Madison Beer first defends, then apologizes for her love of Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’

Singer Madison Beer arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of YouTube Originals' 'Justin Bieber: Seasons' held at the Regency Bruin Theatre on January 27, 2020 in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Have you ever read Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita? I have. It’s an interesting fictional exploration of a pedophile and how he manipulated, groomed and abused his young step-daughter. It was hugely controversial when it was published, and it remains controversial today. I believe the book is still banned in many countries and by many libraries. The fact that the book is banned and still seen as so controversial is the reason why people still pick it up and read it today. Do all of those people find Humbert Humbert a sympathetic character, or cosign his activities in the book? Of course not. It’s fiction, and it’s considered one of the “great novels of the 20th century.” People read it for all kinds of reasons. But this 1955 book is still somehow causing controversy today, especially when a celebrity decides to chat about how it’s her favorite book.

Madison Beer is facing scrutiny following her admission that she “romanticizes” the controversial book Lolita. The singer later apologized about the incident on Twitter. It all started when Madison went on TikTok Live on Monday and was answering questions from fans. Someone asked about her favorite book and she replied that it was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, a controversial book about a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed and later sexually involved with a 12-year-old girl. Later in the Live, a fan said, “Please tell me you don’t romanticize Lolita,” to which Madison responded, “I definitely do, but we’re not going to talk about that.”

The conversation then turned to Twitter where Madison admitted that she misspoke. “It’s just a book to me and I apologize if anyone took my comment like I was romanticizing their relationship,” she said in a now-deleted tweet. “I was mainly kidding and I just love the book.”

She continued, saying, “I have always said Lolita is my favorite book, because it’s so controversial…It raises awareness and tells a story from a different POV on an important topic which is why I love it. I’m not saying I condone or romanticize a pedophilic relationship. I just like the book.” She went on saying she likes “darks stories…always have,” emphasizing that “it’s a fake made up thing.”

Later, she tweeted out another apology. “I love you guys & I’m sorry,” she said. “I misspoke and would never condone inappropriate relationships of any kind. I’m sincerely sorry for it seeming like I do. Let me make it clear—I do not. Have a good night.”

Then, Madison made another statement on the subject, admitting that she was “too flippant” when it came to her previous responses. “I discovered the book several years ago and honestly I really should revisit it and read it through a new lens,” she wrote. “I see now that the book is triggering for some people, evoking a very complicated emotional response and that for some this book is not just an academic exploration of complicated themes and dark characters… I hope as I learn and mature and have time to study the things I love like books, films and art, that I can do better in bringing them to you responsibly and will be better able to express myself.”

[From Seventeen]

I think she was too blasé and thoughtless about how she described her interest in the book, but I also don’t think anyone needs to apologize for simply enjoying a fictional book which is considered so “important” in the history of literature. And honestly, it’s been years and years since I’ve read it too, and I wonder how that sh-t would hit me if I sat down to reread it.

Singer Madison Beer arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of YouTube Originals' 'Justin Bieber: Seasons' held at the Regency Bruin Theatre on January 27, 2020 in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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81 Responses to “Madison Beer first defends, then apologizes for her love of Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    How old am I to not know who this young lady is?

    Also, do I think she actually read it or just said it to be a smart aleck.

    Yeah, I’m old.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I’m old too, because I had no idea who this person is. I had to google her. she’s pretty, but she needs to think before she speaks.

    • vesper says:

      I know of her because my daughter is a fan. And my first impression from her statement was that 1) she never read the book, she wanted to sound intellectual 2) her lack of real knowledge of the books content is evident by her flippant response and 3) I pretty sure a real adult helped her draft that last response and in the process she learned a word (flippant).

      P.S. I have never read the book beyond the first few pages, it was far too triggering. BUT I have seen both films and the Jeremy Iron’s version still haunts me.

  2. Laalaa says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I once watched a youtube review about it where they slammed it, and the comments there were so surprising to read – most people were deeply upset, saying the story is uncomfortable, but the writing of the book is exquisite and the book itself is a masterpiece. Some of them quoted certain paragraphs and I was stunned… because, the paragraphs made me uncomfortable, but I could see why it’s a beloved book – the music of the words is just masterful.
    Haven’t read the book, though nor do I plan to.

    • KL says:

      The writing is even more amazing (to me) when remembering English was Nabokov’s second language. That’s his skill in a SECOND LANGUAGE.

      Like, way to flex, dude.

      • Slowdown says:

        I love the writing and the escalating of the story is really interesting: it talks about how love can be a sinister thing and the writing does the same. It bewitched the reader until the very uncomfortable scenes with Lolita.
        It’s also very interesting that a man acknowledges the fact that pre-teens are pre-sexual and are groomed (especially little girls at the time) to be alluring ma no troppo. Also the mother is an important influence. I really like the book and see no problem with it. It showed a lot of loopholes in societal rules.

