A Word In Your Ear: Lolita; The Road to McCarthy

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The Independent Culture

The decorous black-and -cream case of Jeremy Irons's unabridged reading of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (BBC Cover to Cover, 11 hrs 30 mins, £26.99) is identical to that of Cover to Cover's editions of Trollope, Jane Austen and the Brontës. The message is clear: this is a classic of world literature. Even so, I wondered if the Prince of Wales minded his "by appointment" ostrich plumes waving above the title, and dithered over reviewing it. At a time when child abuse has never been more in the news, do we need a book which portrays a child as a deliberate temptress? The answer is yes, because of Nabokov's masterly writing, hilarious social comment on small-town postwar America, and the way in which the book illuminates what goes on in a paedophile's mind – self-delusion, ruthlessness, sensitivity, a frightening conviction of superiority. With no prurient skimming possible, the novel's subtle building of character as well as its tragic outcome can be fully appreciated.

The decorous black-and -cream case of Jeremy Irons's unabridged reading of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (BBC Cover to Cover, 11 hrs 30 mins, £26.99) is identical to that of Cover to Cover's editions of Trollope, Jane Austen and the Brontës. The message is clear: this is a classic of world literature. Even so, I wondered if the Prince of Wales minded his "by appointment" ostrich plumes waving above the title, and dithered over reviewing it. At a time when child abuse has never been more in the news, do we need a book which portrays a child as a deliberate temptress? The answer is yes, because of Nabokov's masterly writing, hilarious social comment on small-town postwar America, and the way in which the book illuminates what goes on in a paedophile's mind – self-delusion, ruthlessness, sensitivity, a frightening conviction of superiority. With no prurient skimming possible, the novel's subtle building of character as well as its tragic outcome can be fully appreciated.

Pete McCarthy's The Road to McCarthy (Hodder, c. 3 hrs, £8.99) is a sequel to McCarthy's Bar, his jaunt around Ireland which never turned down an opportunity to visit a hostelry. This time he travels in search of scattered kin, visiting every corner of the globe that has harboured a McCarthy – Morocco, Tasmania, Montana, Montserrat and McCarthy, Alaska, where he finds (guess what?) an excellent bar. Far from classic, but good clean fun.

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