May 13, 2010

Literary Pick (*****)

-Vladimir Nabokov

Years ago when I first read this novel I was too immature to really appreciate it's aesthetic value. In fact, it was the main reason I disliked the novel to begin with. I thought it was excessively euphuistic back when I was only accustomed to reading the featured crap that comes into view when you first enter a bookstore. I couldn't comprehend how people could enjoy a novel which initially seemed to me rather unstimulating. As I later began reading more highly regarded classics, and slowly started realizing what was within the pages of "Lolita", I decided to go back and re-read it, and what a wonderful re-discovery that was!
Perhaps it's not politically correct to admit I enjoyed the boldness of Humbert Humbert, the pervert, the pedophile! but I did.
I usually despise arrogance, and I absolutely loath child molesters, as most people do, but as crazy as it sounds, Nabokov does an excellent job of making these qualities becoming to Humbert. I don't know what my justification for tolerating Humbert's audacity is, but to me, with this particular character it is admissible.
When you read this story, deep down inside a part of you condones Humbert's behavior. True, Humbert is a sick man. There's no question. But Nabokov, in a very particular way of presenting this piece of literary art, executed his conduct as sadistic, yet ever so graceful.
When I'm reading the words in this book, I feel like I'm licking an ice cream that doesn't melt, and I'm licking it for the pure enjoyment and act of licking itself. It's lustful, but not in the way you think, not in an explicit way. Nabokov's prose is like an aphrodisiac that mollifies the consciousness. One can feel voluptuous sensations on the mouth and lips when reading these sensually strung words.
Yes, Humbert is despicable... but the prose is spellbinding! A very little part of me thinks of Humbert when I read this book. Not to say I don't think of Humbert at all. I find his devotion to Lolita persuasive and succumbing.
I think many readers pick up Lolita expecting (not necessarily wanting) to read vivid descriptions of salaciousness and debauchery, but it's not like that at all. Humbert's predatory advances are almost covert. Only in the readers' mind do the words become corrupt.
I often swerved into judgment on the general subject, but the instant I realized this I jolted myself back into the art of the prose so i could be able to enjoy it thoroughly. That's not to say I didn't have opinions about the subject of Lolita.
I struggled a lot to understand how I felt about Dolores. There was definitely a certain admiration on my part. I felt like I inter-connected with her feelings of detachment and the inconsequential impact it had on her life. Not only was she not a virgin by the time Humbert mishandled her, she had also already had had lesbian experiences by then as well. I'm not making excuses for him, of course I am not. I realize he was a child predator, with or without Lolita, but I choose to view them as two isolated characters in the world of literature. Had Lolita been a pure, uncontaminated, wholesome, untouched, and an inexperienced young girl, I might have yelled bloody murder. But she was not.
So in essence there was a lot of realism involved in the writing of this story, though people can't fathom it, and choose to narrowly judge and dismiss all possibilities that this is realistic. It's very realistic.
But mostly, my condoning this behavior stems from my own experiences back when I was a nymphette myself. So instead of making excuses for Humbert, I should just come out and say that I see a lot of my old self in Lolita.
It's hard for me to read Lolita and dismiss it as vile and morally offensive when I feel as if I'm reading what could be a story of my own past childish "love" stories...but I digress.
Albeit, there are fragments of displeasure that remind the reader who we're dealing with here. For example, when Humbert goes to the schools everyday to observe children being let out of school from his car, and in bringing Lola with him we're reminded he's a kidnapper, and in making Lola do favors for him in the car, forces Lola to be an accomplice as well. Here is one of the examples of how the author dehumanizes Lolita. She never once objects to Humbert's other interests of perversion that might have involved others like her. Nabokov did not equip Lola with any feelings other than selfish coquetry in this book whatsoever. In comparison to the fresh rosy-cheeked children that Humbert hasn't had the pleasure of bastardizing yet, Lola, in those brief moments appears to us careworn and de-colorized and most sadly, dispensable.
Humbert goes on to share with his readers his fantasy of possibly having his own biological "nymphettes" with Lola. How disgusting, and so disappointing. I have to choose to believe he only loved Lola, otherwise it would probably ruin the whole novel for me.
In the end Humbert pays for what he did to Lola, in spades!
When Quilty enters the picture and follows Lo and Humbert as they travel from hotel to motel, readers witness the two demons vying over the same soul. I loved it.
Quilty possessed a remarkably creepy-factor. They couldn't have picked a better actor to portray that part in the film adaptation. Frank Langella is so freaking disturbing!!

"You see I loved her. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight."
— Vladimir Nabokov


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