      • Murph says:

        Lolita has been one of my favorite books for years, mainly for how beautifully it’s written. It’s just stunning and Nabokov’s masterful skill of the English language is a sight to behold. The first time I read it I was around 15, and I definitely did not see quite how disgusting the relationship between Humbert Humbert and Dolores was. I think I was just young enough, and hadn’t had some of the awful experiences many young women had of being manipulated and groomed by older men, that I was somehow able to see it through a more romanticized lens (it’s terrible to admit that, but it’s true). I read it again in my early twenties and as an adult I was able to see the clear power imbalance and how predatory and manipulative H.H. was, and just how *young* Delores was. I don’t think I even realized quite how young I was at 15. Anyway, reading it the second time was a completely different experience and it made me sick to my stomach and ashamed that I’d romanticized it when I was younger. It’s still an incredibly beautiful book, Nabokov is a genius, but I think twice was enough for me.

      • Paige says:

        The prose is really so beautiful. Doesn’t matter the subject-it just happens to be about a pedophile- I would say it is a sympathetic portrait in that you see why he became stunted at a young age and became obsessed when his childhood love Annabel dies of typhus. Also interesting how ‘in love’ he truly is with Lolita even when she is no longer a child-(not true pedophile behavior) is pregnant and belittles him-he still gives her all the money he has. it is a powerful love story. One sided albeit😜

      • Paige says:

        Yes- I’ve read all of his work-Pale Fire being my favorite. I actually teach a course on it-just disagree.

    • kacy says:

      Nabokov did not intend Humbert Humbert to be sympathetic but viewed him as a monster. It’s written in the first person so Humbert is coloring everything in his favor. It delves into the justification that they go through within themselves. He said the last interaction between Humbert in Dolores where she says that he ruined her life is evidence of this.

      He stated that he put the more explicit sexual writing in the book knowing that readers reading for those reasons would stop at that point and say that didn’t think the second half was worth it.

      • Paige says:

        Well we don’t know what Nabokov intended-He work speaks for itself -but I do feel that explaining why he is a monster and even admitting he is a monster does engender some sympathy in an empathetic person

      • kacy says:

        Actually, we do know because he spoke about it afterwards. My edition had a forward that he contributed to.

      • Paige says:

        Yes-I’ve read all of his work, Pale Fire being my favorite. I actually teach a course on it-I just disagree.

  3. Michael says:

    Madison Beer is well meaning I think but she is very young and it often shows

  4. LunaSF says:

    I have no idea who this woman is but it is a famous book and considered a masterpiece among many. Obviously it’s very problematic (I’ve personally never read it and don’t plan too). So people are upset and/or offended that they asked what her favorite book is and she…. answered?! She isn’t condoning the content and didn’t write it. Stories like these seem like people are just looking to get outraged to be outraged when there are so many more important issues going on right now.

    • Nicole says:

      I would personally make a distinction: I don’t think the book is “problematic.” The subject is horrifying and — to put it mildly — “problematic.” I do not think the book in any way absolves, humanizes or romanticizes Humbert. It is a beautifully written book about a monstrous subject.
      Of course, if anyone wants to avoid a book (or film) because of the subject matter, that is completely valid and understandable.
      But I don’t think that means art should never deal with that subject matter.

      • osito says:

        Nicole, I absolutely agree with you, and was going to make the same point in a stand-alone comment until I saw yours state it so eloquently. Humbert Humbert is not an anti-hero, and it takes a twisted mind to find that in Nabokov’s work, but they do — Dorothy Parker was one that disappointed me greatly by missing the point. I always felt it was very clear that the audience should not empathize with H, but instead be aware of his unreliability as a narrator, and witness the ways in which he utterly destroys a child, psychologically and physically.

  5. Frizzy says:

    I read it recently. My God. Dolores clearly hates Humbert. I was expecting the abuse to be glossed over but it wasn’t, he describes being forceful with her. There was one passage on prepubescence that made me want to barf.

  6. Lola says:

    Maybe she’s a Pretty Little Liars fan?! It was very prominent on the show. (Yes, I watched it. Don’t @ me!)

  7. Penguin says:

    People can appreciate the beautiful writing without agreeing with the content. Nabokov wrote a horrific story much like American Psycho or The Shining. Those who read these books and enjoy them don’t necessarily condone brutal murder or are dismissive of people whose loved ones were murdered in real life. Do we all now have to enjoy only politically correct books whose characters only make morally right choices written by authors who are equally pure? It would make for very boring literature.

    • Sam the Pink says:

      I remember reading American Psycho and being shocked that anybody could think that Patrick Bateman was a hero or being lionized. He is clearly profoundly evil and without morals. Bateman is a reflection of the worst of humanity and a system that props people like him up.

