Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
20 April 1960

VLADIMIR NABOKOV,

novelist, writes to his literary agent

"I am informed that a French motion picture company is about to make a picture called The Nymphets. The use of this title is an infringement of rights since this term was invented by me for the main character in my novel Lolita and has now become completely synonymous with Lolita [pictured, from the latest film version] in the minds of readers throughout the world. In other words, any title with the term `nymphet' in it would naturally and inevitably suggest Lolita whether she is named or not. Could you please find out the name and address of the French company in question. It is my intention to sue without delay."

20 April 1897

HENRY JAMES,

novelist, writes to a friend from Venice, explaining that he now writes his novels by dictation:

"As for my general benefit, don't pity me for my lame wrist, which is a combination of native imbecility and acquired rheumatism, but which is also what is called a blessing in disguise; inasmuch as it has made me renounce for ever the manual act, which I hate with all the hatred of a natural inaptitude, and have renounced for ever, to devote myself in every particular to dictation. The latter does not hamper me at all: in letters, quite the reverse, and in commerce with the Muse, so little that I foresee the day when it will be a pure luxury."

23 April 1952

TOM DRIBERG,

Labour MP, writes in his diary:

"As I discovered again at Wormwood Scrubs this evening, a prison audience is one of the best to talk to - responsive, quick-witted, asking questions a good deal more intelligent than those asked at many meetings. A special form of accident-proneness afflicts prison lecturers: like bread falling on the carpet butter downwards, they constantly find their tongues forming phrases or alluding to subjects which might be considered tactless. Thus discussing the Budget, I found myself inadvertently referring to subsidies as `a relatively simple method of redistributing wealth'. There was a slight frisson in the audience. I hesitated, decided to risk it, and added parenthetically: `No doubt other methods will occur to some of you...' I am glad to say they roared with laughter."

Ian Irvine

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