Lolita Paperback – January 1, 2010
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We've all seen the movie, right? It IS a great film. But to read this book is far more frightening, disturbing and it's way more decadent and creepy. In a way it's kind of a horror story because the male protagonist, who narrates the book, is WAY CRAZIER than the character portrayed so well by James Mason in the film. He is a monster hiding in plain sight behind a teacher's mask. This book is so ahead of it's time.
Interestingly, there are characters, namely Lolita and her sicko drama teacher, who are developed BETTER in the film than the book. Chalk that up to the director's vision. Well, to make a long story short, you HAVE TO read this modern classic.
In the end Lolita did not seem to be angry with Humbert. There are delicate emotions that she placed deep into her subconscious. It is why I think she admits that she is not truly in love with her new husband and basically sees Humbert as nothing but a person who can provide her with money.. Lolita “admitting “ to Humbert that her true love was Quilty can possibly be a play on her part to rid her world of both Humbert and Quilty.
Be warned. Try to go into this book with an open mind. It’s hard to get through some of the sensual parts of the book. If you do you will have a better understanding about the vitriol we feel towards pedophiles and a better understanding of the unrelenting compassion we need to keep showing the victims of these horrific crimes.
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As it happened though, either this novel wasn’t nearly as profound as academics seem to consider it to be, or I’m dumber than I thought I was, because I saw nothing particularly significant or profound in it. Nabokov’s command of English is precise, well embellished and pleasing to read, (impressively so, given his native Russian tongue), but I don’t feel as though I gained anything from having read Lolita.
Perhaps it just doesn’t suit my incentives for reading, and that’s fine. If you read literature in an attempt to draw ideas from the texts then- as far as I can tell- this isn’t worth your time. On the other hand, if you are more emotionally malleable and enjoy immersing yourself in elaborate descriptions and ‘feeling’ your way through a narrative along with the characters, I think you’d likely get a lot more from it than I did. It ended up being a chore for me.
There is one thing which impressed me more and more, as I read through the story: narrator Humbert’s isolation. This isolation is not obvious at first. But you soon begin to notice the signs. His reluctance to let anyone get too close. His reluctance to reveal too much about himself in conversation. The endless, mindless travelling. All this betokens a very isolated person. Indeed, an isolated couple, for Lolita, while she remains with him, is isolated too. Middle-aged Humbert and adolescent Lolita, throughout most of the novel, have to keep their distance from everybody else. They remain isolated from the mainstream of humanity. Some would add that they are living outside the moral universe too.
A word on the narrative style. Lolita is a worthy successor to Wilde’s "Dorian Gray". There is a decadence in both novels; both are written in gorgeous, hothouse-artificial style.
I discovered an interesting sidelight on Nabokov’s novel. Or rather, upon its name. Nabokov lived in Paris for a time, and spoke fluent French. He may have been familiar with a historical novel by Cecil Saint-Laurent, called "La vie extraordinaire de Lola Montès". The real life Lola Montez was a 19th century courtesan, whose lovers included composer Franz Liszt and the King of Bavaria. Saint-Laurent’s book inspired a Max Ophul movie: "Lola Montez". It was released in 1955, the same year that "Lolita" was published. According to one reviewer, Lola in Max Ophul’s movie ‘is merely a passive blank onto which men project their fantasies.’ Which is exactly what Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert does with his own little Lola. He writes about her at great length, and with great eloquence. The bitter irony (and the sadness) is that this Lola is not a high flying courtesan, but a 12-year-old girl who reads comics.