      And The Shining is about Stephen King’s struggles with alcohol addiction and how it made him feel like a failure as a husband and father. He’s said as much.

      I agree with you. The mere existence of uncomfortable or criminal behavior in literature is not a reason to argue against it. If the book was extolling the behavior, that might be a different argument. But I never read Lolita as celebrating predatory behavior.

      • SomeChick says:

        American Psycho was icky and awful. I felt gross after reading it. Celebrating Brett Easton Ellis for it (which still goes on now) disgusts me.

        Just because some white dude writes a book doesn’t mean it’s worth reading.

        Lolita has a point to make. AP is just vile.

      • Sam the Pink says:

        I read it and didn’t feel gross, because I got the point it was making.

        Bateman is a product of the time, which Ellis viewed as soulless and focused on consumerism. There’s a reason he made Bateman a Wall Street trader, for example. You know, the whole excess. He was railing against what he saw as a nihilistic, consumerist society that places no value on humanity, only acquisitions. I always find it bizarre when people rail against the book as nihilistic – it’s the furthest thing from nihilism. Ellis was basically moralizing that the culture of the time was leading to people like this – not necessarily this extreme, but certainly with that kind of disregard for life and people in general.

        I think AP suffers today for 2 things – 1.) it was a product of its time. You had to read it when it came out. I think we as a society have moved at least a little bit away from the era it came from (it is, after all, almost 30 years old at this point). So its harder to imagine the mindset. 2.) I think the movie did not help it. The movie is sort of a black comedy serial killer romp, which the book is very much not.

  8. Diamond Rottweiler says:

    It makes me extremely nervous to see the culture going after literature. Lolita is an exploration of the banality/insidiousness of evil and the inherent seduction of storytelling. Though I wish she’d spoken to her interest in this novel in a more articulate way. Many readers are seduced by Humbert. That’s kinda the point. It’s up to the reader to grapple with their reaction to the novel.

    • Annabel says:

      I agree. The book is a masterpiece. What the outraged masses are missing here is that it doesn’t condone or excuse pedophilia in any way; actually quite the opposite. It’s an exquisitely written horror story.

  9. OriginalLala says:

    When I was in my 20s (not that long ago), Lolita as a character was romanticized by a lot of young women who hadn’t read the book but who bought into the narrative of a young woman seducing an older man – when you actually read the book you see just how awful the situation is. People who romanticize Lolita haven’t read the book IMO, the abuse is pretty clear in it.

    • DianaB says:

      This! This woman was not critized for liking Lolita as her favorite book; the backlash came when she said she did romanticize it. Lolita is supposed to be a look into a pedophile’s mind and how sick it is, not to justify a pedophile’s actions.

  10. Frida_K says:

    I read the book when I was in my twenties and I literally felt the ground tilt under me as I did. The main character sounded so much like every old man who tried to corner me when I was very young.

    Anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to be busty by aged ten might want to be careful about gabbling on about what an edgy and important piece of literature this is and they might, just for a moment, wonder why some people like it so much.

    Vladimir Nabokov had grapheme-color synesthesia and his writing drips with it, even–I would think so–for those who are not synesthetic themselves. But there are other works of his to read than Lolita. Unless of course you romanticize the lavishly described thought processes and actions of an abuser. Or, maybe, if you are a Woody Allen fan and want to understand your idol’s mind set. Then of course Lolita is a great work of literature or, at least, something “we” (who is this we?) must respect and allow to remain in libraries and on reading lists for Master’s and Ph.D. qualifying exams.

    Otherwise, eh. For the rest of us, especially those of us who developed a woman’s body while we were still children? No. No thank you.

    • Laalaa says:

      Thank you for the warning, I so understand what you’re trying to say..

    • Slowdown says:

      The problem with Lolita is that it is an experience more wildly common than a murder or an abduction for instance. But don’t you sometimes think about how murder is far more romanticized in a lot of the fiction around us and how painful it must be for the families who actually went through it? There are perhaps murderers reading and watching these pieces of fiction in a different way than you or me but it doesn’t make the fiction itself a promotion of murder. On the contrary.
      It really worries me that we’re becoming literal as a society. It was actually quite groundbreaking to write the way Nabokov did and to entice the reader with a twisted way of thinking by means of exquisite writing only to have the character unravel and become more and more removed from society that also uses, by the way, girls to create inappropriate desire and projection of self – think of anti-ageing cream commercials and fashion in general.

      • Frida_K says:

        I could just insult you and ask you if you are a habitual whitesplainer… but I won’t. Instead, I will take the time to potentially help you to learn something (assuming you want to learn something).

        First, how do you know that I haven’t had a loved one murdered by a serial killer only to see a documentary on the subject and listen to the killer talk about what they did?

