Just a great article through and through.  Go read it all here.

“I sort of kicked the hornets’ nest the other day, by expressing feminist opinions about books. It all came down to Lolita. “Some of my favorite novels are disparaged in a fairly shallow way. To read Lolita and ‘identify’ with one of the characters is to entirely misunderstand Nabokov,” one commenter informed me, which made me wonder if there’s a book called Reading Lolita in Patriarchy. The popular argument that novels are good because they inculcate empathy assumes that we identify with characters, and no one gets told they’re wrong for identifying with Gilgamesh or even Elizabeth Bennett. It’s just when you identify with Lolita you’re clarifying that this is a book about a white man serially raping a child over a period of years. Should you read Lolita and strenuously avoid noticing that this is the plot and these are the characters? Should the narrative have no relationship to your own experience? This man thinks so, which is probably his way of saying that I made him uncomfortable.

All I had actually said was that, just as I had identified with a character who’s dismissively treated in On the Road, so I’d identified with Lolita. I read many Nabokov novels back in the day, but a novel centered around the serial rape of a kidnapped child, back when I was near that child’s age was a little reminder how hostile the world, or rather the men in it, could be. Which is not a pleasure.

The omnipresence of men raping female children as a literary subject, from Tess of the d’Urbervilles to Less Than Zero, along with real-life accounts like that of Jaycee Dugard (kidnapped at 11 in 1991 and used as a sex slave for 18 years by a Bay Area man), can have the cumulative effect of reminding women that we spend a lot of our lives quietly, strategically trying not to get raped, which takes a huge toll on our lives and affects our sense of self. Sometimes art reminds us of life.”

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