A conversation with a friend a while back:
Me: I try to read more classics, but some classics I would just never read.
Friend: Like what for example?
M: Ooh.. Like Moby Dick..
F: Why? (He read Moby Dick at school and although it’s probably something he wouldn’t have picked up by himself, it wasn’t bad.)
M: ‘Cos it’s about whale.. and boats..
F: It’s actually about obsession. There’s this captain who’s obsessed about killing (catching?) a whale that he deemed to destroy his life.
M: Well, I just read Wuthering Heights.
F: What is it about?
Apparently if I want to summarize Lolita in a sentence (or a word), I’d say it’s also about obsession. What’s with obsession? A lot of great literatures seem to have it as central theme. Take Great Gatsby for another example.
As most people know, Lolita is a novel which tells a grown man’s devouring passion and obsession for a 12 year old girl, who he endearingly calls Lolita. I started to read the book about a year or two ago, stopped third way, then continued again a few weeks ago for 2008 NaNoReMo (Matt seems to be late at updating his progress though).
I admit that I speed-read some passages that I gave up to understand the meaning while they don’t add anything to the storyline (though to the characters, yes). I insisted to persist til the end this time and I so did. A lot of new vocabulary for me. Huge amount. Gigantic. I didn’t bother to look for most of them though. How Nabokov managed to do this with his English as his second or third language is beyond me.
So some passages were just blurry to me, though once in a while some just really hit. I managed to catch some of the dark humor as well. All in all, not at all a bad experience. I’m wondering if I ever will read Nabokov’s work again though. Heavy stuff.
I like the way he describes thing and use words for situations that people don’t normally use. Just for example:
“After they had all gone my Lo said ugh, closed her eyes, and dropped into a chair with all four limbs starfished to express the utmost disgust and exhaustion and swore it was the most revolting bunch of boys she had ever seen.” ~p226
Starfished! Nice :). The imagery is great. I can totally imagine her limbs all soft and limp from exhaustion dropped on a chair.
There are quite a few love statements coming from Humbert Humbert, and they could be oh-so-great if he directs them toward a mature woman. But then you’d remember that he’s thinking of an underage girl and it’d make you cringe. In a way, it also makes readers sympathize with him. What a poor guy, we’d think. Driven mad by a power so forceful he’s unable to control it. Is it really love? Is it mere obsession?
“You see, I loved her. It is love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” ~p307
After reading this, it’s probably hard for me to see random grown men strangers in the same light again. There could be more perverts in this world than we realize.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.
These are taken from sort of an afterword from Nabokov: Vladimir Nabokov On a Book Entitled Lolita at the end of the book I read.
… Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.
My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses- the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions- which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way.