Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fat Girl (film) Letter to E. 2001

The ending: it was brutal but belonged to the worldview of the director who has a bleak opinion about men. There were 3 men in the film. The father: a workaholic who may not only have been working back in Paris (that's an obvious story) and who did not seem particularlyclose to his wife; certainly he had no idea about his daughters, the younger being neglected and disturbed, her only carer her sister; the boyfriend, who was Don Giovanni personified (and a thief and liar) and, finally, the rapist, the complete animal.
Along with that there is the fat girl, who had decided (precocious aged 12), to lose her virginity to someone she wasn't going to care about (and that too was taken to its logical conclusion). She had been, in the family and in her little social life, utterly humiliated, to the point of living through her own sister's deflowering like a dog (she lay in bad crying). No one respected her or wanted her. But at the end, here came an animal who seemed to her to choose her; he killed her glamourous mother, her desirable sister, and she knew he would rape her so that she would lose her virginity, defiantly, as she showed by her last retort to the police (that he hadn't raped her but that if they didn't believe her they could find out for themselves).
So that's why the ending was as it was. It was more than a study of a sad little girl growing up, it was an atrocious statement about men and the society they have created. You could see that from the mother. She kept herself nicely in her house, obviously more interested in looking attractive (which would be for men) whilst having no idea what was happening even with the daughter she identified with. She was a slut though, viz the way she threw the bottle out of the car window. It was an angry act not only of frustration and fatigue but as a furious protest, using the sexual symbol of the empty bottle in front of her own daughters, at society. (She never even went into her daughters' room to say goodnight. Did she know her daughter was sleeping with the boy? She must have, as her daughter observed to her that she must have lost her virginity once herself and she didn't answer. It was a taboo subject). And what did she threaten the girl with during that dreadful drive home? 'Your father is going to have you examined!' The girl was scared. Not because, on the surface, it could have been for AIDS for instance, but because the Father was Bogeyman. The old fashioned image of Father, an authoritarian man. No sympathy. G. thought the policemen were particulary unsympathetic too, but I didn't notice that.
Well, I didn't mean to write so much, but here it is I guess while fresh in my mind.
I really didn't enjoy watching it, the affect though was powerful.


The Hours, novel by Michael Cunningham

THE HOURS By Michael Cunningham Book Club 2004
Linda Hepner

I was half way through the novel when I suddenly realized I had read it before. This says of course that I read with only half my mind, but it also might imply that as a novel it is not absolutely successful in gripping the reader. The moment I woke up was when I suddenly realized the identity of little Richie, the 3 year old son of Laura. I was suddenly filled with dread and recognized that emotion from my first reading a couple of years ago. At that point I re-read more carefully, and anticipating the end helped to concentrate my mind. I would not say that every detail then gripped me, but I was certainly more alert for clues and developments which allowed me to appreciate the end of the now recognised novel. It also shows how perhaps the writing lacks some impact, does not close the distance between the reader and the characters in spite of the intricacy, vivid descriptions of detail and intellectual challenge.

I am revealing this to you at the start since you have all read the book and I will only now summarize it. I will not summarize it in order of appearance of the characters. I think there is method in my approach. Keep in mind that I believe the novel in spite of its progression through the day is a hypertext. Characters, names,events, place and more powerfully, time, are intermingled. You can see however that I seem to be giving you a biassed opinion from the start. You might take this as a jumping off point in your minds while I am speaking. None of us think of this novel as a thriller or romantic tale, but I still demand of an author that he or she grip our interest fairly early in the story, either with plot or fascinating details or with involvement with the characters. You will make up your own minds.

The Hours is a complex novel following a June day in the lives of 3 women living in different generations but each preparing for some sort of party. At least, it pretends to be three. In fact, it is four, as you will see.
The chapters alternate, switching from one character to the other, but intertwining unexpectedly towards the end.
There is Laura Brown: she is a young, married, pregnant mother living in a Los Angeles suburb in 1949. The war has been over for 4 years and her husband is a good provider. He had been pronounced dead in the Second World War but miraculously returned. Laura was an odd choice of wife, being aloof and bookish. She stays at home in a perfect 1949 house looking after her 3 year old son Richie, who adores her. She is beginning to read “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf and her mind is constantly preoccupied with it. She wonders how a writer like Woolf who puts a glow on the little details of life could kill herself. Her active day consists of preparing a birthday cake for her husband. This is her little party. She and Richie make it together as a delightful project but when he is not looking she rejects it for its amateurish decorations and makes another, carefully. A neighbor, Kitty, then comes in to reveal that she probably has fatal cancer. Laura kisses her on the lips. She then takes Richie to a babysitter and in a state of suicidal alienation drives around in Los Angeles and finally downtown where she checks into an anonymous hotel – to read “Mrs Dalloway”. She does come home in time to pick up Richie and serve her husband the cake. They go to bed without making love: she wants to read. This is the last we find out about her until the very last chapter.

