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The Annotated Lolita (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – March 1, 2010
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In 1954 Vladimir Nabokov asked one American publisher to consider "a firebomb that I have just finished putting together." The explosive device: Lolita, his morality play about a middle-aged European's obsession with a 12-year-old American girl. Two years later, the New York Times called it "great art." Other reviewers staked a higher moral ground (the editor of the London Sunday Express declaring it "the filthiest book I've ever read"). Since then, the sinuous novel has never ceased to astound. Even Nabokov was astonished by its place in the popular imagination. One biographer writes that "he was quite shocked when a little girl of eight or nine came to his door for candy on Halloween, dressed up by her parents as Lolita." And when it came time to casting the film, Nabokov declared, "Let them find a dwarfess!"
The character Lolita's power now exists almost separately from the endlessly inventive novel. If only it were read as often as it is alluded to. Alfred Appel Jr., editor of the annotated edition, has appended some 900 notes, an exhaustive, good-humored introduction, and a recent preface in which he admits that the "reader familiar with Lolita can approach the apparatus as a separate unit, but the perspicacious student who keeps turning back and forth from text to Notes risks vertigo." No matter. The notes range from translations to the anatomical to the complex textual. Appel is also happy to point out the Great Punster's supposedly unintended word play: he defends the phrase "Beaver Eaters" as "a portmanteau of 'Beefeaters' (the yeoman of the British royal guard) and their beaver hats." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"...the reader of Lolita attempts to arrive at some sense of its overall 'meaning,' while at the same time having to struggle...with the difficulties posed by the recondite materials and rich, elaborate verbal textures. The main purpose of this edition is to solve such local problems and to show how they contribute to the total design of the novel."--From the Preface by Alfred Appel, Jr.
"Fascinatingly detailed."--Edmund Morris, The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
There's around 200 pages worth of footnotes and they have a link to the footnotes at the front of each chapter - but no link on the things that are being foot-noted and no indication at all that they were discussed.
There's no easy way to switch back and forth between the footnotes and the main text. To look something up you basically have to page backwards to the first page of the chapter, click on the link, then page forward through the notes to the item you're interested in, then admittedly there IS a link provided there to send you back to the main text.
So to make the links work without constant paging back and forth, it's almost like you have to read the full notes for the chapter BEFORE reading the chapter. It's really distracting and pulling me out of the narrative. I thought it was going to be individual footnotes so I could look things up as I came across them - not one giant note for the whole chapter. (Little individual footnotes was how the intro is formatted.)
You can jump from one footnote to another, from the footnote to multiple spots in the text, etc. But you can't jump directly from the text to the footnote!
I think this is one book that would work a lot better with paper rather than this really poorly formatted ebook edition.
On the surface, you might imagine it uncomfortable to read a story in which our narrator and protagonist is a middle aged man with an obsessive fetish for "nymphets," who forms a sexual relationship with a 12 year old girl, traveling around the country while cunningly passing himself off as her father. But readers might find it reassuring(or disappointing) to know that there's actually very little obscenity in this novel, that sex is never actually described in detail, that the closest it comes to erotica would be when Lo reclines and naively rests her legs on the narrator's lap for the first time, that this book is actually a highbrow comedy. Humbert Humbert(or H.H.), as he calls himself, is a handsome, wealthy, and intelligent man, who, seemingly bored and callous to the world, constantly injects his uniquely blithe and sardonic humor into the text. Every character he meets is mocked with a jolly contempt. Every scenario in this book is turned into a parody. Consciously aware of his own creepiness and mental fragility, "lucidly insane," H.H. even parodies himself.
Here you will find a writing style that will make you feel more sophisticated just for having understood it. There are literary allusions to please the English buffs, along with an expansive vocabulary including, but not limited to, some rare and exotic words which do not even appear in the standard Kindle dictionary. But most of the humor, I think, is really in the tone and the way characters are portrayed, and even if you don't quite understand every remark H.H. makes, none of this is really necessary to appreciate the story.
In Part Two, the focus starts to shift a bit to some of the more subtle features of their relationship: the places they visited, Dolly growing up, Dolly bringing friends over, Dolly playing tennis, etc. I found it impressive to see how the characters changed and developed throughout this part, and Humbert Humbert's reflections on their relationship were even somewhat profound sometimes. Some people who aren't interested in the aesthetics here might find this area to be a little slow, but I promise you'll be rewarded soon after. The second to last chapter is hilarious.
As for the annotations, they were ok. They provide some extra background information, they translate the French for you, but they were nothing special. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of in-text hyperlinks, but I honestly don't think these would have been beneficial. The numerical chapter headings already have hyperlinks, my kindle app lets me jump back and forth with just a couple finger taps, and in-text hyperlinks would have been distracting. However, A.A. does seem to give away some spoilers in his annotations, so for those who would prefer a full immersion experience and who would like to try to predict some mysteries on their own, I might suggest actually ignoring the annotations the first time they read Lolita, or at least the ones that don't translate French.
The introduction seemed to start off well until Appel started talking about literary involution. There is a lot of involution in Lolita, realism is deliberately thrown out the window sometimes, but I saw this as contributing to the comical effect and nothing more. Appel seems to interpret some kind of subjectivist philosophical meaning in it which I thought just went too far. His anecdote about the Puppet Show, and how his 5 and 3 year old children began laughing to steel themselves against the terror of questioning the reality of reality(whatever that means) was so stupid, I immediately skipped the rest of the Introduction and continued onto the Foreword. Nabokov's commentary on Lolita at the end, however, was pleasant.