Lolita on Social Security?
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Vladimir Nabokov spent five years writing Lolita. After submitting it to several major publishing houses in New York without success, his agent suggested Maurice Girodias. No stranger to controversy, Girodias had previously published Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs through his Olympia Press in France.
Girodias published the book in English in 1955. It didn’t garner much attention and sold primarily to English tourists. It wasn’t until John Gordon of the Sunday Expess denounced it as “about the filthiest book I’ve ever read,” that anyone paid much attention.
American publishers took notice, but they were still leery about publishing a book that many considered pornographic. After numerous fits and starts with the big New York houses, Nabokov ended up signing with a small publisher, Ivan Obolensky. The deal with Obolensky fell through, but Putnam eventually stepped in to publish the book. The American edition was finally published on August 18, 1958.
It’s 52 years later and Carmen Bramley, a fifteen-year-old French schoolgirl is generating heat with her upcoming book, Pastel Fauve about a teenager who has sexual fantasies about the British rocker, Pete Doherty and loses her virginity at 14.
Will her nymphet, Paloma become the new Lolita? Perhaps. But there is only one Lolita and—near as I can tell—she’s been on social security for a couple of years now.