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Lo's Diary Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 23, 1999

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 23, 1999
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Editorial Reviews Review

After much legal wrangling with Nabokov's estate, Pia Pera's Lo's Diary has found its way to America. Imagining the inner life of Nabokov's Lolita, Pera shows a good degree of irreverent audacity, something that is often missing in feminist "re-imagining" of the patriarchal past--historical or literary. While American Women's Studies classes teach us that Lolita is a victim, caught in a terrible net of adult desire, in this Italian writer's version, Lolita is a petty, self-centered girl who is driven by lust, boredom, the desire to be looked at constantly. She's also a skilled sadist, torturing animals, men, her mother. When Lo leaves for camp, she runs upstairs to hug poor, pathetic Humbert: "he holds me away to see me better, with a tragic-emotional look (he's always getting that look, because of the gutless poetry he studies), and I bring my lips close to his. End of film." While the publishers claim Pera is seeing Lolita through the lens of a "new feminist consciousness," it reads more like that of fashion magazines, soap operas, bitchy girl talk.

In order to avoid a copyright infringement lawsuit, Pero's American publisher agreed that Nabokov's son, Dmitri, could write a preface. And it is a scathing statement indeed, issued from the heights of literary snobbery. Nabokov writes condescendingly of "Pia Pera (henceforth PP), an Italian journalist and author of some stories that I have not read." He ends with this statement: "Whether [the book] draws well or badly from Lolita I leave for you to judge." In e-mail exchanges with The New York Times, Pera called the preface "a disappointingly dull emulation of his father's mastery of irony and, on occasion, virtuoso contempt."

Lo's Diary is no masterpiece, by any means. Its prose is flatly realistic, pulling Nabokov's wildly poeticized characters down into a sticky, unglamorous world where Humbert can't even figure out how the condom works. This is clearly Pera's mission--to vandalize the literary institution that is Lolita, and in this she has succeeded. Her novel is like cultural graffiti that won't wash off the walls for a while, for at least a month or two. --Emily White

