Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

I have wanted to read this book ever since I first heard about it, which happened to be in 1992 when Joey Buttafuoco's Amy Fisher was dubbed the "Long Island Lolita." And it goes downhill from there.

I am disgusted by Humbert Humbert. Am I supposed to sympathize with him? Because I never could see him as anything more than a creepy perv. I guess maybe I managed to pity him a time or two during "Part Two," but his excuses and rationalizations did not work for me.

At least this book doesn't exist solely on the basis of Humbert's disgusting perversion. In fact, it's not especially explicit. There is actually a story arc which includes some suspense and tension, accompanied by an increasingly obvious paranoia on the part of the narrator. It was sometimes difficult for me to distinguish between reality and his delusions.

The Author's Note at the end of the book was enlightening. Nabokov dreads the thought of readers of Lolita trying to determine "what was the author's purpose?" It sounds as if Nabokov is the type of artist who writes because he has a book inside him and he wants to get it out so it will leave him alone. He makes it clear that he is not "a writer of didactic fiction, and . . . 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 . . ." It was also interesting to see that Nabokov "detests symbols and allegories (which is due partly to my old feud with Freudian voodooism...)," especially because I thought I detected a theme of moths throughout the book, but I now suppose that was just a spurious pattern.

Lolita is Nabokov's only novel I recall hearing of before. Althought it is beautifully written, I don't feel compelled to read any of his other books at this point. I do hope that I manage to come across someone who has read his other titles so they can tell me if I should look into them.

At least I have now satisfied 18 years worth of curiosity.

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