Designing a website around an existing piece of art involves certain decisions about how to visually represent someone else's work. The first question I had to ask was: What aspects of the novel are most important to my reading and had to be represented in the design? Immediately following that question, was: Which of those aspects can be easily and clearly represented by the design of the site (as opposed to the content)? There are other questions, but for now, let's deal with those first two.
The first issue important to my reading was the cleanliness of the language versus the potential for moral indecency (relatively speaking; in my reading I took into account societal norms as opposed to dealing with the ambiguity of potentially different moral systems) in the subject matter; for example on page 58, when Humbert Humbert begins his stealthy masturbation, the language becomes, while charged, extremely ornate and much less direct—Humbert uses phrases like "hidden tumor of an unspeakable passion" (p. 59) instead of something more crude and direct, like "engorged penis"—passages such as this may also be in parody of stereotypical romance novels, the kinds of things my father might call "blue books".
Another important aspect of my reading, which I alluded to in the paragraph above, is the language used in the book. As discussed in Dr. Fogel's Contemporary American Literature class (I won't be quoting directly from the lecture, nor even from my notes; any reference I make to Dr. Fogel's class will be based on my memory, and will be paraphrased or summarised), Nabokov's language is seemingly straightforward, often obscuring rather than illuminating. I alluded to this in the paragraph above when I described Humbert's indirect description of his masturbation and the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle, depending on your familiarity with the genre) parodying of romance novels. That's not the only linguistic area that I was interested in. In class we also discussed (and I admit that I noticed it myself, but I had no idea that it was so prevelant in the text) Nabokov's verbal play; he included things like anagrams ("Vivian Darkbloom" on page 31 is an anagram of "Vladimir Nabokov"), and there are clever names in the list of Dolores' classmates, like "Miranda, Viola" on page 52 (both her surname and her given name are the names of characters from Twelfth Night).
On to what was actually done: the title graphics are seemingly simple, but just like the novel itself, are actually made up of a complex set of typographical ornaments. Complexity exists just below simplicity.
The colour scheme, with the exception of the Polaroid photos, is monochramatic. This is because I wanted to draw attention to the most controversial bits of the site, the photos, and leave the text to stand on its own merit, much as Nabokov did in Lolita. He picked an inflamatory topic to draw attention away from what was really going on.
When I formatted the text, my goal was to keep it as clean and simple as possible, so that it would be even more heavily contrasted with the 'dirty' photos (the images were actually manipulated digitally in a wide variety of ways in order to corrupt them—I actually went so far as to use a much abused Polaroid photo that I keeps a bookmark for the frame of the images, so that it would have more of a sex-in-cheap-hotels feel). The photos were all of young girls (but not too young!) with their faces removed, to focus on the idea of them as objects of lust rather than as humans (mirroring what a surface reading of Humbert's attraction to Dolores).
In the essays themselves, you'll find a number of things missing and abbreviated; this was done on purpose, to catch sloppy readers. For example, Humbert's wife isn't mentioned in the essay on Morality and Aesthetics. Likewise my Biography of Nabokov is ridiculously short, and is intended as a clue to visitors of the site that, while scholarly in intent, it is also a work of art, and cannot always be trusted (again, as an example, the reason why there are no answers in my Interview with Nabokov is because he is dead, and is unable to answer my questions).
Finally, this site also takes into account personal viewpoints that aren't always scholarly in nature. Reader reactions are important, and should be to critics, but are often overlooked. Don't be sloppy. Don't overlook anything. This site is also mutable and transient. This essay may change. All of these essays may change. Resources will be added and removed, the images will change (right now I'm using manipulated "found" images for my Dolores, because the woman who agreed to be my Lolita had other matters to attend to, and rightly so, but when she has the time those images will be replaced with manipulated custom images).
by: August C. Bourré
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. 1955. New York: Vintage International, 1997. 2nd Edition.