the case, because otherwise PZ seeks to hold academic enquiry up for at least the duration of his own life. It is only by understanding the innovations of the past that we can forge the new culture of the future. I don’t care about promoting Louis Zukofsky. I DO care bout understanding him, but Paul ‘douche-canoe’ Zukofsky wants to throw a roadblock up to academic enquiry for the purpose of squeezing every last bloody penny out of his father’s corpse that he can. It’s sickening, if true.

 As the Harriet blog reported, the ‘digerati’ have already responded by putting Louis Zukofsky’s famous long work “A” online in full PDF format to be downloaded as a deliberate ‘screw you’ to PZ. I don’t agree, I’m not going to link to the file. I think you SHOULD go ahead and buy the work of the important poets. Poetry is hard enough to create a market for as it is, we need to maintain the viability of hardcopy publication for poetry. But if you get the chance to make a rude gesture at Paul Zukofsky any time, do it. It’ll feel SOOOOO good.

 ~Chris

 





Wednesday Symposium and Internet Publishing

11 09 2009

This Wednesday just passed I was fortunate enough to attend a poetics symposium hosted by the University of Western Sydney and attended by some professional poets, academics as a few other meek postgraduate students. Turns out it was a blast. A controlled blast, certainly. The sort of blast most usually found inside the engines of the more sedate family sedans, but a blast nonetheless and with a good few units of intellectual horsepower.

I have less than no time to write today, so I’m not able to go into too much depth. The event, ostensibly, was scaffolded around the presentation of a few papers, and the discussion/launch of a new poetics book called Networked Language By Philip Mead. You can read a review of the book here. The reviewer, poet Pam Brown, was also at Wednesday’s meeting.

Amongst the various discussions that came up the question of the “value” of online publishing was discussed briefly. Specifically, the question was asked as to whether internet publishing by legitimate online literary publications, such as Cordite, have any value, or at least a greater value than just self publishing on your own blog. I don’t know.

My own thesis is that as the amount of unregulated crap* makes its way onto the bloggonettosphere the signal to noise ratio goes down to the point that ‘legitimate’ online publishers become devalued by association. Or, to perhaps phrase it more aptly, the ability to distinguish between content sites becomes more and more difficult, and legitimacy becomes something a publisher of online content needs to earn on an individual basis, rather than through a publishing medium. This is not to say that publishing somewhere like Cordite carries NO value. It still carries the stamp of non-self-validation. But how much is it worth? I don’t know.

In the words of The Onion. What do you think?

~Chris

 

* I am aware of the hypocrisy of this statement.





Pornography’s Many Faces

4 09 2009

Pornography is a complex issue, but it shouldn’t be. There are a few reasons

The least NSFW image i could find in Creative Commons

The least NSFW image i could find in Creative Commons

it’s complex. For Americans it can be divisive along the Freedom of Expression lines that have customarily guarded distasteful expression from the majority opinion. Pornography, if not really a minority form of speech, still represents a subject matter not commonly accepted as socially approved. The main reason that pornography is a complex beast*, however, is that there has traditionally been a lack of consensus about how Pornography is defined. In an exploration of this issue, and in preparation for an essay I’m about to write on the subject, I thought I would run through a few of the more common definitions of pornography that have held weight over the last century or so.

 The original meaning of the word ‘pornography’ comes from the Greek root word ‘Porne’, for prostitute. So the form of pornography was originally as a list of prostitutes and the services one could *ahem* *cough* obtain from said *cough* ladies. While the word has, obviously, moved on from this form of definition since its conception there is still some usefulness in this definition, which we’ll come to when we consider the aesthetic definition of Porn.

 Another common definition of pornography was based on its function. This is to say, pornography was whatever material designed for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the reader/viewer through explicit descriptions of sexual acts. This definition is still pretty fundamental to the ‘genre’. One could, for instance remove whatever semblance of plot from a pornographic book and it would still be porn. Take the sex out of it though, and is it still pornography? No. it is a brief pamphlet composed mostly of adjoining scenes. From this functional definition comes the old maxim of porn being literature read with one hand. Appropriately or not this also implies a male oriented nature in pornography, which is relevant when we come to look at Feminist definitions.

