Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov’s Little Girl All Over Again (Review)

June 6, 2010

Book cover for "Chasing Lolita" by Graham Vickers.Title: Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov’s Little Girl All Over Again

Author: Graham Vickers

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 256

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

From the cover:

In the summer of 1958, a twelve-year-old girl took the world by storm – Lolita was published in the United States. This child, so fresh and alive, yet so pitiable in her abuse at the hands of the novel’s narrator, engendered outrage and sympathy alike, and has continued to do so ever since.

Yet Lolita’s image in the broader public consciousness has changed. No longer a little girl, Lolita has come to signify a precocious temptress, a cunning underage vixen who’ll stop at nothing to get her man. How could this have happened?

Chasing Lolita, published on the fiftieth anniversary of Lolita’s American publication, is an essential contemporary companion to Vladimir Nabokov’s great novel. It establishes who Lolita really was back in 1958, explores her predecessors of all stripes, and examines the multitude of movies, theatrical shows, literary spinoffs, artifacts, fashion, art, photography, and tabloid excesses that have distorted her identity and stolen her name. It considers now just the “Lolita effect” but shifting attitudes toward the always volatile mix of sex, children, and popular entertainment – from Victorian times to the present. And it also looks at some real-life case of young girls who became the victims of someone else’s obsession – unhappy sisters to one of the most affecting heroines in American fiction, and one of the most widely misunderstood.

I really love reading about sexuality in contemporary culture, in pretty much all contexts. So, when I bought Nabokov’s Lolita in March to read for the first time, I also picked up Chasing Lolita to accompany it. I was expecting this book to be SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!

Unfortunately, it was not.

It wasn’t bad, really, just not great. For starters, it just trudged on. I’ve been trying to read this book off and on since the end of March, a few pages at a time. I finally finished it last night after putting in a serious chunk of forced reading time as part of the 48 Hour Book Challenge. The pace was just really slow and the reading was really heavy and unnecessarily complex at times. Vickers covered an awful lot of information in a very short book, including details that related to a multitude of people who weren’t always mentioned more than once. Sometimes the things he talked about were really interesting and relevant, but there were other times where things seemed sort of tacked on or really peripherally related.

Overall, though, the content of the book was pretty good. It was just the pacing that was off. Chasing Lolita read like some of the most high-minded academic papers that I read in university, the whole way through. Sometimes I would end up totally immersed in what Vickers was explaining for a few pages, but then either I would get bogged down in detail or the topic would end up changing so many times in such a short period that I would lose interest and want to go do something else. I learned a lot from reading this book, yet I can’t help but feel that I would have gotten so much more out of it if I had been able to attain an actual reading flow.

I would definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in the content, but with the forewarning that it’s slow going throughout.

Rating:

4 Comments

  • Iris June 6, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I have to admit that your quote from the cover made me think that this book must be reallt good. I’m sorry to hear that it’s slow. I’m not sure if I could deal with the highly academic character in my “fun” reading.

  • Amy June 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    So disappointing. Reading the short introduction it sounds SO GOOD, what a let down!

  • Lydia June 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I might still give this one a try; I have a few books on Lolita that I have enjoyed so I would be tempted to give this one a go… I’ll remember, though, that it could be slow going.

    Thanks for the heads up!
    Lydia @ the literary lollipop

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