Sunday, November 18, 2018

100 STROKES OF THE BRUSH BEFORE BED: "The Erotic Adventures of a Sexually Ravenous Girl"

Melissa Panarello’s semi-autobiographical novel,100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed [Italian: 100 colpi di spazzola prima di andare a dormire], has sold over a million copies. The following excerpt from a New York Times book review will serve as the plot summary: “The erotic adventures of a sexually ravenous girl...A wisp of a book [with] a wallop of an impact.” 

In the book, which is written in diary form,14-year-old Melissa, “five-foot-two”, “pretty” with a “lovely little face”, masturbates in front of a mirror and at school: 

“Often with my image reflected in the mirror, I slip my finger inside, and I look into my eyes [...]” (2) “[...] I touch myself, experiencing awesome orgasms, intense and brimming with fantasies” (13) “Desire took possession of me even during school hours when, certain that no one was watching, I straddled the iron support of the desk and leaned my Secret against it with a gentle pressure.” (17)

Melissa performed oral sex on Daniele, an indifferent, insulting and irritating 18-year-old, at his vacation home until: “[...] all of a sudden there was a surprise: my mouth filled with hot, sour liquid, thick and plentiful [...] I drank the liquid because I didn’t know what else to do with it [...]” (Eventually, Melissa lost her virginity to Daniele. She was still 15, but he as 19.)

In reference to a substitute teacher who is “not only very smart but good-looking” one of Melissa’s classmates asked, “Wouldn’t you let a guy like that bang you?” “No. I’d rather rape him,” answered another coed with a laugh. 

Inside the “smoking room” of a palazzo, Roberto, a left-wing activist, instructed Melissa, on her 16th birthday, to perform oral sex on five men: “[...] you must draw near, when we tell you, and take it in your mouth until it comes. Five times, Melissa, five. Henceforth we shall no longer speak. Perform your task well.” Melissa wrote: “I returned home full of sperm, my makeup smeared. My mother was waiting for me, asleep on the couch.” (55)

Melissa Panarello

After perusing the Internet for porn, “I search for everything that simultaneously excites and sickens me.”, Melissa “[...] entered a lesbian chat room.” The next morning she received a message from Letizia, a 20-year-old bi-sexual fellow Catanian. (76-77). Subsequently, Letizia sent Melissa a nude picture “[...] her breasts, like two gentle hillocks topped by two large pink circles.”, which caused Melissa to remove her panties, slip beneath the covers, and “[...] put an end to the sweet torture that Letizia had unwittingly set in motion.” (79)

At 1:18 P.M., Melissa met 35-year-old Fabrizio, “[...] not quite handsome: tall, robust, thinning salt-and-pepper hair [...]” in the “Perverse Sex” chat room. By 9:00 P.M., Fabrizio, married with a daughter, and Melissa had sex in Fabrizio’s car. “The next time little one, we’ll be more comfortable.”

Melissa searched Il Mercatino for a math tutor. “Only one was available. A [27-year-old] man [...]” “My name is Valerio. Don’t ever call me Professor; you’ll make me feel too old.” (87) After their first meeting, Melissa wrote: “Here I go again, the same old same old. What can I possibly do about it? I can’t avoid arousing someone I find attractive, sitting so close to me [...]” 

After their first tutoring session, they had phone sex. “We touched ourselves while on the phone. My sex was swollen like as never before, and Lethe was flooding the Secret in waves.” At 10:15 he said, “Good night, Lo.” “Good night, Professor.” (91) Subsequently, they had sex on a rock and then in his green car. “On the way home, he told me we better stop seeing each other as teacher and student [...] [because] he never mixes work with pleasure.” (106) However, they returned to that location after the following conversation that took place outside of Melissa’s school as her schoolmates looked on:

“Rape me tonight.”
“No,’s risky,” he replied.
“Rape me,” I repeated, at once bossy and wicked.
“Where, Mel[issa]?”
“The place where we went the first time.”

A week later, Letizia and a teen lesbian met Melissa at her school. Subsequently, Letizia and Melissa had sex. Interestingly, using a method that isn’t foreign to lesbians, Melissa fantasized about a man to reach maximum pleasure. Melissa wrote that while Letizia was performing oral sex: “[...] I recalled the invisible little man who used to make love to me in my childhood fantasies [...] It was then that my orgasm arrived, so powerful it had me panting.” (137)

A review in Oggi (Italy) relates one of the best takeaways from the book: “Melissa has ripped away the veil of hypocrisy that hides the real life of today’s teenagers, a life far different from the platitudes of TV sitcoms.” Oggi (Italy)

Melissa P. (2005) is based on 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed; but, it has been reported that Panarello did not support the film, because the film is too loosely based on her book. And I would concur, because except for a few scenes (e.g., Melissa masturbating in the mirror and at school), the film veers too widely from the book. However, there is a scene in the movie that’s not in the book that’s worth sharing. (See below)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wilmot's "Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover"

The Poetry Foundation wrote that John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647–1680), "was the cynosure of the libertine wits of Restoration England." And that Wilmot "[...] was ranked as a poet second only to John Dryden, a judgment accorded as much to his genius as to his scandalous lewdness." 

