a despatch from another world

Vladimir Nabokov discusses Lolita with, I think, Lionel Trilling on a fifties TV show. It’s funny: Lolita seems so contemporary but the clip reminds us how much literary culture — indeed, culture as a whole — has changed. Could you imagine a television today devoting so much time to tweedy, pipe-puffing bookmen?

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

Subscribe | Renew | Donate November 9–16 to support progressive literary culture for another year – and for the chance to win magnificent prizes!

Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

More by


  1. Not really the same, though, is it? I mean, books do get on TV today, it's true, but the focus is much more on personalities. You wouldn't get a trio of dry-as-dust old buffers just talking like that.

  2. Posh accents for an American show! – though of course watching American movies from around the same time seems to confirm that a variant of the British posh accent was common for American actors.

    That may in fact be something that, consciously or unconsciously, they and Jennifer Byrne hold in common – the rarefied air, the self-satisfaction in being so obviously cultured, and, oh my, yes, the *elitism*!

  3. tweedy pipe-puffing is still in vogue here in france. they devote a surprising, delightful amount of time to literature on some channels. there's even a late-night show featuring unkown actors quite simply sitting on a couch reading from great classics. wierd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>