 A liberal mind, open to sexual explicitness, might tend to say that sexual explicitness doth not the Porn Book make. In the wake of serious literature that contained within its content scenes of explicit description, a liberal definition of pornography might choose to draw a line between sexual literature and porn on Aesthetic grounds. Pornography, they might say, is not just the explicit depiction of sex; it is also badly written with no character development or plot to speak of, save what is absolutely necessary to move the reader from one sexual encounter to the next. This aesthetic definition tends to couple itself** with literary definitions which, similarly, seek to define pornography as a genre along aesthetic grounds. In this way Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence is not pornographic, as its detailed descriptions of sex come within a social and literary context.

 The aesthetic definition harks back to the original idea of pornography as a list of prostitutes’ services. The aesthetic idea considers porn to be no more than a list of sexual exchanges described in utilitarian*** detail.

 At about the same time that the Aesthetic/Literary definitions were gaining strength, the strength of moral definitions of pornography was waning. The moral definition is closely tied to obscenity law, where something is obscene is pornographic if it (more or less) has the effect of corrupting those into whose hands it is likely to fall. The moral definition of pornography as a sexually corruptive force tends to be focused on the effect that pornography has on the reader/viewer, rather than the aesthetic of technical components of the material. As such, it is seen as being corruptive because it promotes an unrealistic idea of sex in a vulnerable mind, a view based on male sexual fantasies rather than a fulfilling reality. This definition was traditionally adopted by conservative voices who sought to prevent the creation and dissemination of pornography through legal means. Strangely, though this definition fell out of favour, more or less, with the rise of the aesthetic definition, it was revitalised and re-adopted by a new, antithetical force:

 Feminist definitions of pornography are a mix of Moral and Functional definitions (which were always pretty similar to begin with) with their own social slant. In basic terms the feminist idea defines pornography in terms of its power relationships. Like the functional definition it sees pornography as material that aids lust, but more specifically as an aide to male masturbation. As such pornography is inherently a male artefact that uses women as the centre of male ‘sexual gaze’, turning women into sex objects subordinated for the purpose of satisfying male sexual desire. Like the moral definition it also seeks to define pornography by the social effects it has, which is generally seen as reinforcing a male subordination of women socially and sexually. Some more extreme views see pornography as being a contributing factor in rape and the abuse of women.

 While the feminist idea of porn I definitely driven by a social agenda rather than a desire for literary understanding, the truth of the power-relationships inherent in mainstream pornography is hard to deny. Interestingly, the definition doesn’t tend, in the abstract, to differentiate between pornography that is well written or pornography that isn’t, instead being concerned with whether or not it represents an anti-woman idea of sex. From this definition comes the divide between pornography and erotica, where erotica is seen as sexually focused material that presents a ‘realistic’ or ‘balanced’ idea of sex without subordination.

 I myself, while I recognise the inherent issues surrounding the politics of representation, am uneasy with a definition that has an agenda. I am attempting, in preparation for this essay, to organise my brain around a non-pejorative definition of pornography, so that pornography can be well written or badly written, masculine or feminine, and also change in line with social norms. What was pornographic for Victorian England is no longer pornography for us, so I see the need for a definition that takes changing contexts into account. It may end up being a definition based on the notion of authorial intent, but also coupled with a functional, response based evaluation.  

 Perhaps it should be material that, in social context, had the effect of being sexually explicit material with the aim of sexual arousal. This would need to differentiate between material that was not intended for this purpose but which might be adopted as an aid to masturbation. This would be a fringe, and aberrant form, however, and probably needs a definition of its own based on user re-appropriation rather than as a genre of intent. This non-pejorative definition, also, would need to allow for the existence of  pornographic ‘moments’ within a non-pornographic text.

 It will require some consideration.

 ~Chris.

 *          A complex beast of many backs.

**        So to speak.

***      One Handed





Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

27 08 2009

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee

                                                            -Shakespeare

 One of the great maxims of our age* should be: when in doubt, quote Shakespeare. It’s not one, at least that I’m aware of, but in the busy storm of life, or in a lack of inspiration, Shakespeare is a safe harbour to sail into…

 Any Poet in a storm? **

 Yes? No. No, sorry. Forget I said that. *cough*

 Anyway, enough has already been written about the romantically titled Sonnet 18 (above) such that adding my meagre voice to the mix is hardly going to contribute to the overall understanding of the poem. In short, however,  the poem asks whether it should compare the subject to a summer’s day, and then describes why the subject is much ‘fairer’ than that, as a summers day is shorter, rougher, and more likely to decline than the person that it is being compared to. In the same way that a person may be flattered with faint praise the poem has the effect of praising the subject through the fact that a summers day compares unfavourably to them, though it is perhaps fairer to say that the person compares to the ideal summers day, one that is not rough, or brief, or intemperate.