Anthony Madrid shared in his post, "Porn Poetry" on The Paris Review, that the students in his poetry section were "squirming" after an undergraduate read aloud Wilmot's "Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover".

Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover

Ancient person, for whom I
All the flattering youth defy,
Long be it ere thou grow old,
Aching, shaking, crazy, cold;
But still continue as thou art,
Ancient person of my heart.

On thy withered lips and dry,
Which like barren furrows lie,
Brooding kisses I will pour,
Shall thy youthful heat restore
(Such kind showers in autumn fall,
And a second spring recall);
Nor from thee will ever part,
Ancient person of my heart.

Thy nobler part, which but to name
In our sex would be counted shame,
By age’s frozen grasp possessed,
From his ice shall be released,
And, soothed by my reviving hand,
In former warmth and vigor stand.
All a lover’s wish can reach
For thy joy my love shall teach,
And for thy pleasure shall improve
All that art can add to love.
Yet still I love thee without art,
Ancient person of my heart.

A LIT24 student aptly analyzed the poem on eNotes by posting that the: "[...] bawdy verses satirizes the desires of an old impotent man to be reinvigorated and aroused by the warm caresses of an imaginary young lover." 

Wilmot "[...] presents the desires of am old man to be fondled by the young woman as the desires of that young woman herself."

"The young woman is presented as being very submissive and willing to sacrifice all her joys and pleasures of being wooed by a young and virile lover for the sake of stroking her 'ancient' lover and kissing him to revive his dying sexual drive"

"The young woman assures her old and impotent lover that she will use all the sexual techniques ['art'] at her command to give him the maximum sexual satisfaction and thereby prove that she loves him all the more."

Monday, October 8, 2018

Netflix's BIG MOUTH: "A Show About a Bunch of Kids Masturbating"

The Netflix plot summary for Big Mouth is an understatement: "Teenage friends find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty in this edgy comedy from real-life pals Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg."

"Edgy" is a clue, but Nick Birch (Nick Kroll) clarified in episode ten of season one that Big Mouth is, "[...] a show about a bunch of kids masturbating."

To which Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney) asked, "Isn't that basically just child pornography?"

Maurice the Hormone Monster (Nick Kroll) gasped, "Holy shit. I hope not. I mean maybe if it's animated we can get away with it. Right?"

So, what's so "edgy" about Big Mouth? The edginess comes from masturbating middle schoolers, a 9th grade "blow job machine", and the middle schoolers fixation on sex. 

Big Mouth's Wikipedia page states that the Netflix series is: "[...] based on Kroll and Goldberg's tweenage years growing up in Westchester County, New York [...]" 

If you have any doubt that Big Mouth is really based on Kroll and Goldberg's tweenage years, Winnifred, of Sexy Baby (2012), shared in "Porn Before Puberty?", an ABC News feature, that when she was in eighth grade, "[..] boys mostly, were watching porn during school [...] during independent reading, they would do that."

Per Wikipedia, Big Mouth is an American adult animated sitcom, which means that the series is "mainly targeted towards adults and older adolescents" With that said, Troy Patterson wrote in a New Yorker review of the series, "The Extreme Puberty of Nick Kroll’s “Big Mouth”": "Personally, I find “Big Mouth” a great prod to getting serious about the parental controls on my television. The show itself suggests its own rating, indirectly, when the boys score a copy of a video game titled Hooker Killer: Vatican City, and thrill to note that it is labelled CSMBP: “Child Services Must Be Present.”"

Recently, on my way to the downtown D train, I eyed a new advertisement for Big Mouth, which promoted that season two of the edgy series premiered on October 5.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

SHARP OBJECTS' (2018) Amma: An "Incorrigible" Nymphet (A Video Montage)

I ran across articles about Sharp Objects from the New York Times to New York magazine, but I didn't decide to watch the HBO series until I read Godinez's comment in the Times.

Aha. Someone finally got it right. Godinez correctly agrees with novelist Robertson Davies' assessment of Lolita as: “[...] not [about] the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but [about] the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child." 

Most people would incorrectly agree with Rookie's Amy Rose Spiegel, who misleadingly wrote in “Older Men: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Them, and Weren’t at All Afraid to Ask.” that Lolita, a novel that Spiegel “romanticized” as a nymphet, was a: “[...] story about an adult man kidnapping, molesting, and raping an adolescent girl”. 

