Jesse Jarnow


There are many ways to read Lolita: as dark & sexual pulp, as hilarious meta-narrative, as a disturbingly sincere love story. But Nabokov is also a peerless observer of the cultural landscape as it transforms from the old, weird America of folksong and rural roads to the new, weird America of endless asphalt and roadside lodging.

Nous connumes (this is royal fun) the would-be enticements of their repetitious names — all those Sunset Motels, U-Beam Cottages, Hillcrest Courts, Pine View Courts, Mountain View Courts, Skyline Courts, Park Plaza Courts, Green Acres, Mae’s Courts. There was sometimes a special line in the write-up, such as “Children welcome, pets allowed” (You are welcome, you are allowed). The baths were mostly tiled showers, with an endless variety of spouting mechanisms, but with one definitely non-Laodicean characteristic in common, a propensity, while in use, to turn insanely beastly hot or blindingly cold upon you, depending on whether your neighbor turned on his cold or his hot to deprive you of a necessary component in the shower you had so carefully blended. Some motels had instructions posted above the toilet (on whose tank the towels were unhygienically heaped) asking guests not to throw into its bowl garbage, beer cans, cartons, stillborn babies, others had special notices under glass, such as Things to Do…


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