        Second, do you think that television shows COPS and Live PD should still be given air time, or do you think that using Black and brown bodies being abused on television by police officers in the guise of entertainment is acceptable? Those shows were on for a long, long time. Maybe it is time to revisit this notion.

        Oh, wait, they got cancelled! It IS time to revisit that notion.

        Third, do you HONESTLY think that your argument here is going to make me say: “Oh, my goodness, you are right! Thank you for giving me food for thought!” Or do you think that it is taken as an effort to negate my lived experience?

        Rather than be nasty and horrible to you, though, I will instead drop this thought:

        The spectacle of damaged bodies and other like is as old as depictions of Christ on the cross. How cultures contain and portray and perpetuate narratives of abuse in all its forms is a shifting landscape. As I mentioned–clearly demonstrating , thus, that I know Nabokov’s writing–he was synesthetic and his writing is like something alive.

        Nobody is cancelling precious Nabokov. What I question, though, is how he and this work are lionized. And, if we place this debate within the current and larger context of discussion regarding, say Roman Polanski or Woody Allen–as one might do on a gossip web site–then maybe, just maybe, there is something worth revisiting here. Maybe (and this is a discussion that graduate departments in English and Comparative Literature and such need to have) this particular work needs to be rethought as a staple of the canon.

        There’s a lot more to it, but I’m tired now.

        Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

      • Slowdown says:

        Never said you didn’t read the book (you seem more knowledgeable about Nabokov then me).
        You also don’t know my history or my family’s history with sexual assault. Only thing I’ll say: there is quite a bit of it.
        Is it the “literal” comment that annoyed you? Yes images are literal and I am very happy that Cops got cancelled. Lolita is writing and is a work of fiction not a reality show.
        Anyway no need to spare me. I’m a big girl and can deal with your comments that are always welcome even if I don’t agree with everything you say.

    • Malificent says:

      I was also physically developed early — and I was verbally advanced, so people regularly thought I was much older. At my sister’s wedding, someone had to explain to the best man (in his early 20s) that it wasn’t OK to hit on the bride’s little sister because she was 11. To his credit, that guy was mortified to find out that I wasn’t 18 or 19 — but that wasn’t always the case.

      So, I empathize, not just sympathize, with your distress. But I also think Lolita is a brilliant novel that doesn’t deserve to be put on a shelf. It’s an amazing character study of a vile practice, and doesn’t glorify pedophilia. But I think it is fair to include a warning for those who would prefer to enjoy Nabokov’s other works.

      • Frida_K says:

        You had someone to defend you and to step in and rectify the situation. Not everyone, myself included, is that privileged. And your individual case is but one and you can count yourself lucky.

        Given that this is a moment to reconsider how Black bodies are treated, please let us keep in mind this:

        As I mentioned, above, Nabokov’s writing is not the issue. Instead, this book and the glorification of it, is the problem.

      • Malificent says:

        @Frida_K, I added “that was not always the case” because I had other situations where no one I had no one to defend me from men who were far less honorable than that guy. Just because I chose not to share the specifics of those particular situations in a public thread, doesn’t mean that they didn’t occur and that I suffered no trauma of any sort. I wasn’t trying to negate your experiences, and you shouldn’t try to negate mine.

        Where we disagree is about whether Lolita is a glorification of pedophilia, and whether the book is worthy of reading.

    • Steph says:

      It’s actually based on a real story of a girl kidnapped by a family friend. There’s a book called the Real Lolita that when I read it, I became ashamed I’d ever spent money watching the movie versions of Lolita.

      • The Recluse says:

        I remember hearing about that book. Perhaps I should look it up as a corrective to having read Lolita when I was a teenager. (It didn’t impress me much and all I remember about it is the sequence when HH encounters the grown up whom he molested as a girl and is disillusioned that his victim grew up – and clearly doesn’t have any fondness for him.)

  11. Grant says:

    I’m not going to shame her for enjoying a piece of art. At least she reads.

  12. Ariel says:

    I love the book- read it as a teen (probably b/c it was *scandalous*) and again as an adult. The way Nabakov uses language is magical. It is breathtaking. And i always thought, though the book is from Humbert (the pedophile)’s point of view, it clear was he was in the wrong. He doesn’t think so, but the book tells you so. And it has been awhile, but i feel like in the book she’s not more than 10 years old. It is horrifying.

    I also love the Adrian Lynne 1992(?) version of the movie (was filmed to be released in theaters but there was a backlash and Showtime ended up showing it). The movie was specifically great at showing the 12 year old girl’s crush, her totally appropriate 12 year old fantasy of this older man she adored.
    And how that fantasy was shattered immediately by the adult act of sex. She hated him from that moment forward. And was trapped.

    • Sam the Pink says:

      I think the book states that she’s 12 when he meets her. It’s also heavily implied that she has been abused before Humbert gets to her (by a an older boy at a summer camp). The book is pretty strong study in the long-term, ongoing effects of abuse.

