by Vladimir Nabokov
completed February 2012
Lolita and I have had an interesting relationship. Not being an English major in college, I only heard of it a few years ago when I started seriously looking for book recommendations. It was on many classics lists, but when I read the synopsis, my first reaction was "absolutely won't ever read that." Why would I ever want to read a book about a pedophile? Who would ever want to read a book glorifying a pedophile? Creeps, that's who.
After joining the book blogging community, I started to notice that many bloggers that I respected had read and enjoyed Lolita. I'm assuming they're not creeps so I figured that there must be something more to it. And there is. Much more. I'm glad that I convinced myself that it was okay to read it because my initial impression was completely wrong.
First, the writing is mind-blowing. I read a blog post recently where someone was criticizing Nabakov for being narcissistic in his writing of Lolita, to the point that it distracted from the story. I can understand why they felt that way because at times it was frustrating. I wanted the story to move forward, but I was trapped in this lyrical writing. I can't blame Nabokov for that; I can only blame my personal impatience as a reader. By the book's completion, I appreciated the style of writing and found that fit perfectly. It's written by the ultimate narcissist, not the actual author, but the narrator of his own strange story--Humbert Humbert. It was comical how highly he spoke of his good looks and cleverness.
I can't say that I really enjoyed being in Humbert's head, but it was incredible how Nabokov pulled of a first-person account of pedophile. Despite the subject matter, it's surprisingly not explicit. Much is implied (for which I was grateful). As expected, Humbert is the epimote of an unreliable narrator. The first half of the book, I felt awful because I felt myself sympathizing with him (not that I ever thought what he was doing was okay). As the story moves on, the facade is slowly cracking and you begin see that things aren't as rosy as he was previously painting. By the end the facade is blown wide open, and I'm sure as you'd suspect from this story line, things don't end well for anyone. The reality of it sits heavily.
This is one that I'd love to read again in a few years. I'm not ready to jump back in to the level of sordidness in Humberts mind for a while. It's an uncomfortable read (intentionally so, I think), but I'm hoping that the next time around I can enjoy the language more as I won't be distracted wondering what will happen next.