Lolita— The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov’s Novel in Art and Design, edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving, 2013 (Print/F & W Media)
I suppose the impossibility of picking the perfect cover for a book that has had so many iconic covers explains the choice of the utterly nondescript text-only, lime-green one they went for. But it was a bad decision because few would pick this up on a whim.
But now that I’ve got that out of the way, Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl makes up for its surface deficiencies with its interior content (which is perhaps the diametric opposite of Lolita’s appeal). Supremely unsettling writer Mary Gaitskill for the preface? Brilliant. A chapter devoted to Nabokov in paperback and another to specifically Russian visions of Lolita? Love it. The vast spectrum of Lolita representations is impressive and yet, it was surprising to see, particularly in the covers commissioned specifically for this book, how certain tropes are returned to again and again: abstracted genitalia, rustled bedsheets, overwrought type treatments, the color pink. I have to say I prefer the older Lolita covers to the contemporary, commissioned ones. If I had to pick, I’d go with Balthus or Klimt for their unsettling confrontational portraits of young girls in far too much command of their sexual powers.
Cover design for Lolita by Barbara deWilde. From Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl, edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving, courtesy of Print/F & W Media
Cover design for Lolita by Jennifer Heuer. From Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl, edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving, courtesy of Print/F & W Media