    • Slowdown says:

      Exactly. The book talks about very painful experiences for young girls like Dolores looking for a father figure. At the time they were also groomed at home and in school to become wives. The overlapping of the child and the woman in our culture (particularly at the time) was very clear. Meanwhile boys her age were told to be sporty and strong and to have fun. But there is a dark side to Dolores character as well which is reflected in the way the reader above described how she romanticized the relationship at 15: Dolores is also fascinated with her own power over an adult and emprisoned in it. I believe that this is what upset a lot of people. But it’s a fact. If you read Tiger Tiger (which is a first person account of a groomed little girl) there is that troubling fact, the power through her own means of seduction. It’s a painful read especially knowing that she is an orphan at the hands of a pedophile and develops coping mechanisms that she ends up enjoying in a very desperate way while hating HH at the same time.

    • laura-j says:

      I think it’s a great book, totally taboo and horrible subject, but amazingly written. I am concerned about this cancelling of great literature. Most great books are not comfortable in subject, or tone, or holding up a mirror to a time… doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be read.

      If you haven’t seen the 1962 Stanley Kubrick film with James Mason, highly recommend, If I remember right they made Dolores about 16 so it wasn’t quite as distressing (still wrong, don’t come at me)… but James Mason’s pathetic Humbert Humbert was amazing.

      • Ariel says:

        Laura-j – see now, i did not like the Kubrick version. Maybe because it talked around the sex part due to being made in 1962. I just didn’t think it captured the book like the 1992 version. Also i think Jeremy Irons makes a better disgusting creep, i guess.

    • Winechampion says:

      Actually, Humbert *definitely* knows he’s in the wrong. He loathes himself. He refers to himself repeatedly as a madman and a monster.

  13. Margles says:

    I mean, the whole point of Lolita is that HH is a disgusting monster who abuses a child, but, because he’s educated and classy, he’s able to hide his monstrousness from everyone. Even from himself. It’s an indictment of how we will allow evil to happen all around us, if it is well-spoken and well-dressed.

    I can’t say I enjoyed Lolita or want to read it again, but the themes seems pretty honest and true to me.

    • Sara says:

      Exactly! And let us not pretend people have stopped grooming children or abusing them. It’s a current problem.

  14. Yamayo says:

    It’s an incredible book.
    Amazingly well-written and witty and clever.
    This is what good literature does- it takes a morally twisted story and makes it fascinating.
    Humbert as a character is so compelling. He wants you to feel sorry for him and revel in his love story. He is both self-aware but also wanting to believe in his own fantasy.
    Of course the fact that Lolita is horribly abused is the thing the readers are left with.

    For those who compare with America Pyscho to me the difference is that the latter is ultimately rather tedious. Easton tries so hard to be satirical and shocking that the story peters out and stutters to a dull ending.

    Maybe the issue is the use of ‘favourite book’?
    I would definitely rank Lolita as one of the best books I have ever read but I would not describe it as my favourite.

  15. Sasha says:

    It’s one of my favourite books. Some of the passages are like poetry. So beautiful. I think a lot of people misunderstand the book as a love story. I don’t believe HH loves Lolita – it’s not possible given the level of abuse and suffering and control he imposes on her. But the fact that people do romanticise it and read it as a love story speaks to the power of the writing and how intellect and ‘class’ can bewitch people. I think people’s appreciation of it as art and their feelings towards the actual content can be entirely separated.

  16. Lamontagne says:

    Nabokov has given countless of interviews regarding Lolita back in the day. He went off on a French journalist who thought Humbert Humbert was humanized/the victim of Lolita and other “nyphettes” and praising Kubrick’s movie. Nabokov was livid and hated the movie because it completely missed the point.

    Lolita is Humbert Humbert’s victim but she’s seen through the prism of his deviation. I believe a lot of people mistake it for humanization, when really what’s happening in the book is that Humbert finds every excuse under the sun to explain that he’s a slave to her seductive aura (and other nyphettes). I understand the initial backlash because the book tackles a controversial topic and how easy it is to go ahead and humanize Humbert (again IT IS NOT, as per the author’s words himself). However wanting to read it or liking the book (it truly is a literary masterpiece, imo. The wording, the style is genius) shouldn’t warrant people to be talked down to or bashed for it.

  17. Cee says:

    The writing is beautiful. The content is hideous and left me feeling so uncomfortable and angry.

  18. Doodle says:

    I’ve never had any interest in reason Lolita until I read My Dark Vanessa earlier this year, which references Lolita a number of times. My Dark Vanessa left made such a profound impression on me that I now want to read Lolita, but I am expecting to be repulsed in a way.

  19. Valerie says:

    I haven’t read this since I was 17sh, but based on what I know from the movie, which I saw again recently, it doesn’t glorify paedophilia. Countless misinterpretations since and the co-option of the term Lolita have turned it into something that it isn’t, so now when you say you love the book/movie, people get the wrong idea.

