Could Lolita be published today if someone submitted it?
The question came up in a conversation between me and the perspicacious Judith, who comments on this blog from time to time. Judith used to be an intern at FinePrint, where she read my second book and wrote an amazingly well thought out review. Now she reads queries as a literary assistant at another agency (and I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know which one). She has her own blog at I Eat Books Like You For Breakfast. If you're interested in the
humble dynamic life of a literary assistant, then Judith's blog would be a good one to follow.
Judith recently handed in her dissertation, which happens to be on a book you may have heard of, called Lolita. She has a clear view on it. Judith commented in a post on her own blog that:
...Lolita...is undoubtedly the best novel written in the English language. Ok, so maybe not the best, but it's fourth best: Modern Library 100 Best Novels in the 20th Century.Which caused me to question whether Lolita could be published today.
Judith's view: Could Lolita be published today? I think yes. Especially if Humbert's charming, witty voice comes through in the query. I bet tons of agents would request it and ask for a 2-week exclusive in a heartbeat. I don't think the subject matter would get in the way of agents wanting to represent it, since the voice is just so irresistible. What do you think, ya?
What I think: Lolita is brilliantly written, obviously, but I'm trying to imagine the agent's call to the editor. I imagine it would go something like this:
Agent: I have a great novel. Utterly brilliant voice. You'll love it!
Editor: What's it about?
Agent: It's a sympathetic look at pedophilia.
Editor: Do you have anything else?
So, what do you think?