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Lolita Paperback – March 13, 1989
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Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.
Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion:
She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion, "those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake
"The only convincing love story of our century." —Vanity Fair
"Lolita blazes with a perversity of a most original kind. For Mr. Nabokov has distilled from his shocking material hundred-proof intellectual farce…Lolita seems an assertion of the power of the comic spirit to wrest delight and truth from the most outlandish materials. It is one of the funniest serious novels I have ever read; and the vision of its abominable hero, who never deludes or excuses himself, brings into grotesque relief the cant, the vulgarity, and the hypocritical conventions that pervade the human comedy." —Atlantic Monthly
"Intensely lyrical and wildly funny." —Time
"The conjunction of a sense of humor with a sense of horror [results in] satire of a very special kind, in which vice or folly is regarded not so much with scorn as with profound dismay and a measure of tragic sympathy…The reciprocal flow of irony gives to both the characters and their surroundings the peculiar intensity of significance that attends the highest art." —The New Yorker
"Lolita is an authentic work of art which compels our immediate response and serious reflection–a revealing and indispensable comedy of horrors." —San Francisco Chronicle
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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.
This work, in my opinion, stands in stark contrast to the jarring and filthy prose encountered by readers of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. And while there is certainly room for both approaches, Nabokov's writing shines even brighter when following that of Miller. Most important to my reading pleasure, however, is the presence of an actual story and plot in Lolita which was missing in Miller's stream of consciousness screed.
Any reader of even casual literary interest is well familiar with the plot of Lolita, a name which has entered the 20th century lexicon as a buzzword for budding, pre-pubescent willowy females of entrancing sexual allure. Some may have seen the old movie (starring James Mason and Shelley Winters), that while entertaining, fails to capture the viewer as does Nabokov's peerless prose. That Nabokov can so skillfully address such an emotionally and politically charged issue in such a seemingly effortless manner speaks to his skills. That he does so in, essentially, his third language is stunning.
Broken into two parts, the first details his introduction to and pursuit of young Dolores Haze (Lolita). The second half of the novel documents the adventures of the two as Humbert struggles to control the headstong young girl. Of the two, I prefer the former, though the latter is by no means a disappointment.
An added bonus is the afterward by Nabokov, in which he describes the provenance of the novel as well as his reaction to some of the literary criticisms and analysis directed toward the work.