Mansplaining Lolita

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It’s amazing this bit below from the article isn’t noticed more often since the “can’t take a joke” line is used so often.

“Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke,” with the invocation of these two white guys as definitive authorities.

But seriously, you know who can’t take a joke? White guys. Not if it implicates them and their universe, and when you see the rage, the pettiness, the meltdowns and fountains of male tears of fury, you’re seeing people who really expected to get their own way and be told they’re wonderful all through the days. …


Yea, but to be fair… most of us shrug and move on with our lives.


Hm. Lithub doesn’t seem to be working.

I suppose I had better not explain that I very much enjoyed Lolita, especially the ending, which kind of turns the whole story into a tragedy. Too bad it tops the list of “dirty books.”

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[quote=“Dorn, post:3, topic:70924”]


Was that some kind of ironic meta-comment? I can’t even tell any more.


lithub seems to be dead. Do you have another link to the article? I seems interesting.



Ooooh. How dare they! Even though that’s exactly what she did. She is effectively saying, if you read it with any honesty, “I [silent] Don’t read this and don’t read that.” Ultimately telling people how to read is like telling them how to eat: A little pretentious and somewhat futile, something the Esquire list is guilty of as well.

That being said, she’s right. She’s not right because she’s brilliant, and she certainly is. She’s right because she’s right. That’s how being right works, and brilliant people are considered brilliant because they’re frequently right, not the other way around. I find when people get that backwards, that it’s oddly disrespectful. “OH, you’re brilliant, say no more! I won’t hear it!” There’s something to be said for people who are impervious to expertise, and people who condescend to that expertise, and people who condescend to the expert because they are a woman, but I don’t know the solution is get overly worshipful of the expert. I can’t speak for everyone, but if the compliment were addressed to me that way, I would cringe. To be clear: All of this is to criticize the statement above, not the subject of the statement.


Oops, sorry. That’s actually the idea intro’d in the next sentence:

“…And here, just for the record, let me clarify that I’m not saying that all of them can’t take it. Many white men—among whom I count many friends (and, naturally, family members nearly as pale as I)—have a sense of humor, that talent for seeing the gap between what things are supposed to be and what they are and for seeing beyond the limits of their own position. Some have deep empathy and insight and write as well as the rest of us. Some are champions of human rights. …”


She’s clearly not guilty of misandry because she counts many (white) men as friends - OMG! Microaggression! I’m triggered!


Sort of, but mostly I’ve moved into a segment of my life where I do what I can for the causes I believe in and don’t worry about anyone else defining who I am.

Its not a dramatic “throwing up my hands in frustration”, just acknowledge and move on.


I don’t think that’s the case. Scientists are right because their predictions turn out to be correct, and are in some sense useful. Critics are right because what they are have to say merits their readers interest. I suppose this could be abstracted somewhat by observing that both scientists and critics offer models that engage and occupy the minds of their audience, but aesthetic truths and scientific truths are judged by two very different standards.

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Something similar happened to Bradbury with Fahrenheit 451. Many people from serious academics to your average reader think it’s about censorship. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of articles about the book and censorship.

Bradbury himself has stated many times that the book is about the role of the mass media and its effect on the populace and especially the dangers of television. He once gave a lecture where when he explained the theme as being the dangers of television and was flat out told by an audience member that he was wrong.

It’s easy to say that this person is obviously wrong since Bradbury wrote the damned thing … it’s about what he says it’s about, right? However, it may not be as simple as that. Once created and released, an artist really has no control over how their work is received or interpreted. To say the book is not about censorship when so many have taken the book to carry that message denies the participatory nature of art which allows each of us to see what we will and feel what we will understand as a result of that participation. Are the thousands of people who read Fahrenheit 451 as being primarily concerned with censorship wrong? I don’t think they are. I just think they took something away from the book which was not the authors original intent.

Sometimes, when a person shares their thoughts on a work of art or literature, it’s not so much right or wrong as it is expression. While that expression may not be valid, needed, or even wanted it would be wrong to dismiss it entirely. What we gain from art and literature is of a personal nature and one that can’t be viewed objectively as either right or wrong. Rather it should be taken as what it is, a personal expression of the experience.


I don’t know how people do it - writers, artists, etc. The constant and eternal barrage of criticism - expressing yourself is terrifying. Every new pair of eyes seems to categorize, simplify, debase and punish you with such alacrity and joy; and even death is no escape. What a shit-show this world is.


If there is one thing I never, ever want to experience, it is mansplation of Lolita. I may get flamed for this, but I think I have a couple of pictures of dudes that would like mansplain it.


While I acknowledge they employ different methods, they are both grounded in a methodology and logic. There’s something to be said about being consistent within that methodology, and only overturning the philosophy when it ceases to be useful. There are certainly subjective ideas in her writing, but a scientist who calls an idea “dumb” is equally editorializing. There’s still a consistency in the overall message bound to a certain logic and systematic approach. Just because there are different standards for different kinds of truth, it does not imply that truth is unattainable or doesn’t exist.

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I remember Asimov’s anecdote on this:

He once sat in (in the back of a large lecture hall, so semi-anonymously) on a class where the topic of discussion was one of his own works. Afterward, he went up and introduced himself to the teacher, saying that he had found the teacher’s interpretation of the story interesting, though it really wasn’t what he had meant at all. The teacher’s response was “Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you have the slightest idea what it’s about?”


I am not a smart person, so I live by a few simple rules. And you alluded to one that I learned as a wee japhroaig that has served me well.

If you are going to criticize, always have two honest compliments as well. And they have to be honest. If you can’t find any compliments, keep your yapper shut.


So she’s womansplaning mansplaning Lotita?

“Mansplaning” is definitely in my “top 10 internet words I wish would a die painful death list”. If a word could give you tongue cancer, I’d nominate that one for the privilege. This morning I mansplaned how to use a Linux laptop to my girlfriend, while she womansplaned her car issues to me. Our dog then dogsplaned how hungry he was.

Also, Lolita isn’t about RAPE. It contains it, it contains a lot of not-nice elements. But it isn’t ABOUT them. Give Nabokov some credit. A lot of media isn’t about their contents, but use their contents to say something about the world.

Edit: On rereading the article… There isn’t even “mansplaning” involved. So a person with a penis told her something she disagreed with. Is that all it takes? Also… It must be horrible to live in her world, where all you can think about is gender, and a world were people acting like people in books is a horrible thing. Literature doesn’t need to be socially normative, it doesn’t need to try to change the world into your version of “better”. It doesn’t get its power or beauty from its politics. Reading through a lens of gender obsession is probably not the route to fully enjoying something, but this seems to be where the original Esquire article, and the current author oddly agree with each other.


Count me among those who doesn’t care what the author thinks. If the author feels misunderstood, then they either betrayed themselves in their writing, or they miscommunicated. Writing is a communication skill as much as it is an art. If you fail to communicate your ideas effectively, then that’s your fault, not the readers’. The reader is not a telepath and you could have died in a tragic accident on the day your book is published and never have a chance to correct them. Books are babies, they mature and grow on a readership, and sometimes go in directions the parent never hoped for.