Read an Excerpt
“A warning: this is not a coming-of-age story because I never came of age. My age was stolen from me by an ogre disguised as a poet. And let’s clear something up right off the bat. I am more than capable of mimicking the puffed up, French-laced, narcissistic prose style of Humbert Humbert. Despite the fact that I am a high-school dropout (his fault) I am far from illiterate. But I will not write in the fancy style of the Poet-Paedo-Pervert who produced a carcinoma of pretentious-word-tissue in order to distract from the stink of his shit. I will not divert the reader from his reign of terror by using white-washing metaphors to describe his routine attacks of twelve year old me.
Let’s clear something else up, right off the bat. Faking the death of myself and my daughter was a lie I told to save us. I confess that to you with fingers crossed that you will not dismiss me as pathological and so doubt the story I am about to tell you. Correction, I do not cross fingers. As far as luck goes, I only believe in the bad kind: and you would too, if what happened to me, happened to you.
I am Lolita but I am not Lolita. Lolita was his ‘pet’ name for me and I detest it and am sick to my stomach even as I type it upon this page. My real name is Dolores Maize, or Dolly as everyone has always called me.”
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Last February I had a dream in which a steady male voice said to me, “Write Lolita from Lolita’s point of view.” My dream-self let loose an internal wahoo! what a great idea. When I woke up, however, my waking-self said, no damned way am I doing that. The subject matter is too dark and there’s not a chance I’m going there.
I have learned over many years of writing to listen to that voice, and so, I met my bossy muse half-way, agreeing to at least re-read Nabokov’s famous novel, and consider the idea. To that end, I bought a paperback copy, dug out my highlighters and began reading. As I read, I pretended I was Lolita as an old lady reading, for the first time, this story of her prolonged sexual abuse by Humbert Humbert. I asked myself, how would grown-up Lolita react to reading Humbert’s descriptions? After reading only a few chapters, little Lolita started nagging me to please tell her side of the story, a.k.a the truth (I think she’s after her own, ‘me-too’ moment). And so I told her, and my bossy muse, that I would do it, after all.
In my re-imagining of Lolita, I saw Humbert Humbert and his version of the story as existing on the warped side of Alice’s looking glass, and Lolita’s version, on the side of clear reality. I used this idea of the mirror to guide me through writing the book, mirroring plot, symbols, language, characters, in order to create an alternate reality for Lolita/Dolly which is, of course, the true reality.
I structured the book in the same way Nabokov structures his: two parts, two road trips, a time at school, and then the escape. He has a Foreword. I have an Afterword. He has diary entries from Humbert. I have diary entries from Dolly. He writes about Humbert’s childhood at the beginning of the book. I write about Dolly’s. Humbert falls in love with his childhood sweetheart, Annabel Leigh, on the Riviera beach. Dolly has a young-love experience in the Riviera movie theatre with Henry Hamilton. Nabokov places his young lovers in a cave of red rock, I place mine in a theatre of red velvet. Humbert characterizes Lolita as a mythological nymphet; she characterizes Humbert as a mythological ogre, and notes, that ogres come from France (true) as does Humbert. Humbert lords about in the colour purple, fancying himself an emperor. Dolly tells us that the colour purple comes from slime that oozes from the butt ends of sea snails, which is also true.
Janet Turpin Myers