Clarissa Vaughan is a 52 year old book editor and small time author. She lives in Greenwich Village in 1998.
She had been a good looking woman. At 18 she had met Richard, a 19 year old having an affair with a handsome young man, Louis. One moment by the water was all it took for Clarissa and Richard to fall in love. Their involvement lasted all his life, though they lived separately a la Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with all the sexual freedom of the 1960s to 80s. He identifies her as a sort of Virginia Woolf character and in fact calls her Mrs. Dalloway. She even buys him yellow roses as does Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway in Woolf’s novel. He however is now dying of AIDS. She has a daughter, Julia, concieved as a Test Tube Baby, who is now a teenager. Clarissa lives with her lesbian partner, Sally, a TV interviewer, who loves her deeply. There seems to be little jealousy on the part of any of them except that Louis took himself off years ago and turns up this very day. That evening Richard is to receive the Carruthers Prize for Literature and Clarissa is arranging a party for him. Her day is busy with this, walking around New York and with talking to various people. She visits Richard in the morning with the yellow roses and again in the afternoon, when she finds him sitting on the window ledge; he cannot face the fuss of the party or the pain he will have to endure for the rest of his brief life and he throws himself out of the window. Instead of the party his mother, none other than an aged Laura Brown, flies in from her solitary life in Canada to sit with Clarissa.

Michael Cunningham claims that Virginia Woolf is a fictionalized character in his novel, but we are invited to believe in her. Her June day in 1923 reads like a historical novel and in fact considerable research went into the background. The novel in fact begins with a prologue showing this character the day of her suicide in 1941 even though the June 1923 day, eighteen years earlier, comes in a later chapter. Virginia has been living for 8 years in Hogarth House in a suburb of London, Richmond on Thames, with her husband, the writer and publisher of Hogarth Press, Leonard Woolf. He had taken her there so as to escape her depressions in the bustle and tensions of London – you probably know she was the centre attraction of the famed and intense Bloomsbury Group near the British Museum – but she was aching to return to London. This morning she begins writing her novel about Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway. She places her story on a June day in the life of the middle aged woman preparing for a party in London in 1922, 4 years after World War I. Virginia writes for a few hours, helps her husband and the cook and prepares for a tea party for her sister Vanessa Bell and 3 children. Her sister and family turn up early and she kisses her sister on the lips. She and the children perform a funeral for a dead bird and place yellow roses round its grave. After they leave she walks aimlessly round the town of Richmond and almost catches a train fleeing out of it, thinks about her husband and the novel and decides Mrs. Dalloway will kill herself from depression and boredom. Later in a surge of joie de vivre and positive thinking she decides Clarissa Dalloway will not be the one to die, she loves the details of life too much, but that another person will kill himself instead. This person will have returned from the Great War, suffering hallucinations and mental pain and throw himself down out of a window to avoid being taken away.

The prologue to the novel however begins with the description of Virginia’s suicide, jumping into the river 18 years later, one wartime day in 1941. She has written a loving note to her husband but can no longer bear the pain and depression. Her body comes to rest deep under a bridge on which a mother and a little son of three walking are looking at the surface of the water.
The point is made: life goes on and all around people and activities continue, delicately and intimately connected yet unaware.

In spite of these 3 women however there is a 4th character who is only seen as fictional by the main characters yet who both summarizes and influences all the others. This person is none other than the invented character Clarissa Dalloway herself as created by Virginia Woolf. It is as vital to know the Woolf novel as it is to know what happened to Virginia Woolf in reality. In “The Hours” we see her as she is born into the head of Virginia the novelist, with the first famous lines of her novel: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself…..”

