Marilynn and I have been battling for years over the derivation and significance of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s infamous 1955 novel. To refresh your memory, the first-person narrator is a middle-aged literature professor obsessed with a 12-year-old girl whom he nicknames Lolita and with whom he becomes sexually involved after marrying her mother. The premise is creepy, but the book is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature often cited as one of the best books of the 20th century.
Our disagreement centers on her belief that the book could only have been written by someone who experienced or fantasized about what is described in its pages, while I think it’s a work of pure literary imagination. The Annotated Lolita unpacks my side of the story. The Nabokov text in The Annotated Lolita is 309 pages, but the book is itself is 455 pages, including Editor Alfred Appel Jr.’s 67-page introduction, 6 pages of bibliography, 6 pages of Nabokov notes, and 138 pages of annotations. Serious scholarship.