  20. Onomo says:

    Couldn’t finish the book. Didn’t notice the beautiful writing, just that I could feel my skin crawl. I wonder if the people who defend this book/adore it would feel the same if we went into the mind of a racist or homophobic person who was about to abuse someone, or an anti-Semitic person who was about to abuse someone, and calling attention to the innate characteristics of the person that made the person irresistibly abusablw.

    Can beautiful writing make someone’s abuse into a great work of art? It was a big no for me.

    • Appalachian says:

      ONOMO, thank you!

    • DianaB says:

      Same. I was repulsed all the way to the ending. And I didn’t find it so beautiful at all, rather tedious in how HH kept insisting on describing himself as a manly, charming rogueish man, like 200 times.

      • Sara says:

        That’s the point though. He’s supposed to be vain and grotesque, and the book is not meant to be easy or even fun to read, because of the subject matter.

    • Kkat says:

      I was severely sexually abused from 3-10
      And again as a teenager.
      I hope my abusers are burning in hell if there is one. I hope for thier case there is.

      I thought the book was beautifully written. Now that I’m 50 I’m thinking of reading it again to see how I feel about it now.

      I’m very well read, I’ve read thousands of books. I do wonder if it’s because I have read so many I don’t take offense to the subject matter in books.
      If you’ve only read 10-50 books I could see it seeming more important maybe.

  21. Appalachian says:

    Known about the book for years and never had the slightest thought that it would be something I’d want to put in my head Or waste time on. Read a review and thought “oh, yea that’s trash”.
    Sure enough there’s people out there putting this crap in their head and romanticizing it, giving it reads and buying it. Honestly, who sees this and says “Yea, I wanna read about this disgusting relationship with a vulnerable, underage girl. It’s a mAsTeRpIeCe”…
    My mother raised me on the motto “Trash in, trash out”. Put trash in your head, you get trash out. This is no different than women trying to be edgy by saying “I love I Spit On Your Grave”. It’s garbage fantasy fuel. Woody Allen’s work always has some stupid fantasy of his in it and this book isn’t any different.
    Who was she trying to out-edge by saying this?? Lol, sounds like something Megan Fox would have said back in the day before she evolved.

  22. Pam says:

    You can dislike Humbert Humbert, and so you should in my opinion, and still respect how well written this book is; because it is.

  23. Jaded says:

    I tried reading Lolita in my late teens and couldn’t finish because it triggered memories of me getting molested at 13 by one of my parents’ closest friends while I was babysitting their toddler, who immediately became NOT their friend.

    No matter how beautiful the prose is, anything…ANYTHING that uses the graphic seduction and rape of a 12 year old as an artistic theme is wrong. It’s like praising Woody Allen’s or Roman Polanski’s films despite the fact that they’re both sick predators.

    • Penguin says:

      But the writer didn’t abuse anyone, the character he created did. Anyone who has read the book can understand that HH’s behaviour isn’t condoned by the writer.

  24. Sara says:

    Lolita is a masterpiece. It is told in the voice of a seductive monster, Humbert Humbert; we are supposed to find him more and more repulsive and grotesque, and it is a strong condemnation of paedophilia in every way.
    Dolores is an innocent victim transformed into “Lolita”, a character invented by Humbert, and the story makes this clear. Yes, the prose makes Humbert attractive at times; because predators and monsters can be, are attractive, hence our astonishment when handsome men are revealed to be horrific criminals and rapists.
    Lolita however is a book of nuance and subtility, and poorly adapted to a hot take culture of people not reading it and basing their assessment on a summary.

    • Jaded says:

      Read my comment above and stop belittling us as “a hot take culture of people not reading it and basing their assessment on a summary”. We are basing our opinions on both reading and experiencing what Dolores went through and it’s ugly. Horrible. Demeaning. Traumatizing. Are you actually belittling my opinion that’s based on being sexually molested at a young age? You can be equally belittled of romanticizing what amounts to well written child porn.

      • Sam the Pink says:

        Um…but it’s not. Pr0n is created to titilate, arouse. Lolita is very far from that. It’s not arousing. Delores is clearly an abused, mistreated girl with nobody who actually cares about her. It is made very clear throughout the book. Her precious sexuality is a result of abuse. If you could read it and take that the author intended for it to be arousing, I’d reassess yourself before casting stones. It’s a dark, sad story about a man putting his own gross desires before the well-being a child. One can love the prose while still understanding that the protagonist’s actions are wrong.

      • Jaded says:

        @Sam the Pink – why should I reassess myself when I was sexually molested by an older man when I was 13? I cannot love the most beautiful of prose when it tells the story of sexual abuse of a young girl by an obsessive, dirty old man. We all have our own viewpoints based upon the experiences we’ve had or not had – my experience was hideous and from my personal perspective I do not like Lolita and hope that my opinion is respected, if not agreed with.

