Monday, May 15, 2006

A Derbyshire-Chesterton Coincidence

Today's NRO had an article by John Derbyshire on Lolita, which hardened my years-long intention to read that book into a--well, into a firmer intention. I then, while searching for something entirely unrelated by Chesterton, happened across this essay in Chesterton's All Things Considered. Both Derbyshire and Chesterton were writing near a literary anniversary (the 50-year anniversary of Lolita, the 200th birthday of Fielding) , both talk about a book called immoral by many of its readers and non- or partial readers, and both talk about the increasing tendency of wimpy moderns not to want to confront the truth of human nature. In the Lolita essay, this mostly comes down to the politically incorrect fact that men continue find young, pubescent or post-pubescent women attractive. In the Fielding essay, it's the inconvenient fact of the complete human--that is, the way a man (or woman) may be a bewildering mess of virtues and vices and may commit quite a lot of sins and stupid mistakes along with some good while aspiring to do much better. Both essays are worth the few minutes it takes to read them, even if, like me, you only know Lolita through the movie and Tom Jones through a radio dramatization.

1 comment:

boinky said...

I haven't read the articles, but when I was in college in the 1960's we were told Lolita "proved" very young girls enjoyed sex, and that all sexual rules needed to be relaxed for our mental health.
However, a different take on Lolita can be found in "Reading Lolita in Tehran". That is the idea that women are molded according to men's desires, and that the women either rebel against it or their sexuality is distorted. In RLIT, the girls forced to wear the Chador and to deny their own sexuality identified with Lolita, the victim, and despised her seducer as a liar who only sees Lolita not as a real person but as a thing to gratify his own desires.