Sonnet 18

Sonnet 18

The poem is, ostensibly, as much about writing poetry as it is about the subjects ‘fairness’. Where the first half denigrates the act of poetic comparison, and the poet’s ability to find an apt symbol, the second half of the poem brags that by expressing the subject in poetry they have essentially immortalised them.

 But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

This may be a bit of ‘street’ poetry criticism. But with this sonnet I feel like there are serviceable lines, for eg. ‘But thy eternal summer shall not fade’, and then there are the ‘Money Quotes’ like ‘Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade’. Oh yeah. That’s the good stuff. It’s all great, don’t get me wrong. This is Shakespeare, the man had a skill. But some phrases are more… transcendent than others. ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of may,’ is another one. Rhythm, rhyme, and meaning all come together into one finely tuned phrase. The beauty nearly obscures the actual meaning of the line.

 Neither sentiments – that the person being described is too beautiful to be described aptly, and the immortalisation in poetry of said beauty – are original to Shakespeare. Ovid’s Tristia is the much cited [suspected] inspiration for the second theme.

 What is more interesting is the gentle battleground being drawn across this poem as it relates to the subject of Shakespeare’s sexuality. Actually, it’s not really a battleground. It’s more of a vague musing on the part of those Shakespeare scholars who have plainly exhausted all other possible avenues of speculation. The matter breaks down, more or less, into the order of the Sonnets as they were published.

 Sonnet 18 is clearly a poem of intense adoration, to the point where it is very often used as an example of classical love poetry. On the other hand, the poem is traditionally understood as being part of a series of sonnets called ‘The Fair Youth Sequence’ which are dedicated to a male friend of Shakespeare. This leads some scholars to think that, mayhap, the Bard preferred a bit o’ the ‘love that dare not speak its name.’ the counter argument is, of course, fuck it, Shakespeare was married. Then again, he ran away from his wife to live amidst the merry thespians of London. All in all, it’s fairly inconclusive. The other complication is the suggestion that the order of the poems was arbitrarily changed by the publisher who just threw number 18 in after 17 because, hell, it seemed to fit. No one’s going to read too much into it, right?

 This is, very possibly, the least important question in Shakespeare scholarship. You can also tell that this is one of his earlier sonnets. As time went on, Shakey*** became less fond of the end stopping he uses frequently in this poem and gets more into the use of enjambment. It is said, though I’ve put almost negative effort thus far into verifying the claim, that REAL Shakespeare scholars can date his plays and sonnets by how heavily enjambed they are. Cool, eh?

 ~Chris.

  *What ARE the great maxims of our age? I have no idea. Don’t spit into the wind? No, that’s more a maxim for EVERY age. I know: Don’t go up against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line! and stay out of the Fire Swamp. Also, you can’t be told what the Matrix is; you have to see it for yourself. 

 ** I Ought to be Bard.

 *** Otherwise known as The Bard, or DJ Spears.





New Fiction: Caught by Karen-Anne Coleman

25 08 2009

We have started publishing serialised fiction here at the Woolf and Maus (yes, just like Charles Dickens) and to kick off our series we are very excited to launch Caught, by Karen-Anne Coleman (that’s actually me – so in some ways writing this post does feel rather like the royal ‘we’).

Caught is set in Sydney, and tells the story of a remarkable photographer and his even more remarkable camera, through the eyes of his friend and landlady, Katy. As Katy learns more about this mystical man who lives in her basement, she discovers that he has touched the lives of other people in her neighbourhood too – in more ways than she would care to know. Caught is about what we mean to one another, how we love and how we let one another live.

The first chapter of Caught is available below, free to download in pdf format. For the next instalment, please click back soon.

Please also leave a comment below if you liked this work, telling us why!

Cheers

Click here to download the first chapter of Caught:

Caught Chapter One by K A Coleman





Intelligent Young Adult Literature

22 07 2009

I was skeptical too. I am only 23, and when I was a young adult (or at least, more young adult than I am now) there was a genuine lack of intelligent young adult literature. Craving a good read, I moved up a notch, to the adult ‘literature’ and ‘classics’ section of bookstores and have since rarely wandered out of it for my fiction needs. With the exception of Harry Potter, and perhaps Isabel Carmody or Christopher Paolini, there was certainly nothing coming out that the publishers and booksellers pushed in my face as both entertaining and a really quality book.