According to Cunningham, these words were the fertilizer for Virginia’s mind, just as the words of her novel “Mrs.Dalloway” inspired Cunningham to write “The Hours”. He paints Virginia’s racing mind as it creates iconic images, characters throbbing with reality, conversations and linkages. In reality they were indeed drawn from her experiences, her emotions, relationships and observations. Also from her pain, which may have been intense migraine, and hallucinations. The book “Mrs. Dalloway” draws us inexorably into Clarissa Dalloway’s train of consciousness – or is it Woolf’s - through the hours of the day, and in fact the working title was originally “The Hours”. We meet all the characters we are going to see in the novel we are reading, Cunningham’s “The Hours”, in their original guise. Every character in Cunningham’s novel is based on Woolf’s and so are the situations, moved to other eras and shifted into other individuals, sometimes just aspects of them, male or female. In Woolf’s novel there is Clarissa herself, middle aged, loving yet alienated from herself in an inchoate way, trying to recreate the joy of a moment of her youth by doing what she does best: bringing people together at her party. This is her creative imperative which she longs to share with other people and makes her so lovable in spite of her superficial life. She leads a golden life of leisure in London, married to Richard, a dependable, loving yet stolid gentleman who loves her. In her past she was loved by a passionate young man, Peter Walsh, who turns up from India the very day of her party. She has a daughter, who is growing up beautifully but is influenced by a disagreeable, inadequate spinster whom she later abandons to return to her mother. She thinks about the past and avoids depression by loving everything about the June day in London. She had one passionate kiss when she was 18, from her girlfriend Sally who then comes unexpectedly to the party, transformed into a successful bourgeoise wife and mother. Meanwhile outside in the London streets she has a doppelganger, Septimus Smith, a sort of Clarissa in photo negative. He had been a poet and is now suffering from post war trauma, with hallucinations. London in June is evil and ugly in his brain. His faithful Italian wife cannot save him from killing himself. He is the sacrificial lamb necessary for Clarissa’s surviving: someone has to suffer the tumult of the war, and she is in a state of Grace, a Christian concept that, without discussing itself, permeates her life since, ultimately, she remains blessed with security and love. We follow the day of Septimus Smith and his wife as we do Clarissa’s while occasionally other characters, such as Peter Walsh, notice them passing by. Only at the party however does the report of his violent and tragic suicide cause a black shudder over Clarissa’s life, like a reminder of her own mortality and the ugliness from which she is sheltered. The event is described by one of the guests, Septimus’ platitudinous doctor, explaining why he has arrived late. It threatens to ruin her party for her but it does cause her to make a small step in her life: she retires alone to sort out her feelings and is then able to zero in on her old love Peter Walsh who has been waiting for this moment all day if not years. A sort of consummation. Her last words are “Here I am at last.”

Laura Brown in Los Angeles, 1949, 4 years after the tumult of W.W.2, identifies with Clarissa. Her bookishness is more real to her than her own, otherwise blessed life. She too has everything going for her, family, security; she does her best however to recreate trouble for herself, sensing the deeper current of alienation within Clarissa and feeling more acutely her own personal non-fulfilment as a wife and mother. She is at the cusp of and the victim of social change for women after the war. She performs acts she does not realise are close to Clarissa’s, such as decorating with yellow roses, driving away from her home as an escape to some inner freedom and reality and kissing her female neighbor, not to mention thinking about suicide. Her son Richie is right in sensing his mother is lost, and in fact his desperate love for her inspired his poetry and indirectly caused his death. But the state of Grace for her is dismal. She lives to an old age, an eccentric against all odds, alone with her books, surviving even the death of her son.

Clarissa Vaughan in New York, 1998, is identified with Clarissa Dalloway by her lover, the bisexual Richard, and superficially she is like her, not only by name and in looks but by her comfortable, relatively superficial social life in New York. She has a teenage daughter, as does Dalloway. The sexual restraints are gone however; women kiss women and men men without a stir. She only stops being “Mrs. Dalloway” when Richard dies and she can become herself, Clarissa Vaughan, again. She too survives, along with her daughter and faithful lover Sally, but the one to kill himself is Richard, to escape the excruciating pain experienced also by Virginia and Septimus Smith. Is Richard here the sacrifice, made for the sins of our own generation with its freedoms so longed for by Mrs. Dalloway and Richard’s unmotherly, absentee Laura Brown?

