Sunday, October 25, 2015

Look Who's Reading Nabokov

I. Reading Lolita in Bay City

Marz and I clicked through another Starsky and Hutch scene in Hutch's Bay City [LA] bungalow. (Episode: "Kill Huggy Bear", 1975--that's Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas) sitting down. Hutch is the blond.)

"What's that book on his table?" Marz said. "It's . . . I think it's Lolita!

We googled Lolita covers, and there it was--the 50¢ Crest Giant edition, published in 1959, five years after the novel's first appearance; so Hutch's copy is sixteen years old.
 [Onscreen, "–lita" is clearer than in this screencap.]

Why is Hutch reading Lolita?

No doubt he's professionally interested in sexuality that leaves "a sinuous trail of slime".* The show is realistic about slime: In "Nightmare", for instance, two thugs rape a retarded girl.
I suspect Hutch is personally interested in sexual difference too. He looks like the clean-cut one, but it seems like he's repressing a lot. (Starsky's the straightforward one.)

Hutch is also, I contend, making up for growing up in a house without books by reading his way through the Modern Library's "100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century" (from 1998, but he'd have had some such list).
Lolita is no. 4.

If the show's creators had really envisioned Hutch as the son of a doctor or lawyer, this exchange would be the other way round:
Starsky: Tempus fugit.
Hutch: What?

II. More 70s Poster Art

The poster on Hutch's wall above Lolita is never in focus, but I had a vague sense it was a bicycle poster.  

I'd forgotten, but they were in vogue when I was a teenager.
[Being reminded is one of the pleasures of watching this show.]

Sure enough--it's  a 1970s reprint of a poster from the late 1800s for Clement Cycles of Paris.

The Esty seller says:
"From A 1973 Collection Of Old Bike Posters. 
The book was produced on the 100th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle. 
It was also the 100th anniversary of color lithography which made mass produced color posters possible. "
* From Lolita, II.3, by Vladimir Nabokov:
"We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep."


Michael Leddy said...

I love this kind of stuff. I just wish the pencil in the other post were identifiable.

I remember when my children found a copy of Lolita on the shelves when we were staying at someone's house. They might have been twelve and ten. They began reading and soon decided they'd better put this book away. And then they told us about it. I remember one or both of them reciting the first sentence, kind of gleefully.

Elaine and I are now reading Ada, which she describes as “Lolita on steroids.”

Frex said...

Oh, darn, Michael, I was hoping you could magically identify the pencil anyway. I'll keep an eye out for a clearer shot--the detectives are always writing stuff down (often in darling little notebooks).

Yes, I thought of you and Elaine reading Nabokov when I saw Hutch was too. :)

I remember the summer I was ten finding a book by Frank Harris (I suppose it was My Life and Loves) on the shelves of an apartment my parents were renting in NYC.
I did not put it away or tell my parents, but read it in secret. Not as literary as Lolita, as I recall...