Not the case now. Once you wade through the initial impact of Stephanie Meyer’s and other highly popular vampire/werewolf/zombie spinoffs, you discover a whole host of intelligent, inspired and entertaining literature. [NB I do not mean any harm against ‘popular’ fiction – which finds its worth in the pleasure it provides, I simply argue that there is a difference between our pleasure reading and our thinking reading. I would argue all of us, even our literature professors, have favourites in both genres, to suit moods for different times of the day and season. Anyone who denies they ‘goof off’ with something the academy would label ‘lower grade’ is rather suspect in my opinion.] I have just finished The Billionaire’s Curse, by Australia’s own Richard Newsome, due out next month. This teenage boy’s romp begins in sunny Australia, where Gerald suddenly discovers that he has inherited a fortune from an Aunt he never knew he had. He travels to the UK, finding there a motley collection of jealous relatives, as well as a murder plot and diamond thief. The adventure takes him through the halls of the British Museum, London underground stations and forgotten bomb shelters and into the English countryside. There are some truly hilarious characters in here, and you can see Newsome is building to something greater in the next book. But the best part is, it’s not patronising. Newsome gets inside his character’s head and stays there – as all writers should – but especially as young adult writers should, since it often seems difficult for adult writers to remember that young adults don’t need to be written down to, they are very intelligent people.

9781406310252I would have to say Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go (which I am reading now), and its sequel, The Ask and the Answer, is even more effective at this. Newsome is to Rowling as Ness is to Orwell (I know that’s a big call but I don’t make it lightly). In fact, if you were only going to read one book from this review, read Ness. In this apocalyptic scenario settlers have moved, from planet to planet, in search one less desolate from that they just left. We meet Todd and his talking dog Manchee in Prentisstown, where a history of germ warfare has wiped out all the women and left the men with a transparent Noise emitting all the thoughts from their minds in a constant tangled buzz like too many radio stations in static. As a result everyone can always ‘hear’ what’s on everyone else’s mind and there is constant male aggression. A month before he is due to ‘become’ a man, Todd escapes to the wilderness beyond Prentisstown and meets a very unfamiliar, unreadable, young girl – and I can’t tell you anymore for fear of spoiling it! Apart from the beautifully realised world, there is so much theory going on beneath the surface of this novel. Even more haunting, are its inherent human themes, on the nature of thought and human relationships. It is one of those novels that is so succinct in its meaning, it compresses more thought into the same number of pages than a lesser philosopher, theorist, critic or writer could ever hope to. And we walk past it in the young adult section!

I have also just started reading Witches and Wizards, the latest James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet novel, not due out in Australia for a few months. So far so good, I must admit more thought provoking along the theme of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible than I would have expected. And I can certainly see why Patterson and Charbonnet might have considered it timely to bring out such a novel (at least before the big bad GFC took over all our attention spans).

The other two I must mention, though I have not read them, but intend to, are The Hunger Games, and its sequel Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins and The Mortal Instruments series (books 1, 2 and 3) by Cassandra Clare. Both come highly recommended to me by both adults and young adults.





Lolita.

19 07 2009

Damn.

Reading Lolita is like being possessed by a daemon, where the possessive act is in fact it’s own exorcism.  It is, in fact, exactly like having a pervert in your head for 309 pages. I read Lolita in preparation for a Literary Controversies subject I hope to be taking over the next few months, and it’s easy to tell why Lolita would be considered controversial.

‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta…’

I mean, the book is about paedophilia. There is no disgust (initially) in the narrator, no disguise. Only his desire, his “pederosis”, driving the narrative on as he covets, obtains and molests the young Lolita over the course of her pre and post pubescence.

The controversy is obvious, and a student doesn’t have to look too far to figure out why. Written in 1953, in a country that made it illegal to use the word ‘toilet’ on television, a novel, a graphically sexual novel, from the point of view of a manipulative paedophile wasn’t likely to find much comfort in the opinions of the censors. To find a publisher Nabokov was forced to go to Paris, the city in which the novel begins its narrative.