The female lovers and the kiss – brief moments of true passion - resonate with eachother: Clarissa Dalloway’s friend, Laura’s neighbor, Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell. In fact Laura kisses Kitty and Kitty is the name of Virginia Woolf’s childhood love Kitty Maxss, though this is not mentioned by Cunningham. I wonder how many resonances we could uncover if we studied the texts and Woolf’s life in greater detail. Laura’s babysitter and Virginia’s cook intimidate. Daughters are independent minded and about to bloom. Life partners are decent and faithful. Colors resonate, above all the color yellow, lighting up the scenes yet signifying a sort of morbid attraction: yellow roses chosen by both Clarissas and even Clarissa Vaughan’s lesbian lover Sally, yellow roses as icing on Laura’s cake, yellow in Virginia’s days too in the roses round the dead bird and in 1941 the sulphur tinge to the sheep in the morning and the surface color of the river in which she drowns herself in the evening. Parties, or rather their preparation, define the day of each woman. The flight from meaninglessness, as with Mrs. Dalloway trying to leave Richmond on a train and Laura driving to the hotel; pain, either from the despair born of meaninglessness or of horror, the jump into the unknown, in Virginia’s case into water, in Septimus’ and Richard’s out of the window. There is scarcely an image, name or aspect of any of the stories that does not foreshadow, echo or interwine.
All is connected, both writers seem to say, but unlike that other author E.M.Forster it is not ‘Only connect’…to exalt life and love and “live in fragments no longer,” because the connections here are fluid and delicate, yet powerful enough to govern our lives throughout the generations like gods or unseen forces of change and destroy us in our superficiality and innocence.

Ultimately it is up to each of us to say whether "The Hours" works on its own merits or whether, for some indefinable reason, as it is for me, the original "Mrs. Dalloway" remains not only the inspiration but the more lasting work of art.

Linda Hepner

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Book Club Choice Monday 14th June 04

