Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jamie Loftus' new podcast unpacks how Nabokov’s Lolita has been "twisted" over the years

Illustration for article titled Jamie Loftus' new podcast unpacks how Nabokov’s Lolita has been "twisted" over the years
Photo: MGM Studios/Archive Photos (Getty Images)

It was back in March that comedian and writer Jamie Loftus dropped My Year In Mensa, a gripping podcast series about her nightmare experience as a member of MENSA. Now, she’s back with a brand new project, Lolita Podcast, a 10-part audio series tracing the long and messy history of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, from its publication in 1955 to its myriad of adaptations to its representation in culture.


The controversial novel explores and investigates a middle-aged man’s obsession with his pre-teen stepdaughter and the sexual relationship it spawns. Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lyne have each adapted it for film, while others have reimagined it as operas, ballets, and even a Broadway musical. Per Loftus, something vital has been lost in these translations. In the podcast’s intro, she says the story’s been “adapted, misinterpreted, and twisted over the years by Hollywood, by music, by fashion, by fans of the book, and, occasionally, by the author himself.” Somewhere along the way, she argues, the cultural narrative has been reworked to frame her as “the seductress and to blame for what happens to her.”

Joining her in this exploration will be literary scholars, experts on abuse, and the women who have played Dolores “Lolita” Haze in the different adaptations, among others.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to address how huge an impact this book had on me as a kid, and continues to now,” Loftus tells The A.V. Club. “I’m definitely not alone there, and this pod felt like the right opportunity to really take a look at how a book that tells you on its first page that it’s being narrated by a pedophile trying to get himself out of prison time can be interpreted in so many bad faith ways. How has every man (and it is all men, oops) who has directed an adaptation of this story said with confidence that it’s a love story? It’s fucked and makes my head hurt. This is burying a hatchet I’ve had with how this book is often remembered and discussed for all the wrong reasons for a long time, and hopefully shifting that discussion to professionals and survivors that have found value in it.”

The first episode is available now. Listen to it here.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.