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Lolita (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) (Vintage International) School & Library Binding – International Edition, April 1, 1997
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The narrator, Humbert Humbert, is a fascinating construction. As readers, we find ourselves simultaneously repelled by his actions and sympathetic to his yearning. We are utterly charmed by his wit, intelligence and verbal acrobatics, sometimes to the point where we lost sight of what he's doing to his object of desire, Lolita.
I would suggest that all readers reaquaint themselves with the concept of the "unreliable narrator" before they sink into Humbert's hypnotic web of logic. When you find yourself sympathizing with Hum about Lolita's "cruelties", try to remember that you are seeing everything through his twisted and self-serving lens. Humbert has rationalized his behavior so deeply and reports it to us so entertainingly, that we find ourselves accepting his interpretations of people and events at face value. However, we must remember that Hum is capable of the most monsterous of deceptions (note how long it takes him to inform Lolita of her mother's demise), and of self deceptions. Read between the lines. Question his reading of events. Pay attention when his reporting is at odds with his interpretations of them. As one example, Humbert tells us that he was seduced by Lolita, giving us the impression that she was sexually mature and a willing partner. Contrast that with his throwaway mentioning of her "performing" for him in exchange for treats, and watching television as he took his pleasure in her. And don't ignore Lolita sobbing each night, as he seems to do.
Nabokov has created a connundrum for us as readers. He uses the most glorious tricks and delights of the English language to tell his tale of self-deception and rationalization masquerading as "love". Look beyond the circus to the grime beneath it, and appreciate the mastery that gives us both.
The story is infamous. Humbert Humbert is of European origin and in his early teenage years developed a passionate attachment to a girl of his own age, an attachment that was never entirely satisfied and over which he has obsessed for many years. Now residing in a small New England town, he becomes equally obsessed with a twelve year old girl named Lolita Haze who recreates for him the magic he felt in that first relationship. In order to be near her, Humbert rents a room from and ultimately marries Lolita's mother Charlotte--but Charlotte uncovers Humbert's motives and in a twist of fate is killed in the street as she runs from the house to expose him. The circumstance places Lolita entirely in Humbert's power. They travel extensively, partly in order that he might continue his molestation undetected, partly in order that he might prevent Lolita from forming other relationships that might offer a means of escape. But Lolita is not a simple victim, and in spite of her years already has a certain sexual expertese. Over time she begins to push the extent of her power over Humbert, trading on her sexual favors to manipulate Humbert much as he initially expected to manipulate her. Determined to escape Humbert, she does so by the shocking manouver of giving herself to another molestor. It is an act that effectively destroys all concerned.
The story was incredibly shocking for 1955 and indeed remains incredibly shocking today. But more shocking than the story is the fact that author Vladimir Nabokov tells it entirely from Humbert's point of view. Humbert is eloquent, clever, witty. One gradually comes to sympathize with him, his desperation, and the extremes to which it drives him. It is here that the novel suddenly suddenly uncoils like a snake and bites the reader with a deadly toxin. Humbert is not a detached observer; he sees what he wishes to see and tells what he wants to tell, and through him Nabokov has lured you into a genuine feeling of sympathy for the devil. You have become complicit in his crime. Quite suddenly the fact that Lolita is only a child is again thrust back upon you and you realize in full that you have smiled upon her rapist. It is among one of the most astonishing and profoundly disturbing literary effects imaginable.
For all its word play and literary stylings, the element about LOLITA which most impresses me is its deep and bitter irony shot through with unexpected and extremely disconcerting humor. The very title of the novel is ironic, for LOLITA is not actually about Lolita; it is about Humbert. He does not really see Lolita as she exists. He sees her as he imagines her to be. He does not love Lolita. He loves the fantasy he projects upon her. He realizes this with an increasing frequency and knows full well that Lolita is not an extraordinary creature of endless delight. She is just a little girl who was not quite as innocent as Humbert thought she was, considerably more intelligent than he expected her to be, and who with a child's logic ultimately becomes equally manipulative of him in self-defense. But just as Humbert deludes the reader for much of the novel, so too does he delude himself, repeatedly setting aside the fundamental and abhorrent facts of the relationship and paving his road to hell with endless self-justification in order to live out the obession.
Many readers have been thoroughly outraged by LOLITA, and the criticism tends to fall into two categories: those who consider the book pornographic and those who consider it a defense of child molestation. No doubt there have been pediophiles who read the book and considered it both; no doubt there have been moralists unable to see the actual drift of the novel due to their horror at the elements from which it is formed. But we cannot judge something by the extreme interpretations of warped minds on either side of the moral fence. LOLITA is not sexually graphic, still less sexually stimulating, and it is hardly an endorsement of sexual abuse. The novel's strange and potent mixture of romanticism and bitterness is too intense to allow for such superficial and commonplace notions, and it seems to consistently defeat whatever expectation a reader brings to it. Difficult, and at times distasteful, unexpectedly funny in a remarkably disconcerting way, love it, hate it, both or something in between--there is no denying that LOLITA has remarkable power. It is a dark masterpiece capable of making you question your own suppositions and hypocrisies in an often frightening way.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The scan is so poorly that I couldn't continue reading. Waste of my money.