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi published 2003


This is the delightful word exclaimed by one of Azar’s students, Yassi, one day when she walks into the room for the routine Thursday morning private literary class. Azar Nafisi, the author, is immediately carried back in time, and in this episode when the girls use their imaginations to explain the word, there is a sort of encapsulation of this wonderful book. Here Azar first describes the episode, she then goes on to define the meaning of the word, and then uses it to stretch our imagination and feed us with memories, descriptions, analyses and histories of the students and the times they lived in in Iran under the Ayotolla Khomeini and others.
Each girl has been given a pseudonym to protect their present lives. Yassi said she thought ‘upsilamba’ could be the name of a dance, Manna ‘suggested … it evoked the image of a small silver fish leaping in and out of a moonlit lake’, Nima, Manna’s husband who sent in his suggestions later added that it was a prod in the brain so as not to forget him, Azin said it was a melody, Mahshid said it was three girls jumping rope, Sanaz said ‘a small boy’s secret magical name, Mitra said a blissful sigh, Nassrin a magic code.
In fact it was Nabakov who actually may have invented the word out of his usual method of word-play, meaning possibly how it was that children could understand ‘eachother at the first word’ captured in written form by dredging up an archaic letter, the ‘upsilamba’, which became in his own eyes a bird or a catapult that freed you into imagining other worlds.
What is noticeable from their interpretation however is how each of these girls who spend most of their week swathed in black, hiding their hair, their nails, their laughter, cannot repress their inner hope and spirit, their imagination that soars and frees them from the cruel, gray brutality of their daily lives.
So it is that Azar Nafisi manages to combine many literary devices in her book Reading Lolita in Tehran.
The book reads easily like a novel but is in fact her memoirs, triggered by her deep love and knowledge of English, American and world literature. To give shape to her memoirs she takes 4 authors and explores themes she and her students discover in their various novels. You all know that these four are Lolita by Nabakov, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, Daisy Miller and other novels by Henry James and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Thus in each chapter we have unusual and often disturbing analyses of the books they read together, borrowing ideas frequently from other works by the authors or illuminations of works by other authors.
The initial push-off, like the word ‘Upsilamba’, is never dull in itself. Most great works of art grab the reader pretty rapidly, whether it is Lolita or Pride and Prejudice or to be topical, The Iliad. But there has to be a greater theme and at least one interesting character to hold us and involve our minds. Nafisi could just have analyzed the books, but she uses them to draw us into her world. She finds that the Thursday morning discussions which she had originally intended as a private class for serious students of literature after she withdraws from her University career due to, for her, impossible restrictions on dress, behavior and choice of subjects, draw out the private lives and despair and hope of these women and herself.
In the first chapter, concerning Lolita we learn about each student in turn. Nafisi is protective towards them and calls them her ‘girls’ even though some of them are women.
She describes herself as ‘good old plastic’. This is obviously modest and belies her own genius and ability to hold the class together through thick and thin.
There is Nima, married to a sympathetic husband, Manna, who is barred from the group out of fear of the religious police. Although Nafisi’s husband, Bijan, makes an occasional appearance in the apartment, the women unwatched by authorities or menfolk unburden themselves and allow womens’ problems to be aired…. and each novel sheds amazing light on their problems.
There is impish Nassrin, who ‘disappears’ from the group and is found to have undergone horrific troubles at the hands of the authorities.
Her friend Mashid is the oldest, the most conservative and religious of the group. She seems to have accepted an almost nun-like existence.
Azin, the most glamorous, often clashes with the two friends. She is longing to show off her beauty and test the waters of freedom and sexual innuendo around her although she is actually married, albeit to a wife-beater.
Mitra is calm and teasing. Of the group, she has the most peaceful relationship with another student, Hamid, and the two married for love.
Sanaz is under the thumb of her immature younger brother, who takes on the role of irritated protector and mini-dictator. She finally travels to Turkey to attempt a marriage with someone she has had a crush on since childhood, a marriage expected of her Europeanized but obedient fiancé; this imposing of marriage on the two good people who scarcely know each other ends in separation.
Lastly, there is laughing, self-questioning Yassi, the youngest and possibly most devoted of the group who is only 14 when she audits a University class and later follows Nafisi into the private Thursdays. Her vulnerability in the face of her imprisonment makes her particularly touching.
None of these girls have happy, carefree lives. They are captured for demonstrating against repressive authority, whether in appearance, religious deviance or political beliefs or being in the wrong place during the frequent raids. Some are tortured. They have friends who sat in prison with them or whom they had met in class who were summarily executed. Even those who avoid the public find their lives encapsulated by Kafka-esque or Alice in Wonderland rules and laws and attitudes. Nafisi comes out with many personal examples. There is the stray hair showing from under the chador.
There is laughing in corridors. There is eating a peach too seductively. There is looking or letting a man (in other words seducing him) look into her eyes. There is playing music. Books are increasingly banned, films are hard to find, mixed company of unmarried people is considered whoredom for which you can be executed.
In fairness to the University and to my puzzlement, the books and authors studied are pretty well acceptable to the authorities. Nevertheless the courage of Nafisi and her students constantly overawe us.
Nafisi describes her career at The University of Tehran followed by the move to AllamehTabatabai University for women.
