Books: Humming Along With Nabokov

A novel escapes litigation to tell another story of Lolita


"Lo-lee-tah." She spoke her name like a steam radiator with consonants.

"Last name?"

"Lolita Rooney-Burton-Winn-Fortensky-Guccioni," she said, omitting a few names for time and adding a few to jazz it up.

This lovely, lilting parody, Steve Martin's "Lolita at Fifty," suggests one way to approach the menacing legend of Vladimir Nabokov's great novel. In six pages Martin deftly sketches a woman who has known and used her allure for so long--ever since she was 11 and met Humbert Humbert--that it has become her career, a real-life variation on the novel, her own definition of Loliteracy.

As it approaches 50...

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