In episode one of Sharp Objects, the cheerleader motif is introduced via a flashback when, "[...] a bunch of [high school] football players pull a train [on Camille] at the end of a big game." And in the premier, teenage Camille masturbates after stumbling upon pornographic images in a cottage.

By episode three, Amma reminds Camille, her "big sister", that she's "[...] nearly a woman." And in response to Camille's question, "He's a little old for you. Don't you think?" Amma states, "No. I'm almost a woman." Amma's friend Jodes is into older men too. She sings, "Camille and [Detective] Dicky sitting in a tree [...] f.u.c.k.i.n.g." And by episode four Jodes shares "[...] that hot cop. I'd totally fuck him." While we're on episode four and teleiophilia, let's relate that Amma attemptes to seduce her drama teacher. 

In episode five, a re-enactment of Calhoun Day is performed. Camille explained Calhoun Day:

"Zeke Calhoun our founding pedophile. He fought for the South and his child bride, mother [Millie] Calhoun, [...] she was from a Union family. One day the Union soldiers come down here to collect hubby - dead or alive but brave Millie, who was with child, but she refuses [...] she resists but how she resists that people in this town just love. The Union soldiers tied her to a tree - did horrible things to her - violations but Millie never said a word [...]"

In addition to being a teliophile, Amma, who has a penchant for requesting "Don't tell mama.", smokes cigarettes and marijuana, she drinks beer and vodka, she takes MDMA (episode five) and Oxycontin (episode six), she participates in lipstick lesbianism and she's a murderer. What a incorrigible nymphet!

SHARP OBJECTS' (2018) Amma: An "Incorrigible" Nymphet (A Video Montage)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Famous Ephebophile: Pablo Picasso

Marie-Thérèse and Pablo Picasso

In a March 2018 piece in The Guardian, "Muse, lover, lifeblood: how my grandmother woke the genius in Picasso", Olivier Widmaier Picasso wrote about his grandmother, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and her "secret life" with Picasso. 

Olivier shared how his grandparents met:

On Saturday 8 January 1927, in the late afternoon, my [married 45-year-old] grandfather noticed a young woman [17-year-old Thérèse Walterthrough the window of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. He waited until she came out, then greeted her with a big smile. 

“Mademoiselle, you have an interesting face. I would like to paint your portrait.” He added: “I’m sure we shall do great things together. I’m Picasso.”

 "[...] I found him charming.” [Consequently] Marie-Thérèse kept the appointment [...] They started a conversation which was renewed every day [...] Meanwhile, he drew Marie-Thérèse frenziedly.

[17-year-old] Marie-Thérèse coiffée d'un béret, 1927

“[Due to Picasso's marriage to Olga] [m]y life with him was always secret,” Marie-Thérèse said. “Calm and peaceful. We said nothing to anyone. We were happy like that, and we did not ask anything more.” 

This “Marie-Thérèse period” generated drawings and engravings of exceptional force [...] This would give rise to busts, imposing heads of women and a series of portraits that Marie-Thérèse illuminates with her blond hair – it includes The Dream

Pablo Picasso The Dream (Le Rêve) 1932

In the summer of 1933, the family went to Cannes, and then to Barcelona. But the storm was brewing. Pablo got Marie-Thérèse to come in secret and installed her in a nearby hotel. And once back in Paris, he started, for the first time, to investigate the possibility of divorce [...] as divorce was now permitted by the recently established Spanish Republic. “And then one day I found I was pregnant,” Marie-Thérèse would later recount.

(The divorce never happened due to Olga's objection and after the Spanish civil war, Franco re-abolished of divorce.)

[...] in September 1939, Marie-Thérèse and [her daughter] Maya were on holiday in Royan, north of Bordeaux, and stayed there until the spring of 1941. Picasso concealed from Marie-Thérèse the existence of Dora Maar, a photographer and his mistress since the summer of 1936. He arranged for my grandmother and their daughter to return to Paris, to a flat on Île Saint-Louis. My grandparents’ relationship had now lasted 14 years. 

Hannah Furness wrote in The Telegraph piece "Picasso's muses: artist's own collection starring six women he loved on sale for the first time" that Marie-Thérèse hung herself four years after Picasso's death. 

University of Michigan Study: Nymphets Peak at 18, Men at 50

Maya Salam related in her New York Times piece the results of Bruch and Newman's study, "Aspirational pursuit of mates in online dating markets", that was published in the journal Science Advances.

But before Salam shared the results of the study, she related from comedian Hannah Gadsby that 40-year-old Picasso had an affair with 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter. 

Here are some highlights\excerpts from the article:

The researchers determined that while men’s sexual desirability peaks at age 50, women’s starts high at 18 and falls from there.