At the U of Tehran where she was a young lecturer back from America (on campus she had demonstrated with anti-Shah students) she met the new revolutionaries who were battling amongst themselves for hegemony, Marxists versus Islamicists of various intense levels of belief. We watch as the Ayotollas take over. Meanwhile she relished the arguments she had with members of the various Islamic Brotherhood members who seem to have treated her with mingled respect and regret at her views. At one point she puts the book Daisy Miller on trial in the form of a debate. Daisy is attacked by a religious but persistent young man who finds her immoral and is defended by startlingly bright women. This one class could have caused Nafisi’s dismissal and expulsion of the women but she at least gets away with it.
In the chapter on The Great Gatsby she describes the growing atmosphere of turmoil and fear as the religious leaders clamp down more and more on the population. One excuse for the repression is the inflated and imposed fear and hatred of anything Westernized, America the Great Satan and the imperialistic Zionist Entity.
In the chapter on Henry James we experience the horrors of the Iran-Iraq war. On one hand she and the girls live with fear, death and terror every night, on the other they carry on in a sort of timewarp of disbelief; as with their appearance they have real bodies and expressions beneath the black clothes that swathe them, so their minds ready at any minute to run for shelter cannot really accept their daily limitations. Knowing life in Israel, we can understand how this can happen.
In the last main chapter, based on Jane Austen, she discusses marriage. The girls are as engrossed in this subject as any religious Jewish girl waiting for a shidduch and have expectations just as varied, from acceptance of arranged marriage to yearning for romance. This is in an ethos of mens’ control over womens’ destinies. Yassi, the youngest, parodies the opening line of Pride and Prejudice saying “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of fortune, must be in want of a nine-year-old virgin wife.” Nafisi tells us about her growing family. Her little daughter Negar was born into repression and resents the fact that she has never even known the freedoms her mother remembers. When Khomeini dies she thinks the women outside the window will take off their chadors and when they don’t she cries out that he is not dead. She is actually right, metaphorically! She is born into a society where people are so accustomed to unquestioning obedience they see Khomeini’s face in the moon. Her husband Bijan, a most stable character reminiscent in his perfection of Austen’s Mr Darcy, is completely supportive of her comparatively wayward behavior and also supports her in her career. Her mother who had been a minister under the Shah in turn chides her and gives her warmth and protection. She has a little son who will grow up in America when she finally decides to return after nearly 20 years and where she teaches to this day.
I find it impossible to talk about everything I think about when I read the pages of this book. There is a sort of turmoil in my own mind, due to the myriad subjects and the emotional impact. But there are one or two themes I would like to mention because they affect me so strongly.
One is her relationship with a mysterious, unnamed ex-teacher she calls “My Magician”. He is her mentor and his very hidden-ness and exclusivity suggest that she is at once attracted to him like a soul-mate in hiding and in need of him to clarify her own thoughts about books and problems as they arise. Now it is interesting that Nabakov in Lolita talks about a mysterious ‘conjuror’ who knows answers. This suggests to me that Nafisi sees her life defined as if it were literature and literature as if it were life. Thus she can delve into a book and with her students see incredible relevance to their lives and psyche whilst seeing their lives play out like a novel.
Narrowing this down, I would like to mention Lolita itself. I have avoided getting into it so far as it would take an entire volume to explain it. Firstly, I am utterly amazed at the level of intimate knowledge by these non-native-English students with all the innuendoes of our rich language. To follow Nabakov’s use of language takes time and familiarity with much of Western culture. He himself was astonishing: had to learn English and he uses it like a wizard.
We all react viscerally to Humbert Humbert, and this is Nabakov’s intention. He has taken a horrible subject and made art out of it. As Homer says (I’ve been rereading the Iliad as you probably realize), violence has a ‘terrible beauty’. The violence of Humbert against the nymphet Lolita is repulsive and yet produces all around us a ‘terrible beauty’ - a great web of deceit bolstered by brilliant innuendoes, word-plays that cause us to look further, deeper into history, our language, our society, ourselves, and the consequences of our actions and beliefs. He has us entangled. The Persian women understand this instinctively in a way that we in the West can not. The attitudes based on The Absurd, and the violence, physical or mental, against the Iranian people and women in particular is so all-pervasive, and so bolstered by religious and cultural baggage they cannot escape from it without revolution or death. Even escape or exile will never free them mentally as we see when Nafisi meets certain old friends after many years. During the war they were indoctrinated with signs saying:
“Whether we kill or are killed we are victorious!”
When the Islamic government took over the Film Censor was an old blind man.
If a Muslim Iranian, even married with four wives, wants to make love to more women he can contract a 10-minute marriage.
That is the Alice in Wonderland experience. That is the experience of Cincinnatus in Nabakov’s Kafka-esque novel about an innocent prisoner. That is why the women think that Daisy Miller herself shows heroic courage in the face of a society we would recognize today. Their sensitivity to problems – and freedoms – that surround us in the West is heightened far more than our own.
And the despairing analysis of all the women is that the worst sin, the worst evil in Man is lack of empathy, lack of the ability feel, to put oneself in the place of another. Like Humbert Humbert. Like anyone who imprisons people and ideas in the name of love or religion or class propriety or patriotism, ignoring the living beings they are persecuting. And this is ironically aided and abetted by ourselves, since we like Nabakov’s ubiquitous butterfly, are caught in this net of solipsization, this persuasive taking-over of our own individual selves by another entity, whether it be a Humbert or a religion or a blind Film Censor. Because we are complicit -- as Nafisi says, “What linked us so closely was this perverse intimacy of victim and jailer.”

Linda Hepner