      • Frida_K says:

        @Jaded, I am astonished by people who think that they can tell you how you should think or feel about this novel.

        People read The Color Purple and see it for what it is: a tragic story that is well-written and worth reading. But it’s wrenching and people see that. The movie, which got made once and didn’t do as well as it could have, didn’t get marketed with pictures of young women sucking on lollipops and pouting. Huh, I wonder why?

        Meantime, this particular work has been made into two movies, both of which are prurient, and is, 65 years after the book’s publication, even now the inspiration for giggling and cooing from “edgy” starlets like Ms. Beer who romanticize it.

        I don’t care if it’s “exquisite” (I don’t think it is). Nabokov was prolific and if people really loved his work so much, they’d have read much more than this one work. But sexy sells and the sexiness that people see in it (or, forgive me, the “exquisite prose”) makes it, I suppose–at least to these people–forgivable.

        I’m with you, @Jaded.

        And anyone who tries to lecture you about how you perceive this book is … well, I’ll stop now.

        It says more about the people who are trying to change your mind than it does about you, that’s all I will say.

      • Sara says:

        I’m not trying to change your mind at all. I find it extremely hard to enjoy works of art which discuss children being beaten because of my own past trauma, including Dickens. We should all protect ourselves as much as we can in a culture that celebrates violence against women. Not all art is for everyone, I think we can agree.

        Lolita also happens to be a masterpiece which addresses paedophilia in an incredibly frontal way, showing it for the evil it is, while still being written in some of the most incredible English ever put to page.

  25. virginfangirl says:

    It’s one of my daughter’s favorite books. In fact, she didn’t develop a love for reading until high school, until she read Lolita, and now several years later she has become an avid reader. She tells me he writes so beautifully. We’ve had some long discussions & I hope I represent her thoughts correctly. She felt this pedophile was awful most times just as we might expect she would, but there were brief moments when she felt compassion for him, and the fact the author could accomplish that, well she found that to be an amazing feet that demonstrated his talent as a writer. The book, or its subject, never seemed to make her romanticize this kind of predatory behavior. But Lolita was the gateway book that lead to her love reading, & for that I’m grateful.

  26. Sof says:

    Something I never understood is why this book coined the term “Lolita” for early developed girls. Humbert clearly states that he likes pre-pubescent girls, with no body hair and no curves (remember that part in which he hires a prostitute that looks young and complains that her breasts were too big?)

    Edit to add: Lolita is one of my favourite books too, the reason being it made me cry, which doesn’t happen very often. That page when Dolores finally escapes and for a second Humbert’s perspective is off and he gives us a glimpse of how desperate she was.

  27. Jenn says:

    Usually I’m not a fan of when people try to dig themselves out of a hole, making public statement upon public statement, but her FINAL-final statement actually got it right, I feel. Her flip attitude toward others’ opinions — which are potentially strongly tied to trauma — was not great. But she’s still practically a kid herself.

    I think a lot of young women romanticize Lolita because they want to believe in their own power and autonomy, only to reevaluate the book with horror later on. Reminds me of the woman in her 30s who recently published a book about having a relationship with an adult man as a teen; she recognized it as abuse only when she was much older. :/

  28. Boo says:

    I tried reading “Lolita” because I liked the book “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” I could not get through “Lolita.” It made me deeply uncomfortable to be inside the subconscious of a predator and I’ll never try to finish it. But this woman, whoever she is, had a thoughtful response to what was maybe unnecessary backlash for liking the book. There’s a reason that book was retitled “Likable Rapists” in that funny article a few years ago about if books were renamed with literal titles. Humbert’s sort of witty misanthropy is appealing, if you can overlook the rape, which I could not.

  29. pottymouth pup says:

    OMG, I thought it was bad that adults romanticized Wuthering Heights but who would admit to romanticizing Lolita?

  30. Elizabeth says:

    Toni Morrison wrote about how she deliberately did not sexualize rape In The Bluest Eye, barely described the act itself, on purpose to prevent people from seeking titillation from it. Nabokov chose a very different path… his book is wide open to romanticization and to sadistic readings. There’s an old saying, that a book is like a mirror — if an ape looks in, an apostle is not likely to look back out. At the same time, I understand so well why rape scenes, esp. of children, make so many of us horrified, even acknowledging they are fictional. Reading draws you in and it’s a real experience. It’s a cop out to say it’s fiction and therefore okay… that is not true for everyone so don’t project your viewpoint on others.

