Reading Lolita at Twelve

Nick Antosca in The Paris Review:

Lolita For much of middle school, I’d been enamored of a smart and introverted girl in my grade. I’ll call her Anna. Red-haired, freckled, and painfully pale, Anna was hardly a dead ringer for Dolores Haze, but I was observant enough to recognize the “ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb”—that marked her as a nymphet.

My imagination required a corresponding nympholept, and the Humbert Humbert of Brunswick Middle School could only be our affable fourth-period teacher, a tall, handsome, offhandedly suave man who was soon slipping in Anna’s bedroom window to ravish her—and be ravished by her—on a nightly basis, as a perturbed cocker spaniel looked on. (I’d once overheard her mention her dog at school.) I loathed and admired him. How could I ever hope to compete?

What Nabokov prettified with a murderer’s fancy prose style, I saw with bracing clarity. This was 1995, and hardcore Internet porn was not yet easily accessible to twelve-year-olds, but my imagination was ambitious. No permutation of heterosexual sex escaped it.

More here.