In other words, not so far from the ages of Walter and Picasso.

“The age gradient for women definitely surprised us — both in terms of the fact that it steadily declined from the time women were 18 to the time they were 65, and also how steep it was,” said Elizabeth Bruch, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan and an author of the study.

The study results echoed data shared by the dating behemoth OkCupid in 2010, in which the service found that men from the ages of 22 to 30 focus almost entirely on women who are younger than them.

“The median 30-year-old man spends as much time messaging teenage girls as he does women his own age,” OkCupid wrote in a blog post at the time.

OkCupid also reported that as a man gets older, he searches for relatively younger and younger women, while his upper acceptable age limit hovers just above his own age.

[Interestingly] [s]peaking of earning potential, Dr. Bruch also found that a man’s desirability increased the more education he attained.

Friday, August 17, 2018

LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN's Tralala: A Brooklyn Teen Prostitute

Per Amazon: [Hubert Selby Jr's] Last Exit to Brooklyn remains undiminished in its awesome power and magnitude as the novel that first showed us the fierce, primal rage seething in America’s cities. Selby brings out the dope addicts, hoodlums, prostitutes, workers, and thieves brawling in the back alleys of Brooklyn. This explosive best-seller has come to be regarded as a classic of modern American writing.

And per The New York Times Book Review: "An extraordinary achievement . . . a vision of hell so stern it cannot be chuckled or raged aside."

The "novel", which was published in 1964, is divided into six stories that are set in Brooklyn. 
"Tralala" is the most relevant story for this blog as it's about Tralala, a nymphet prostitute. 

The story begins: Tralala was 15 the first time she was laid. There was no real passion. Just diversion. She hungout in the Greeks with the other neighborhood kids. Nothing to do. Sit and talk. Listen to the jukebox. Drink coffee. Bum cigarettes. Everything a drag. She said yes. In the park. [...] Getting laid was getting laid. [...] She went to the park often. [...] And she had big tits. She was built like a woman. Not like some kid. [...] She didn't tease the guys. No sense in that. No money either. [...] She always got something out of it. Theyd [sic] take her to the movies. Buy cigarettes. Go to a PIZZERIA for a pie. [...] Tralala always got her share. No tricks. All very simple. The guys had a ball and she got a few buck. If there was no room to go to there was always the Wolffe Building cellar.[...] Lay on your back. Or bend over a garage can. Better than working. And its kicks. 

In addition, Tralala was prone to rob seamen: The hell with it. She hit him over the head with the bottle. She emptied his pockets and left. She took the money out of his wallet and threw the wallet away. She counted it on the subway. 50 bucks. Not bad. 

Subsequently, Tralala met Harry, a seaman from Idaho, at the bar in Willies. Tralala plotted to rob Harry, but she spent four days with him in his hotel room. "Primarily he didn't want her to think he was offering to pay her or think he was insulting her by insinuating that she was just another prostitute." Thus, before he returned to the sea, they went shopping, dined in restaurants, and were entertained at the movies.

In the end, after several johns and being kicked out of a Times Square bar, "She stood on the corner of 42nd & Broadway cursing them and wanting to know why they let those scabby whores in but kick a nice young girl out, ya lousy bunch apricks [sic].", Tralala was dragged out of Willies the Greeks and "[...] 10 or 15 drunks dragged Tralala to a wrecked car in the lot on the corner of 57th street and yanked her clothes off and pushed her inside and a few guys fought to see who would be the first and finally a sort of line was formed [...] and more and more came 40 maybe 50 and they screwed her and went back on line [...] she passed out [...] and the kids who were watching and waiting to take a turn took out their disappointment on Tralala [...] [and] jammed a broomstick up her snatch [...]"
The film Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) is based on the "novel", but Tralala was played by 27-year-old Jennifer Jason Leigh. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

THE PARIS REVIEW, Sade & Nymphet Erotica

Here's a recent tweet from The Paris Review and my reply:

The tweet links to this post:

And here's a relevant excerpt from Nymphalis carmen: Nympholepsy in Nabokov’s Oeuvre:

Appel noted [in The Annotated Lolita] that “Sade’s Justine" is a reference to Justine, or, The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) by the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) and that Justine was: “an extraordinarily resilient young girl who exists solely for the pleasures of an infinite succession of sadistic libertines. She undergoes and array of rapes, beatings, and tortures […]” (442)

And Quilty shared with H.H.: “[…] I am a playwright. I have written tragedies, comedies, fantasies. I have made private movies out of Justine and other eighteenth century sexcapades.” (298)