    I’ve read nearly everything, Sade, everything. I just was interested to see and understand what literature encompassed. But I absolutely have been wrenched by a lot of what I read and would never want to read it again and completely understand and respect those who limit what they read. I was never impressed by Nabokov (I have a Ph.D. in English and I’m well aware of his status; I just never cared for his work and I dislike men’s writing in that era in general). There are far more beautiful writers, and there are certainly writers who have dealt with the lives of women and girls far better.

  31. jan k says:

    Where can I read more about libraries where Lolita currently remains banned? Thanks!

  32. Lolo says:

    Lolita is not a romantic view of a paedophilic relationship. Great literature should make you feel uncomfortable and challenge you. To believe that the book is a celebration of child abuse is a deliberate misreading. Conflating the author and narrator is a rookie error. Nabakov in no way intended to glorify the relationship between Humbert Humbert. If anything, it is the culture that has fetishised Lolita, not Nabakov. Please READ the book (properly!) before you criticise it. It is a harrowing portrait of child abuse. We are given the story from the abuser’s perspective and it is beautifully written, but there is no doubt in the text that Lolita has been abused and that he has stolen her childhood.

    I just passed my PhD in English Literature yesterday so I feel pretty strongly about this.

    • Frida_K says:

      Did you get the “Why do we have a canon and should we have one?” question on your MA quals?

      The canon changes, and rightfully so.

      Simply because you’ve completed your Ph.D.–was this your dissertation defense or was this your qualifying exams and now you’re a candidate?–does not put you in a position to make definitive and final pronouncements about ANY text. Do you have a record of peer-reviewed scholarly publication yet? If so, where? Online, or anything truly respectable? (And if so, who is your dissertation director?). Is your specialty area this particular author?

      Finally, and this is assuming that you have a tenure track job waiting for you (do you; if so, given the job market for English Ph.D.s, I commend you), will you be teaching this subject? If so, how do you expect to keep your job if you dismiss students and/or colleagues by saying that you just finished your Ph.D. in English so your perception is correct and everyone else either needs to reread the text or shut up?

      It is an accomplishment to put in the work for a Ph.D. and far be it from me to denigrate that. But you don’t know everything about literature and you might consider learning some humility to go along with it. (Of course, unless you are really connected, the job market in English will teach you humility among many other things).

      On a professional level of readership, there is a lot to be said about Nabokov’s work. And yes, indeed, there are those who like his work. Even so. There is not one transcendental text that everyone EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US must and I do mean ABSOLUTELY MUST love and/or respect. There is not. There is not one text that has one single consensus as to how it should be read. Not Lolita, not the Bible, not any one text. NOBODY has to accept one single theoretician’s assessment of a text and most certainly not a brand-new Ph.D.’s. And if you think so, then your dissertation director failed you by signing off on your degree. You’re not that wonderful and you do not have the authority to give the final word on any work of literature. Not now, not ever, and especially not when you are brand-new to the field.

      Humility is a good thing to cultivate, especially when you are a freshly-minted Ph.D.

      • Lolo says:

        My thesis was actually a defence of the English Literature canon. I argued that texts cannot be reduced to mere historical documents, nor canonised for their social use. Literature is an aesthetic field and aesthetic criteria are the main contributor to the text’s canonisation. I absolutely agree the canon necessarily evolves and adapts to society. The canon is only elitist in terms of merit. It reflects society, and in an unequal society the canon will be unequal. What needs to change is the power structures in society and surrounding the canon that will allow it to naturally become more reflective of previously marginalised voices and experiences, whilst upholding aesthetic criteria.

        Our culture devalues engaging with difficult texts or ideas, but it is necessary to engage in discourse with these texts and ideas we disagree with in order to deconstruct and dismiss them if necessary. Cancel culture has hyper-accelerated what should be an organic process of change and continuity, discourse and debate, and become a moral panic with knee jerk reactions.

        Now, look, I get that the canon is controversial, but I also think it’s something that needs nuanced debate and discourse. We need contextualisation not celebration of problematic texts. THAT SAID – I honestly don’t see Lolita as a problematic text because it is not and never was a glamorisation of paedophilia. It’s difficult, challenging, but ultimately the reader is not meant to be on Humbert’s side. He is a monster. But it shows how easy it is for charming men to get away with such acts, because his language is beautiful and we are seduced by him. But it is unambiguously clear that Lolita is a VICTIM.

        I don’t think I was being arrogant in my earlier statement and I’m sorry it came across that way, but I do feel very strongly about the demonization of ‘difficult’ literature – be that in style or content. I’m not arguing that everyone should have to read Lolita. If they feel uncomfortable or triggered by it, they do not need to read it. But I am against the wilful misreadings of it and the idea of ‘cancelling’ texts in a moral panic.

        ANYWAY, that was a long ramble but I hope it clears up what I’m trying to say.

    • virginfangirl says:

      I suppose everyone interprets a book, and it’s meaning, differently. My daughter read this as a teen and interpreted it the same way as you described.