Of course, it’s not completely unusual for a domesticated animal to be named after a literary character or titan. It’s the sort of thing one remembers happening in New York almost as late as 2005, when fresh transplants would name their dogs something like Salinger as an ode to their recent transference to the city and the self-assurance that they were literary enough not only to be there but to “make it” in the field with a trusty pet named after something pretentious serving as their talisman.
But what is uncommon is an entire litter of animals named after characters in Vladimir Nabokov’s more shunned of late Lolita (it’s not very politically correct, as you might be aware). Naturally, the standout for behavioral rebellion in the pack would be a cat named Quilty, born in that ominous year of 2012. His know-how with the intricacy of doors had led him multiple times to jimmy free the lock and unleash some of his fellow felines. With the mutiny going down at the Friends for Life Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas (which simply had to be among the places Lolita and Humbert visited on one of their lengthy road trips), maybe Quilty’s wiliness was allowed to flourish for too long before the decision to put him in solitary confinement was finally made.
That’s right, solitary confinement, as though Quilty the child molester at long last had been metaphorically imprisoned for his crimes the way Humbert surely thought he ought to have been. That is, if his namesake was, indeed, real, and not just a projection of Humbert’s many potential hallucinations throughout the novel. Maybe the proverbial Humbert of the feline group was manipulating Quilty behind-the-scenes to act in his stead to achieve that which he couldn’t admit he really wanted for himself, who knows?
That Quilty is intended as an “evil” double (as though Humbert’s actions aren’t, but still, he needs to make Quilty out to be the worse between the two of them–he and his spectral doppelganger) is perfect for a cat seeking to free the inhibitions of his other latently anarchistic brethren. The ones with their surface ego still holding them back as Quilty dangles all the wonderful promise of unleashing their id before them. Yet like it was for Lolita, Quilty’s caginess and depravity has only been a source of charm, resulting in him at last getting adopted by a family.
As though speaking of the pedophilic nature of two–or possibly one, depending on which reader’s interpretation you take to heart–dastardly knaves, the communications point person at the animal shelter shruggingly noted of Quilty’s antics, “After all, we get the weird ones.” Yet with a name like Quilty, is the cat fully responsible for turning out to be such a miscreant? For when demanding, “What’s in a name?,” the answer Juliet failed to come up with was: a lifetime of behavioral patterns.