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Lolita, young and old

I was twelve when I asked my father who Nabokov was. The Police had rhymed “Nabokov” with “cough” in “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” and I wanted to know. My father replied tersely, “Some guy who fell in love with a young girl.” For whatever reason, I concluded that Nabokov was a figure in Greek mythology. The Greek pantheon, I understood, was a den of scandal.

It wasn’t until the 1997 release of the motion picture that I learned that Nabokov was a 20th-century novelist. Lolita was published in 1955. Even more scandalous!

Researching the Spectra movement, a literary hoax of the 1910s that was itself art, I came upon this gem:

Lolita Is Now Old
by Marjorie Allen Seiffert, as Elijah Hay

Lolita now is old,
She sits in the park, watching the young men pass
And huddles her shawl against the cold.

One night last summer when the moon was red,
Lolita, hearing an old song sung
And amorous laughter down the street
Left her bed–
Lolita thought she was young.

With ancient finery on her back,
A lace mantilla hiding her grey head,
She crept into the warm and alien night.

Her trembling knees remembered the languid pace
Of beauty on adventure bent–her fan
Waved challenges with unforgotten grace.
Cunningly she played her part
For to her peering age
Love was a well-remembered art.

Footsteps followed her–footsteps drew near!
She dropped a rose–hush, he is here!
There came hard arms and a panting kiss–

He felt the fraud of those withered lips,
He cursed and spat–“Was it for this,
You came, old woman, to the park?”
Lolita gathered skirts and fled
Through the dim dark.

Lolita huddles her shawl against the cold,
She sits and mumbles by the fire. In truth
Lolita knows she is old

Published in 1919

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


He swears to his love

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania), April 19, 1898 –

What is interesting about this little gag is how faithfully it was reproduced from the original:

The Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), January 22, 1898 –

22 Jan 1898, Sat Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com

NB: Not all newspapers were as faithful with the X’s – some have fewer, some more, but not The Daily Republican.

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


A Sort of Homecoming

U2 was on the verge of greatness when they released The Unforgettable Fire in 1984. After the success of the War album and subsequent concert video (Under a Blood Red Sky, which was an MTV favorite), U2 was just shy of supergroup status. But greatness, as guitarist The Edge explained, could not be copied. The band did not want to release War II. Nor did they.

The Unforgettable Fire was tepidly received. Rolling Stone gave the band’s fourth studio album three of five stars, and Kurt Loder wrote, “U2 flickers and nearly fades, its fire banked by a misconceived production strategy and occasional interludes of soggy, songless self-indulgence. This is not a ‘bad’ album, but neither is it the irrefutable beauty the band’s fans anticipated.”

(Loder eloquently punned lines from “Indian Summer Sky” — “To lose along the way the spark that set the flame/To flicker and to fade on this the longest day” — and the song title, “Bad.”)

As I teenager (I was 14 at the time), I was crushed and perplexed by the reviews. The single release of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” indicated that greatness was about to achieved. I could not comprehend any effort that failed to rise above any previous effort of the band.

So, on the day of its release, I hopped on my bike and rode to Condor Records in Dana Point, California. I was anxious. How could such an album fail? It was unimaginable, worse still, unacceptable.

At home, I unwrapped the album. The boards were not made of glossy material (that struck me as peculiar and different), and only two of the members (Bono and The Edge?) appeared on the cover. The first track, “A Sort of Homecoming,” was merely pleasant; Bono’s voice seemed to quaver. (I noted mentally that I would have to come back to it.) The second, “Pride,” fell appropriately after the first. The third, “Wire,” was underwhelming. It seemed it should have been a great song, but it was not. The same seemed to applied to the rest of the album. Perhaps, I thought, U2 should have released War II (but I felt they were wise not to).

For the next several weeks, “Pride” was the entire album. My adolescent self largely ignored the rest of album, though I thought I would to come back to it at some later point.

Then came the tour.

“Bad” became an anthem. “A Sort of Homecoming,” a testimony. And “The Unforgettable Fire,” a statement. So iconic was “Bad,” in fact, that it become a staple on U2’s set and has been performed well over 500 times. It is difficult to imagine U2 without these songs.

Today, my assessment of the album is very different: I rank it as U2’s finest effort. Its greatness, in my estimation, lies in its falling short of greatness. It’s always approachable, so filled with unrealized potential. It’s never final.

Neither is U2’s music.

Fast forward to St. Patrick’s Day, 2023. A new release: Songs of Surrender, a four disc re-imagining of U2’s oeuvre. And the reviews are mixed. The anthems, the soaring melodies, are (in the minds of some critics) muted. Neither is the band entirely present. While Adam Clayton provides bass lines, Larry plays nothing at all (he suffers from several injuries common to drummers and was unable to contribute; his parts are mainly loops from previous recordings).

Ultimately, this is Bono and The Edge’s project, but it is U2’s music. Never final. Ever evolving.

(U2 themselves have noted the marriage of Bono & The Edge and Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr. U2 are two parts, one whole.)

I do not have the critical distance necessary to objectively critique Songs of Surrender. I’m a lifelong fan and the songs have become my own. (Somewhere recently, I heard Bono make such a statement.) Apart from Pop, I celebrate U2’s entire catalog. I’m unapologetic, unable to say anything critical. But I will say that these re-imaginings are compelling, bordering on greatness.

The Edge provides vocals on “Stories for Boys,” “Two Hearts Beat as One,” and, I believe, “Peace on Earth,” demonstrating the parts of U2 are interchangeable — (Bono and The Edge have similar voices) — and the re-imagined songs are bold and innovative, at once confident and vulnerable.

U2 have surrendered these songs.

They cannot be critiqued, only heard.

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Perhaps it was hoped by some early enthusiasts that typed documents might be charged the same (cheaper) rate as printed material. But this was not to be the case. Further, postal services were even charging the higher rate for printed material using the “type-writer” font. This upset some, but others championed the practice.

Ottawa Daily Citizen, September 18, 1891 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


The “Lady Typist” vs. the “Hired Girl”

The Illustrated Phonographic World (New York), September 1893 –

© 2023 – 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.