• December 17, 2013

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    When Lolita was first published by an obscure French publisher of erotica in 1955, it came packaged in a plain green wrapper. Since then, the book’s had many evocative covers, most of which ignore Nabokov’s ardent art direction: “No girls.” There’ve been knocked-kneed legs in schoolgirl skirts, lollipop-licking seductresses, and button-nosed cuties smiling wanly. In Lolita: The Story of a Cover Girl editors John Bertram and Yuri Leving examine the ways in which Nabokov’s most famous book has been portrayed, and commission new takes on the book’s cover from eighty artists and designers, along with essays by Mary Gaitskill, Barbara Bloom, and Leland de la Durantaye, among others. We see textual treatments, the most successful of which uses the famous opening enunciation of the nymphet’s name (“Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps . . . ”), and another that illustrates a tongue taking those three steps. There’s a cover that pictures Humbert Humbert in a sweaty reverie, as well as a school-girlish notebook page, and some sexualized bobby socks (and scrunchies). Looking at the covers on display here one can sense the difficulty of the designers’ task: How to even hint at the devilish and unstable mix of beauty and cruelty in Nabokov’s most shocking work of art? Perhaps the book would be best served by a simple warning: “Contents may be combustible.”

  • Adelle Waldman

    Adelle Waldman

    Looking back on the year in fiction may not be the usual purview of an op-ed columnist, but the New York Times’s Ross Douthat appears to have launched the last literary feud of 2013 by doing so. Over the weekend, he used Adelle Waldman’s debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., to make a somewhat specious point about social conservativism, premarital sex, and the chaotic romantic lives of the book’s characters. In an interview with the New Republic, Waldman responds with admirable thanks-but-no-so-fast nuance. “Douthat makes the classic . . . conservative mistake,” writes Marc Tracy, “of assuming that rigid social conventions must do the work that we cannot trust young adults to do themselves.”

    Looking ahead to the next twelve months, Wired predicts that 2014 may be the year the tech bubble bursts, again, while the Los Angeles Times’s book blog sees a viable (if counterintuitive) future in print, with online-only ventures such as Pitchfork, Jezebel, the New Inquiry, and the Los Angeles Review of Books getting into the publishing game with books, journals, and magazines.

    In a deal reportedly worth six figures, Random House has acquired the rights to publish The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison, a recently discovered nineteenth-century manuscript said to be the first prison memoir ever penned by an African American writer.

    Al Jazeera America may be hemorrhaging money and viewers but the network’s owners in Qatar apparently don’t care: For now, reports Buzzfeed, “[they] would rather accumulate prestige than profit.”

    Despite the lingering controversy over Lara Logan and Max McClellan’s retracted report for 60 Minutes about the attack, in 2012, on a US compound in Benghazi, says Politico, both reporters are allegedly returning to the program after taking temporary leaves of absence.

    American Zoetrope has bought the screen rights to Alysia Abbott’s Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father, a memoir about growing up with Steve Abbott, a prominent writer in the New Narrative movement. Sofia Coppola is set to adapt the book and produce the film.

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