Archive for Books – Page 3

The Importance of Being Ernest…

My last post drew a number of interesting comments, especially Marilynn’s belief that Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita could only have been written by someone who experienced or fantasized about what is described – a middle-aged professor’s sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl. Jon Maksik, a very good writer friend, pointed out such a belief could only come from an inability to separate the art from the artist. And now we have Ken Burns’ three-part documentary on Hemingway.  read more

Lolita is Back…

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. read more

Then and Now…

In the waning days of World War II, France was deeply divided. Invaded in 1940, it quickly capitulated and for four years was humiliated by the German occupation and puppet government in Vichy. 

Local Resistance cells were established throughout the country to aid the Allies and Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle’s government in exile, but the majority of French citizens kept their heads down, went carefully about their business, and submitted to the humiliating occupation.  read more

Art in the Pandemic Era…

If art, music, dance, or theater were an important part of your world earlier, the pandemic has turned it upside down. With the ability to travel, attend events and visit museums limited, we have been left casting about for alternatives. Art is meant to be experiential—best when it’s a one-on-one experience with the original. 

A picture can’t begin to deliver the feeling of standing next to Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia in Florence. In its presence the stone pulses with energy, muscles ripple, veins throb and eyelids almost blink. read more

A Trump Allegory…

Over the years I’ve tried on several iterations of Christian orthodoxy–I was baptized Catholic (grandmother’s wish), then went on to Congregational Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Episcopalian versions. Sometimes my engagement was passionate, sometimes not, but I settled on being an Episcopalian 30 years ago because I liked the rituals – the smells and bells – Catholic without those politics. My attitude changed when a rigidly conservative vestry forced my friend, Robert Taylor, Dean of St. Mark’s Cathedral, to resign. He was a star, but gay, and that got under their skin. Since then I’ve felt a kind of benign indifference. read more