Justine wasn’t the only nymphet who was abused in Justine, or, The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791). There were others. Here’s an excerpt that will serve as a fitting example: “Hardly have we taken up our post when Rodin enters, leading a fourteen-year-old girl, blond and as pretty as Love; the poor creature is sobbing away, all too unhappily aware of what awaits her […]” (536)

The number of NSFW warnings in the The Paris Review tweet are justified. The illustrations are too salacious - even for this blog. However, here's a modified image of two nymphet lipstick lesbians.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2018): Rescuing a Nymphet Prostitute

Here's the IMDb plot summary for You Were Never Really Here (2018):

A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe's nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

And here's part of Amazon's plot summary for Jonathan Ames' novella (2013):

Joe has witnessed things that cannot be erased. A former FBI agent and Marine [...] earns his living rescuing girls who have been kidnapped into the sex trade. When he's hired to save the daughter of a corrupt New York senator held captive at a Manhattan brothel, he stumbles into a dangerous web of conspiracy, and he pays the price. [...] 

[Spoiler] Since we're of the strong opinion that the film can't be understood without reading the novella, we're going to summarize the shocking book but link to a relevant clip from the Amazon Studios film:

Votto "an up-and-coming lawyer with his own law firm, couldn't finance a campaign [for New York state senator]. He needed money, backing [...] So he went to Long Island, to Bay Shore, to the [mafia] men [...]

[...] the boss, Novelli, a bald, squat man in his sixties with brutal hands, said he would do it. He'd put Votto in office, but [Lisa] his [13-year-old] daughter would have to pay for the campaign.

He made it clear that if Votto resisted, he'd have him killed, make it look like an accident.

So Votto, a coward, gave them his daughter. He told himself that to be a great man in this world you had to be ruthless, even barbaric. 

But a month after Lisa's disappearance, his wife could tell that he was hiding something [...] he confessed to her [...] and Novelli's people had her killed, made it look like an accident.

Then that anonymous text had come, ["Your daughter is in new york in a brothel at 244 east 48th street [...]] and suddenly he couldn't take it anymore.

So, in a state of mania, he [...] contacted [ex-Marine] McCleary. He'd get Lisa back and defy them, defy Novelli. 

We won't spoil the rest of the shocking story. But this isn't the most shocking scene we've come upon from Ames. This scene from Ames' HBO show Bored to Death is shocking as well.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Balthus' THE STREET: A Nymphet Groped Before and After the MoMA

Balthus' The Street: Before (1933) and After (1955) the MoMA

We're reading Weber's Balthus: A Biography in preparation of the second edition of Nymphalis Carmen: Nympholepsy in Nabokov’s Oeuvre

We asked and answered the following question in Nymphalis Carmen:

And who was one of Nabokov's favorite painters? Based on my leading question, you may have been able to guess that it is none other than Balthasar Klossowski de Rola or simply Balthus. Nabokov shared in Strong Opinions

"The aspects of Picasso that I emphatically dislike are the sloppy products of his old age. I also loathe old Matisse. A contemporary artist I do admire very much, though not only because he paints Lolita-like creatures, is Balthus." (167) 

And Balthus shared, translated into English, in the documentary Balthus the Painter (1996), referring to Nabokov: “I think we feel the same thing in the presence of young girls.”

In addition, we've blogged about Balthus in the past. For example, we wrote about how, despite over 8,000 virtual signatures on an (online) petition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art refused to removed Balthus' Thérèse Dreaming (1938). But I didn't realize that The Street (1933), which I've passed several times at the MoMA, had a previous - even more salacious version. 

Here's MoMA's description of The Street:

The Street, Balthus's first large painting, was one of several that scandalized audiences when it was included in the artist's earliest solo exhibition, in Paris in 1934. Balthus rendered each of the figures in his scene of Paris's rue Bourbon-le-Chateau frozen mid-movement; none of them seem to notice the aggressive sexual struggle underway at the painting's far left [...] The Street was of great interest to Surrealist artists for its rendering of a crowded street as an uncanny site of mental isolation and for its exploration of sexual taboos.

Intriguingly, the art history major who wrote that blurb didn't mention that The Street was modified by Balthus in 1955 at the request of James Thrall Soby. 

Here's a summary of Weber's writing on the history of The Street:

Soby, whose taste in art was "bold enough to confront the formidable", purchased The Street in Paris in 1936 and promptly placed it on a wall in his Farmington, Connecticut home. Soby admitted that The Street hadn't sold in three years due to "[...] the depiction of the young man at the edge of ecstasy reaching over the hem of the girl's hiked-up skirt toward the young girl's genitals."

Soby was "delighted in the shock value" of The Street, he had "a lively sense of humor", "a deep pleasure in upsetting the bourgeoisie" and "[h]e was keyed up by - in his own words - the "young girl being seized by the crotch [...]"

