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By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 18, 2004

The anti-hero of Nabokov's Lolita, after the sudden death of his wife, seizes the opportunity to pull off his stepdaughter's seduction:

My scheme was a marvel of primitive art: I would whizz over to Camp Q, tell Lolita her mother was about to undergo a major operation at an invented hospital, and then keep moving with my sleepy nymphet from inn to inn while her mother got better and better and finally died.

This passage came to mind in trying to deflect the firehose-blast of cheery PR issuing non-stop from sundry ecclesiastical pumping stations. My favorite specimen (next to Bishop Gregory's, "the progress is nothing less than miraculous") has to be Robert Manning, S.J.,'s explanation that the collapse of the Jesuits is a mark of success: at long last, the Society has been "restored to its proper minority status within the church." The Ba'athist flak Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (of happy memory) couldn't hold a candle to these boys.

And here Nabokov's piece is instructive. In reporting on a given situation, when the facts of the matter are obscure and equivocal, the man who ignores the negative and sees only the ones that makes him happy might be excused as morally timid optimist. But once the facts are final and known to be bad, yet a man tells those who have no choice but to trust him that they are good -- that, brothers and sisters, is a man on the make.

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