This is a literary question that has baffled me for decades: why do literary critics love Nabokov's Lolita? I read it (or most of it) a long time ago (college in the 1970s) and it creeped me out then. To put it crudely, it's the story of a middle-aged pedophile who has a sexual relationship with his 12 or 13-year-old stepdaughter. Yet, Lolita is included on Time's Best 100 English-language novels since 1923, Modern Library's 100 best 20th century novels, and World Library's 100 Best Books of all time. D.G. Myers, a literary critic who contributes regularly to Commentary (and who seems to have a keen sense for good literature), ranks it no. 1.
My question is, given it's subject matter, why? Does it explore universal themes that help us understand the human condition? Does it uplift the reader? Is its prose sublime? Am I completely missing the point of the book because it's an allegory about bigger themes? I honestly don't get it. Help please.
Why not Marilynne Robinson's Gilead or Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop or My Antonia (all books that go to the heart of the challenges of life and which portray truly good characters in a beautiful, ennobling way)?