However, Soby didn't anticipate that his five-year-old step-son and his playmates would "[...] titter wildly over The Street." Consequently, Soby placed the painting in a fireproof vault. 

However, in 1955, after Reverend James L. McLane, who ironically hung some of Balthus' "most provocative" paintings of nymphets in his church in Los Angeles, "bawled [him] out for three hours for being so cowardly as to hide a great painting away in a darkened vault", Soby exhibited and bequeathed the painting to the MoMA after it had been modified by Balthus. "[...] the Mongolian boy's hand had been moved very slightly to a less committed position on the young girl's body, though his eyes were tense with the same fever."

The Street has been exhibited in the MoMA at least eight times. Here are three examples:

 "Balthus." December 19, 1956–February 3, 1957

 "Selections from the Collections, Photography, Painting and Sculpture, Architecture and Design"
March 8, 1982–February/March 1983

 "The James Thrall Soby Bequest" March 22, 1979–May 9, 1979

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The "Real" Lolita and Humbert: Sally Horner and Frank La Salle

Sally Horner and Frank La Salle

In Lolita, Phyllis’ mother, Mrs. Chatfield, “with a fake smile, all aglow with evil curiosity”, "attacked" Humbert: 

Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank LaSalle [sic], a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948? (289) 

For some reason, in The Annotated Lolita, Appel didn’t annotate the rhetorical question. However, in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, Boyd noted:

Nabokov undertook research of all kinds [in preparation for Lolita.] [...] He noted newspaper reports of accidents, sex crimes, and killings: “a middle-aged morals offender” who abducted fifteen-year-old Sally Horner from New Jersey and kept her for twenty-one months as his “cross-country slave,” until she was found in a southern California motel [...]” (211).

But it was Alexander Dolinin who made the connection between the rhetorical question and Nabokov’s research. Dolinin wrote in “What Happened to Sally Horner?: A Real-Life Source of Nabokov's Lolita”:

The phrase [...] is a deliberately planted riddle that invites the reader to do some research in old newspaper files. However, the necessary information is difficult to find, because major American media didn’t cover the La Salle case [...].

By that time, [Nabokov] “beset with technical difficulties and doubts” (Strong Opinions, 105), he had almost halted work on his new novel and would not have missed an interesting prompt provided by the “given world.” [...] their story reads as a rough outline for the second part of Lolita.

The second part of Lolita abounds with echoes of the story [...] elements of the novel’s nightmarish plot seem both to derive from the real-life precedent and to refer back to it. The sequence and time-span of events are strikingly similar.

Humbert made a previous reference to the Sally\La Salle case:

“Only the other day we read in the newspapers some bunkum about a middle-aged morals offender who pleaded guilty to the violation of the Mann Act and to transporting a nine-year-old girl across state lines for immoral purposes, whatever they are. Dolores darling! You are not nine but almost thirteen, and I would not advise you to consider yourself my cross-country slave […] I am your father, and I am speaking English, and I love you (150).”

Appel made an annotation here but not in reference to the Sally\La Salle case. However, Dolinin noted: 

Changing the age of the girl, Nabokov indicates that in the inner calendar of the novel the allusion to the case of Frank La Salle is an anachronism: Humbert is talking to Lolita in 1947, that is a year before the real abduction when Sally Horner was nine or ten years old. Yet the legal formulae used by the narrator as well as his implying that he, in contrast to La Salle, is really Lolita’s father, leave no doubt that the passage refers to the newspaper reports [...]

Sarah Weinman’s post “The Real Lolita: The story of 11-year-old Sally Horner’s abduction changed the course of 20th-century literature. She just never got to tell it herself” provides the details about how La Salle seduced Sally. Here’s an abridgment: 

On June 13, 1948, 11-year-old Sally Horner was a student at Northeast School in Camden, New Jersey. Urged on by her middle-school classmates, Sally walked into the Woolworth’s on Broadway and Federal to steal a five-cent notebook. 

Once inside, she reached for the first notebook she could find [...]. She stuffed it into her bag and sprinted away, careful to look straight ahead to the exit door. Then, right before the getaway, came a hard tug on her arm.

“I am an FBI agent,” the man said to Sally. “And you are under arrest.” She cried. She cowered. 

He pointed across the way to City Hall, the tallest building in Camden, and said that girls like her would be dealt with there. If it went the way they normally handled thieving youths, he told her, Sally would be bound for the reformatory.

But his manner brightened. It was a lucky break he caught her and not some other FBI agent, the man said. If she agreed to report to him from time to time, he would let her go. Spare her the worst. Show some mercy.

Sally felt her own mood lift, too. He was going to let her go. 

