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LOLITA’S LYNCH MOB • by Sarah Hilary

The reading group met on Fridays. Beryl baked, badly it must be said. Timothy liked to experiment with herbal teas. They convened in the living-room, by the bay window.

Margaret, who’d never got over the end of The English Patient, said, “Why does nobody do happy-ever-after any more?”

Everyone nodded, china chattering.

“If it was up to me,” Richard said, “Humbert Humbert would’ve been buggered to death by a bear.”

“Grizzly,” Beryl approved. “Prison’s too good for some.”

Fervent consensus, the slop of coffee in saucers; the group felt strongly about this. They rarely disagreed amongst themselves, preferring to combine forces to tackle the chosen text.

It was a week after they’d finished with Lolita that Timothy made the discovery. He arrived waving a Penguin paperback of Nabokov’s novel. “Here, on page 308!”

They huddled around to look. Gone was Humbert’s tardy remorse as he listened to the children playing sans Lolita. In its place was a graphic description of his suffering at the paws of a big brown bear: “Ravished for a fifth time, I was cast aside with indifference, knowing my fate to be both poignant and just.”

A flurry of excitement followed, as the reading group hunted down as many copies of the novel as they could find, old and new, each time discovering the same thing: their wish had come true. Lolita now ended with the ursine sodomy of Nabokov’s nasty narrator.

“Well,” said Beryl. “What a turn-up.”

It wasn’t just the novel which underwent a transformation following the group’s energetic vilification of the text. Both film adaptations of Lolita had miraculously changed to reflect their preferred denouement. The James Mason version used a cut-away as the bear swaggered onscreen. The more recent adaptation was less diffident. The look on Jeremy Irons’ face, they all agreed, was priceless.

“We did it,” Timothy said, between elation and dismay. “We changed the ending, forever.”

“What’re we reading next?” Richard rubbed his hands.

Margaret held up The Satanic Verses.

“D’you think we should…?”

Lolita might’ve been a fluke…”

“True. I mean, what’re the chances of it happening twice?”

“I’ll bake a lemon drizzle,” Beryl promised.

Two months later, they reconvened. Sheepish looks were exchanged. No one liked to say anything. The news blackout was a blessing; they could only guess at how bad things might be in the world beyond their village.

“No cake, Beryl?”

“No eggs, Tim.”


Sarah Hilary‘s stories have been published by Velvet Mafia, MYTHOLOG, Heavy Glow, Apollo’s Lyre, Twisted Tongue, Four Volts, Neon and the Boston Literary Magazine. Her short story, On the line, was published in the Daunt Books 2006 anthology. She won the Litopia “Winter Kills” Contest in 2007. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and young daughter.

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LOLITA'S LYNCH MOB • by Sarah Hilary, 4.1 out of 5 based on 149 ratings
Posted on September 3, 2007 in Stories, Surreal
  • Terri

    Oh, what a Pandora’s Box they may have opened eh? But how boring if we were able to make every ending a happy one! I much enjoyed this piece Sarah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06771968529894758838 Dianne

    Sarah: I never lived in an area where we had reading groups so I was always stuck viewing television and movie adaptations of a variety of books, as well as enjoying British comedy. I’ve found a trend of sorts between British and USA comedy settings, in that a lot of British shows are set in book clubs and book shops whilst American media is often set in music and comic book stores. Now, I think that your scenario would work easily in the likes of a comic book group as well. I can’t help but hink of how all of those long-term Spiderman fans would react if no clone of Peter Parker ever entered the storyline. o_O I am such a geek. 😀

    Terri: Pandora’s Box? Funny you should say that… 😀

  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    Thanks, Terri and Dianne. I hadn’t known about the comic book groups, Dianne – you opened my eyes!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06771968529894758838 Dianne

    Try reading through the forums of roleplaying games. The language used by roleplayers is a sort of lexicon developed by playing a system (there are different types) for an extended period of time. There are also private jokes that only roleplayers understand. Collector Card games often bring out the same habits as well, that secret language and humor that only those in the gaming circle get. The cult following of this game or that show does bring out some odd behavior. Trekkies are the best and most publicized example of this because they aren’t subtle in any regard.

  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    It’s a whole new world, by the sounds of it. Thanks, Dianne!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06771968529894758838 Dianne

    And the internet is helping make the world even smaller. 😀

  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    True! It’s still an astonishment to me that I readers from all over the world. 20,000 “hits” for my stories here at EDF in one year – how’d it happen?? And to think I didn’t even know how to use the internet four years ago…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06771968529894758838 Dianne

    You took the first step in writing as inspiration dictated, then people identified how talented you are and the word spread. Weblogs have opened up a market that wasn’t there ten years ago and websites like EDF are taking full advantage of this distribution method. Weblogs, Podcasts & vlogs are certainly changing the way that people offer fiction and non-fiction, benefiting writers that would have otherwise been overlooked by the traditional market.

  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    Thank you, Dianne, for the kind comments.

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  • J.C. Towler

    “Lolita now ended with the ursine sodomy of Nabokov’s nasty narrator” Ha!

    At a friend’s suggestion I tracked this one down and was throughly delighted. Fun read, Sarah.


  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    Thanks, John, I’m glad you tracked it down and that you enjoyed reading.

  • http://www.jonathanpinnock.com Jonathan Pinnock

    Ha! How did I miss this one before? Great stuff, Sarah :)

  • http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/ Sarah Hilary

    Thanks, Jon! I’m intrigued as to how you found it after all this time.

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