Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diary of a Young, Calculating Vixen

Lolita, the lovely, lilting nymphet of Humbert Humbert's dreams, was described by Vladimir Nabokov as a combination of "naivete and deception," "blue sulks and rosy mirth," an "exasperating brat" whose childhood was stolen and besmirched by her stepfather. As for Nabokov's classic 1955 novel, it was not merely a study in obsession and guilt and forbidden love, but also a coyly crafted and jeweled literary puzzle.

Pia Pera's controversial new novel, Lo's Diary - which is being published for the first time in the United States - depicts Humbert's nymphet as a scheming 12-year-old seductress, a selfish young thing who determines to snare a handsome older man from her hated mother.

The novel is a dreary, monotonous and heavily Freudian account of incest and abuse and mutual manipulation - a book that is completely bereft of the love of language and wit that animated Nabokov's famous novelt.

Because "Lo's Diary" hews closely, in terms of central plot developments, to Nabokov's story line, it's initially amusing for the reader to compare scenes from the two books. Such comparisons, however, quickly grow tiresome.

The problem is that Pera seems to have no understanding whatsoever of what Nabokov was up to in "Lolita," and so cannot begin to reimagine his story in any meaningful way. With Humbert, Nabokov's book gave us an unreliable narrator, a self-justifying, silver-tongued child molester who thinks of himself as a poet and who draws us into his own romantic rationalizations. Pera has turned Humbert into your run-of-the-mill child molester, Lolita into an underage slut and their story into a crude sex farce - a book that is as leering, uninspired and mechanical as Nabokov's was dazzling.

"Lo's Diary" by Pia Pera. Translated by Ann Goldstein. 292 pages. Foxrock. $22.95.