From Publishers Weekly

After much controversy, including Dmitri Nabokov's filing of a lawsuit alleging Vladimir Nabokov's LolitaAfrom Lo's point of viewAis revealed as a compelling novel in its own right. Choosing Lo's journal (which reveals characters' "real" names) as her vehicle, Italian writer Pera embroiders on Nabokov's Lolita (last name now Maze), fleshing out her troubled childhood. Her little brother is electrocuted ("his hair stands up straight, like Peter Porcupine") and her father takes to electrocuting lizards before he dies, too. The onset of puberty and awakening sexuality is at once destabilizing and a source of new power. When Humbert Guibert becomes the Mazes' tenant, Dolores triesAor so she pretends to herself at firstAto catch him to be her mother's (alternately "Plasticmom" and "Shitmom") new husband. A bitter mother/daughter competition ends with Charlotte dead and Lo taken sexual prisoner by her new stepfather. Pera convincingly describes Lo's confused state of mind as the illicit pair travel America for a year, Dolores saving herself from suicidal despair by accepting Humbert's bribes of candy, clothes and money, while reminding herself that someday "every memory will lose its thorns, and Humbert Guibert will be forgotten." The eloquent Nabokovian Humbert is here rather humorously reduced to a mundane oppressor, a dull and pretentious aging man. Also fun in Lo's version are her filled-in details of encounters with the pair's stalker, Nabokov's sinister Clare Quilty, here called Gerry Sue Filthy ("Filthy Sue"), who eventually offers Lo dubious refuge. Readers expecting echoes of Nabokov's subtle and elegant prose will be disappointed by the journal's authentic adolescent tone, but this Lolita, in her own words, manages to express quite wonderfully the complexities of her experience. The finished edition, which PW did not see, will contain a publisher's acknowledgment by Barney Rosset, a preface by Dmitri Nabokov and an afterword by Pera. 40,000 first printing; U.S. and Canadian author tour. (Nov.) FYI: Dmitri Nabokov will receive half the royalties from the English edition (which he will donate to PEN), and Pera will share her half with her Italian publisher, Marsilio. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Foxrock Books (September 23, 1999)
  • ISBN-10: 0964374013
  • ASIN: B001G8WAYY
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,327,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Welch on November 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you really want to read it, you probably will end up doing so. I read an uncomplimentry review of the book in the Washington Post, but proceeded to buy and read the book anyway. I think the concept is what is so intruiging - who has read Lolita and not wondered what was going on through little Lo's head the entire time? But having read Lo's Diary I found it terribly dissapointing, so unimaginative and lacking in great prose - especially compared to Lolita! - that it becomes worthless. I read the entire thing, and although there were a few good parts (the part that is quoted on the back of the book is one of the few exceptional lines) there is truly nothing in it that sheds any more light on Lolita.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "blot1" on September 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm amused by everyone who read this thinking it was going to be as good as the original and is now enraged. I got this thinking it would be "fun trash" and I was pleasantly surprised to find a Lolita (or Dolores, because that's what she goes by herself) who is intelligent and witty, tough and bright.
The beginning is the best part and I found myself dreading the moment Humbert would come along and help her pound the final nail in her childhood. But of course he does, and she seduces him, proving that for all her precociousness she is really just a brash, flirtatious child with no ability to foresee consequences. I think that her reactions once she's realized how she's trapped herself ring true. I agree her narrative sounds too adult, but the emotions involved feel real. She goes from vaguely hoping they can make it work, to bored resignation, to suicidal fantasies, then back to bored resignation - only this time with an eye toward the future.
She is not a particularly likeable girl, but I found her touching and interesting. And she IS a victim of the adult world - she is just determined to survive it. In her eyes, Humbert's failure is not that he's a pedophile, but that he's a hypocritical coward. I think "Lolita" could very well have been the person portrayed here.
If you think the real, original Lolita is too sacred to be defiled by reading this version then you definitely should not waste your time. But if you are curious and you can come to terms with writing that is certainly below Nabokov (though not bad) then go for it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Actually I shouldn't be surprised by all the broo-haha circling
over this book. It was bound to happen sooner or later and I don't think this was a badly done job. The complaints are either it's too smart for a 12 year old to write, or too dumb for a derivative of VN's caliber. Either way it doesn't matter. It's fiction. If you want reality read the diary of people living or having lived. This isn't it. If you want VN he has left plenty of work to enjoy. The louder you bash on something the more attraction you give it. In the literal sense of the word this book is very attractive.
This, of course, is not Nabokov writing, so it's going to be unlike his writing, which is, as many fans understand, marvelous. Pia Pera, though not as incredible, is marvelous in her own right and just that she had the guts to get this through to a wide audience is enough to give her a nod (or a raspberry if that's all you can accomplish). There's obviously something to it if it's gotten this far. But no it's not Nabokov, so leave it at that.
As for a twelve year old never being able to use language of this kind try reading The History Of Luminous Motion by Scott Bradfield and tell me if a ten year old boy could use language like that. Maybe if snobbish "grown-ups" would get off their high horses and stop laughing at young people who use big words they'd find out kids can be a great deal more intellegent than anyone gives them credit for. They can use language like this and do. So get over that (while remembering the definition of the word "fiction") and I'm sure you'll enjoy this book, if it's mere elements strike your fancy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
OK, I'm just going to tell you a brief summary and what I thought.
This books foreward tells the story of how the author of the book supposedly got the diary of Dolores Maze a.k.a Lolita Haze. The book itself is written as if narrated, not so much is tranditional diary form. I felt the language was a little too mature for Lolita who grows from 12-15 while "writing" this diary. Other than that it tells the story of her life with her mother "the hen" before and after Humbert. It discusses why she got involved with him, what kind of a man she REALLY felt he was, and also sheds a lot of light on what kind of a girl SHE really was!
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was like a roller coaster ride with a manic-depressive. It was not as well written as "Lolita" of course, however, I did find myself dying to know what she would do or say next. Some parts I had trouble handling. If you are an animal lover watch out for the hamster scene, and if you don't like foul language this book isn't for you. I found myself squirming a little when I read her descriptions of sexual acts. Nabokov was delicate with these descriptions, where Lolita's rough American rebel side shows through.
To wrap this up I'm just going to say I liked this book. My mom would kill me if she knew I read it but I liked it a lot. I felt like I was actually there where as with Humberts point of view I felt more like he was telling me about it. I enjoyed this more relaxed style of writing as well,it made it a fast and enjoyable read and you didn't find yourslef looking for Nabokovs clever word games. Try it out.
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