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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
From Library Journal
This unabridged edition of Nabokov's classic story about a middle-aged, expatriate European man's obsessive love for a 12-year-old girl?which is being released to coincide with director Adrian Lyne's new film version?is a beautifully produced recording that pushes the boundaries of the audio medium. While Lolita continues to raise the hackles of would-be censors even today, most listeners will marvel at the restraint and playful humor with which Nabokov limns his tale. Narrator Jeremy Irons, who plays Humbert Humbert in Lyne's film, is an uncompromising audiobook reader whose performances on cassette are as laudatory as his Academy AwardR-winning work on the silver screen. This landmark release is highly recommended for all library collections.?Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Before I read Lolita I knew that it was about paedophilia but what I didn’t know was that it was incredibly well written. It’s hard to believe English was Nabokov’s second language. He is an ingenious and creative wordsmith who reignited my love for the English language. His witty and sarcastic wordplay will have you laugh out loud regularly and leave you feeling all types of conflicted seeing as there is nothing humorous about paedophilia. In spite of or maybe because of its forbidden subject matter I couldn’t help but want to finish Lolita - I just had to know how our intriguing protagonists ended up. The second half of the book is not as well-paced or interesting as the first and drags the whole book down.
It’s hard to comment on a book that is remarkably well written but also deals with a taboo subject in a decidedly detached manner. I would suggest that those readers who could be ‘triggered’ or those readers who do not care for a book written in photographic detail from a paedophile’s perspective give this book a miss.
But I think we can doubt if he ever saw a traditional screenplay in his life, although he'd been an extra in some German films of the 1920s. THIS certainly doesn't look like a screenplay. It has passages squeezed into one or two flowery paragraphs that would have taken up two days of screen time.
But no matter how hard he tried, he seems to have been unable to suppress his gift for humor, irony, and originality. He has John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. introducing the story on the screen, referring to "This here manuscript." He's written himself into the screenplay as "that nut with the net over there." (His character makes gentle fun of the author.) And he leaves directions that play tricks with the camera and the editing, as if the entire enterprise were to be his own personal puppet show.
It's not a screenplay, not a book, and it never became a movie. It's an original work though, a revision of the classic novel. Not without evidence of some lapses in attention. Lolita is caused to use some British locutions -- "I shall do this," or "I'd quite forgotten" -- that sound funny in a smart but vulgar American kid.
I have some problems with Nabokov's personality. Some artists are egotists but VN was a true champion at the game. He and Vera were never excited while preparing to go out and receive another famous award of some kind because they figured it was no more than what he deserved. Some mistakes in the first publication of "Lolita" by his porno publisher in Paris were surely the author's but he attributed them to the ignorance of the protagonist instead -- "peritoneum" for "perineum." Nabokov had Appel change the incorrect peritoneum for the correct perineum, saying that the public might think he, Nabokov, had made the mistake instead of Humbert. Hah. He also praised Kubrick's film when it first appeared -- the more successful, the better, right? Then, long after its release, when it had raked in as many shekels as it was going to, he bombed it because, clearly, no movie could ever even approach the quality of his book. (It was true, but it was ungracious for VN to do what he did.)
None of that really matters though. He was a genius and I enjoyed the hell out of this queer work of art. It's touching and it's funny. I'm glad it was made public.
Most recent customer reviews
As might be expected of a classic of such erudition, this novel of the passion a middle-aged man has for a child of 12 alongside his illicit sexual relationship with...Read more