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2004.10.24 =>


Plenty of moralistic types attacked Lolita when it first came out, and funnily enough, they seem to have gotten certain things more right than the book's defenders. Take this cranky paragraph from the New Republic:

There is in reality a shadow, unperceived by most of the serious critics but known to social workers and mental institutions. It is that of the real Lolitas who exist in darkness throughout their lives. And this shadow, among us in the flesh, is what obliges us to differ with our own reviewer who considered that "to dwell on the book's more lurid side is to connive with witlessness."

(first-page editorial, 27 October 1958)

It's true that Nabokov wasn't interested in writing a public-service announcement, but it's easy to take his professed belief in aesthetics above all else much too far and completely ignore the book's moral dimension, such as one well-meaning chap did in the Spectator.

It is further argued that the book records the gratification of a sexual perversion, a charge which is similarly irrelevant, and in addition untrue; the narrator's inclinations are exclusively heterosexual, and paedophilia, while certainly illegal, is not a perversion in the sense which paederasty or heterosexual anal intercourse is.

(Bernard Levin, 9 January 1959)

Ah, so anything goes, so long as no anuses are involved. And there's no buggery in the Royal Navy.

PJ Harvey, The Warfield, Friday 22 October: Rock and fucking roll. She brought the voice, the hair, the spike-heeled red boots. None of us had heard the new record prior to the show, which turned out to be all right, because she did an excellent sampler from the whole catalog. (I personally wouldn't have minded another cut or two off Is This Desire?, but we can't have everything.) In particular I might need to reconsider To Bring You My Love: that record has never been a favorite of mine, but "Meet Ze Monsta," which always sounded flat and monotonous on the stereo, came alive onstage like you wouldn't believe. "Plants and Rags" from Dry got a similar turbocharge. Occasionally the sound got incoherent when there were two simultaneous guitars—the rhythm on "50ft Queenie" never quite came through as it should have—but I had awfully little to find fault with. I'm breaking out the old records again.


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