The statement made by critics, that the book was ‘pure pornography’, however, was a bit misleading.  While the sex scenes are there they are much less direct in the description of physical acts than even earlier works, such as the also controversial ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’. The descriptions of sex in Lolita, in fact, are often strangely coy, as in this scene from midway through the book, where the Self-aggrandising Humbert Humbert already has the girl Lolita well under his control:

… and all was very quiet and there was another girl with a very naked, porcelain-white neck and wonderful platinum hair, who sat in front reading too, absolutely lost to the world and interminably winding a soft curl around one finger, and I sat beside Dolly just behind that neck and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk.

Perhaps ‘coy’ isn’t the right word. But ‘indirect’ certainly applies, and this sequence can be said to represent a pattern of objectification and manipulation that characterises the novel. Humbert Humbert fails to recognise the real humanity of the child he abuses, instead only able to describe her in terms of how she conforms to his own obsessive desires and lusts. He describes her in intricate detail as she plays tennis, solely because her form at the sport arouses him so. He criticises her choices of magazine and music, because they do not conform to the idea of the ideal ‘Nymphet’ that he wants her to be.  In fact for all the intimacy he imagines between himself and Lolita, he cannot help revealing this intimacy to be a sham. He cannot hold a normal conversation with her, and at one point remarks to himself how truly ignorant he was/is of the workings inside her mind.

So while the sexual descriptions in the novel are less direct than they might be, their context lends them a terrible power that makes them quite hard to read. Indeed, the true discomfort from reading Lolita (and it is very uncomfortable, at many parts) comes directly from the writer’s point of view. The novel is meant to be the now arrested Humbert Humbert’s confession from prison and as such everything that occurs is couched within his own opinions. The novel is as much about self-deception and self-rationalisation as it is about the crimes themselves.

From the very beginning we are encouraged by the writer to sympathise with his story. He tells us of an early love never truly consummated, frustrated by circumstance and then ended by the death of the girl. When he first encounters Lolita and attempts to enjoy her from afar we are encouraged by the influence of his perspective to see his long-distance lechery as harmless self gratification, un-invasive and almost innocent. At this point the thin film of protection that is Lolita’s mother still separates her from the eager Humbert, and it is not until the mother’s death, and Humbert manages to manipulate himself into possession of the child, that the real efforts towards self justification begin. Young girls, we are told, and habitually married to older men in certain eastern nations. In the bible many of the characters were married at an age even younger than the 12 year old Lolita. Indeed, in the context of a new and sexually radical American youth, the assumption that Lolita is completely innocent may, and indeed did, turn out to be unfounded.

So skilfully, in fact, does Nabokov draw us in to the mind of his protagonist that it’s easy to forget what he is and be carried along on the voyage of his actions and wants. In this way Nabokov plays tricks on his readers. Long passages of self-justification and twisted moral philosophy are suddenly curtailed by a single phrase that snaps the reader out of the author’s mind just enough to encourage a radical re-think of the entire previous experience.  For example:

And so we rolled east,  more devastated than braced with the satisfaction of my passion, and she glowing with health, her bi-lilac garland still as brief as a lads, although she had added two inches to her stature and eight pounds to her weight. We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night –every night, every night –the moment I feigned sleep.

It gets to a point where the reader tries to hold two narratives in their head simultaneously. The first is the one of the protagonist, where you follow his moods, his desires and point of view as they are presented, and the second is the dual interpretation of everything that is going on from a more reasonable, human perspective. Humbert continually describes Lolita as a wilful, spoilt and vulgar child who is partner to his ‘passions’ and whom he takes pains to care for. It takes a lot of concentration to read this and simultaneously read the truth, which is that Lolita is a victim, practically imprisoned by the lecherous Humbert, and completely manipulated in thought and deed.

It is interesting to note that all the self-conscious regrets or self loathing that snap us back into sympathy with Lolita are a product of the writer’s hind-sight. He never felt these things at the time while he had her under his control, only later and in prison does her start to see the ‘trail of slime’ he left.

Lolita is a very complex book, quite difficult going at times, but ultimately rewarding. There is far too much to discuss properly here. There are plots, and sub-plots that I have not even touched on yet. There is the marriage to Lolita’s mother, and her death. There is Lolita’s escape from Humbert and his many years of searching the hotels of America for some trace of her. There is even, leading up to her escape, and after, a joust with a shadowy other figure across the states of America and at home in Ramsdale that exists entirely within the suggested sub-plots of the story but which eventually becomes its most crucial element. The work is intricate, and so finely structured, that I wouldn’t want to attempt to disassemble it here. I encourage you to read it however, but to be prepared for discomfort when you do.