Monday, February 04, 2008

Remembering Dolores Haze...Or not.

The image is of Peter Sellers from the 1962 Kubrick film, Lolita. I show you the magnificent Sellers merely as a visual aide that has only a passing relevance to the discussion that that is about to commence.

It seems like far too often that I write about some article that I found on Reuters. However, their "Oddly Enough" section seems to find some real winner stories. I found this shocking story the other day.

My first instinct was to laugh. Indeed, I did. But then I got to thinking. How is it that people don't know about things like Lolita? The book or the movie? How did not one person at the furniture manufacturer, or the outlet remain ignorant throughout their entire adult life of the story of Humbert Humbert and his paramour?

It's one of the single most controversial books of all time!

Culture being what it is is a pretty localized thing. I mean, people can go through their lives, here and there, and never touch anything but certain isolated bubbles of culture. These guys had to look it up on Wikipedia!

I guess it makes sense in a certain light. I have students who are completely ignorant of the existence of Oscar Wilde, his exploits, and even his most famous plays. Perhaps I'm the one who's culturally aberrant. Most of the people with whom I associate are more than usually well-educated, either college or self-taught. It didn't occur to me what a small collective of people are actually educated. If something like Lolita can slip through the cracks for so many people, then it must be the case that they haven't heard of a very good deal of other literature. And I suppose the Kubrick film is old enough that they may not have seen it. However, how could they have never heard of Kubrick? I mean, Eyes Wide Shut isn't that old, and that was pretty controversial.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it boggles my mind, and yet perhaps the reason that my confusion--indeed, my incredulity--is so extreme, is that I've realized that I am so shocked. I should know by now that most people don't enjoy art for art's sake. People don't openly seek literature. People watch movies because they're easy, not because they're hard. And Lolita is not an easy film.

There's really nothing that we can do about this, certainly. Perhaps there isn't anything that we ought to do, even. At any rate, the will of the people have spoken. As far as most people are concerned, Nabokov might as well never have existed. I for one, am glad he did.