On her way home from school the next day, though, the man sought her out again. Without warning, the rules had changed: Sally had to go with him to Atlantic City—the government insisted. She’d have to convince her mother he was the father of two school friends, inviting her to a seashore vacation. He would take care of the rest with a phone call and a convincing appearance at the Camden bus depot.

His name was Frank La Salle, and he was no FBI agent [...]

Sally and La Salle—he used the alias “Frank Warner” at that time—moved into a rooming house at 203 Pacific Street in Atlantic City. She called her mother on several occasions, always from a pay station, to say she was having a swell time. For six weeks, Ella Horner thought nothing was amiss—she believed her daughter was on summer vacation with friends.

After the first week, Sally said she’d be staying longer to see the Ice Follies. After two weeks, the excuses grew more vague. After three weeks, the phone calls stopped. Ella’s letters could no longer be delivered. Sally’s last missive was the most disturbing: she and “Warner” were leaving for Baltimore. Something woke up inside Ella’s mind: she’d been duped, her daughter snatched away not with violence, but with sweet-talking stealth. Ella received Sally’s final letter on July 31, 1948. She called the police later that day.

Cops in Atlantic City descended upon the Pacific Street lodging house, where they learned the man called Warner had posed as Sally’s father. They’d found enough evidence to arrest him, but it was too late: he and Sally had disappeared. Two suitcases full of clothes remained in their room, as did several unsent postcards from Sally to her mother and friends. There was also a photograph, never before seen by Ella or the police, of a honey-haired Sally, in a cream-colored dress, white socks and black patent shoes, sitting on a swing. Her smile was tentative, her eyes fathoms deep with sadness. She was still just 11 years old.

Sally Horner in Atlantic City in 1948

The man called Warner was really Frank La Salle, and only six months before he abducted Sally, he’d finished up a prison stint for the statutory rape of [...] five girls between the ages of 12 and 14. 

Having cleared out of Atlantic City, knowing the police were in pursuit, La Salle and Sally settled in Baltimore by September 1948. They kept up the father-daughter pose [..] —until April 1949. She attended Saint Ann’s Catholic School at 2200 Greenmount Drive [...]

They left Baltimore and headed southwest to Dallas, the timing of the move appearing to coincide with Camden County indicting La Salle a second time. Back in 1948, prosecutor Mitchell Cohen indicted La Salle for Sally’s abduction, which carried a maximum sentence of three to five years in prison. This second, more serious indictment, for kidnapping, handed down on March 17, 1949, carried a sentence of 30 to 35 years. If La Salle did get word of the new indictment—he told Sally they needed to leave Baltimore because the “FBI asked him to investigate something”—he didn’t want to be in striking distance of Camden, where police could find them.

Using the last name of LaPlante, they lived on Commerce Street, a quiet, well-kept trailer park in a more run-down part of Dallas, from April 1949 until March 1950. Their neighbors regarded Sally as a typical 12-year-old living with her widowed father, albeit one never let out of his sight except to go to school. But she seemed to enjoy taking care of her home. She would bake every once in a while. She had a dog. La Salle provided her with a generous allowance for clothes and sweets. She would go shopping, swimming, and to her neighbors’ trailers for dinner. And while La Salle, as LaPlante, set up shop again as a mechanic, Sally attended Catholic school once more, at Our Lady of Good Counsel. 

A copy of Sally’s report card from her time at Our Lady of Good Counsel between September 1949 and February 1950 indicates she was a good student [...].

[...] the consensus about Sally and her “father” was that they “both seemed happy and entirely devoted to each other.” Nelrose Pfeil, a neighbor, said, “Sally got everything she ever wanted. I always said I didn’t know who was more spoiled, Sally or her dog.” Maude Smilie, living at a nearby trailer on Commerce Street, seemed bewildered at the idea of Sally being a virtual prisoner: “[Sally] spent one day at the beauty parlor with me. I gave her a permanent and she never mentioned a thing. She should have known she could have confided in me.”

Ruth Janish was married to an itinerant farm worker. During a fallow period at the beginning of 1950, the Janishes lived in the West Dallas trailer park at the same time as Sally Horner and Frank La Salle. Soon after she met them, Ruth began to suspect that Frank was not, in fact, Sally’s father. 

Ruth tried to cajole Sally, still recovering from her appendectomy, to tell her the “true story” of her relationship with La Salle in Dallas.

The Janishes left for California in early March 1950, thinking they’d have better luck finding work there, but on arrival, Ruth hatched the beginning of a plan. First, she wrote La Salle, urging him and Sally to follow them to the San Jose trailer park, where they could be neighbors again. The Janishes had even reserved a spot in the park for them.

La Salle was in. He and Sally drove from Dallas to San Jose, the house-trailer attached to his car, and arrived in the park by Saturday, March 18, 1950.

Before leaving Dallas, Sally mustered up the courage to tell a friend at school of her ordeal at La Salle’s hands. The friend told Sally her behavior was “wrong” and that “she ought to stop,” as Sally later explained. As her friend’s admonishment sank in, Sally began refusing La Salle’s further advances. And on the morning of March 21, 1950, Ruth Janish’s determined concern and Sally’s burgeoning need for change collided in a San Jose trailer park.

With Frank La Salle safely away for several hours, Ruth invited Sally over to her trailer. Knowing this was her only chance, Janish gently coaxed more honesty out of the young girl. She wanted to go home. She wanted to talk to her mother and older sister. Janish then showed Sally how to operate the telephone in her trailer so the girl could make long-distance phone calls.

Sally called her mother first, but the line was disconnected;...Next, she tried her sister Susan, who lived with her husband, Al Panaro... “Al, this is Sally,” she said. He tried to contain his excitement. “Where are you at?” “I’m with a lady friend in California. Send the FBI after me, please!” Sally cried. “Tell mother I’m okay, and don’t worry. I want to come home. I’ve been afraid to call before.” Sally’s brother-in-law assured her he would do that if she would stay where she was.

After Sally hung up the phone, she turned to Ruth. “I thought she was going to collapse,” Mrs. Janish said. “She kept saying over and over, ‘What will Frank do when he finds out what I have done?’”

The next day, La Salle was charged with violating the Mann Act for transporting a female along state lines with the intent of corrupting her morals. 

Judge Rocco Palese sentenced him to 30 to 35 years at Trenton State Prison, with the shorter sentence for abduction to be served concurrently. 

La Salle never saw the outside world again. He died of arteriosclerosis in Trenton State Prison on March 22, 1966, 16 years into his sentence. He was just shy of 70 years old.

[15-year-old] Sally and the young man, 20-year-old Edward John Baker[...], set out as planned [from a resort in the shore town of Wildwood] in the early morning hours of August 18, 1952. Just after midnight [...] Baker drove his 1948 Ford sedan into the back of a parked truck on the road, knocking it into another parked truck. Baker emerged from the four-car collision with minor injuries[...] The crash killed Sally instantly.

If you haven’t read (The Annotated) Lolita for some time, Dolinin notes some pointed similarities between Sally\La Salle and Dolly\Humbert:

The second part of Lolita abounds with echoes of the story. Lolita’s captivity lasting nearly two years, the “extensive travels” of Humbert Humbert and his “child-bride” all over the United States, from New England to California, their soujourns in innumerable “motor courts,” a stay in Beardsley where Lolita goes to school, the hero’s constant claims that he is the girl’s father, “not very mechanically-minded [a hint at La Salle’s profession] but prudent papa Humbert” (208)—all these elements of the novel’s nightmarish plot seem both to derive from the real-life precedent and to refer back to it. The sequence and time-span of events are strikingly similar. Sally Horner lived with Frank La Salle for twenty-one months, went to school in Dallas where she confided her secret to a friend, resumed travels with the kidnapper and finally, three weeks later, made a crucial telephone call asking for help, escaping her captor. After twenty-one months with Lolita, when the pair stays in Beardsley, Humbert suddenly realizes that she has grown up and is slipping away from his power. He suspects that she has told everything to her schoolfriend Mona, and might be cherishing “the stealthy thought … that perhaps after all Mona was right, and she, orphan Lo, could expose [Humbert] without getting penalized herself” (204). They have a terrible row, but Lolita manages to escape and make a mysterious phone call, afterwards telling Humbert: “A great decision has been made” (207). They resume their travels and about a month later Lolita manages to escape. When in the final chapter of the novel Humbert states that he would have given himself “at least thirty-five years for rape, and dismissed the rest of the charges,” he mimics Frank La Salle’s sentence.

Several details transposed by Nabokov from newspaper reports seem to underscore an affinity (or, better, a “rhyme”) between Sally Horner and Dolly Haze. Both “nice looking youngsters” are daughters of widowed mothers; both have brown hair; Lolita’s “Florentine hands” and “Florentine breasts” evoke not only Boticcelli but also the first name of Florence Sally Horner. It was in the sad story of the New Jersey girl that Nabokov found a psychological explanation of Lolita’s acquiescence in her role of sex-slave. Copying La Salle, Humbert terrorizes his victim with threats that if he is arrested, she “will be given a choice of varying dwelling places, all more or less the same, the correctional school, the reformatory, the juvenile detention home…” (151).

In the Books section of the August 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, Sarah Weinman wrote about two new books about the Sally\La Salle case. In her piece, “Two new books go in search of the real Lolita”, Weinman mentioned her book with is hyperbolic title, The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World (out in September from Ecco) and T. Greenwood’s novel Rust & Stardust (out in August from St. Martin’s).