Friday, March 9, 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov


by Vladimir Nabokov
published 1955
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.

Classics Club

Jillian at A Room of One's Own posted about this fantastic idea for a Classics Club earlier this week. There was so much interest that she moved on it really quickly, and it's all set up! If you're a regular reader of the classics, check out her post and join us. It's up to you to set your own goal, and it's a fun way to interact with other readers of classics.

Start Date: March 9, 2012
Goal for completion: March 9, 2015
Prize for completion: Book buying spree (limit to be set closer to completion)
Books I intend to read (or re-read)*:
  1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  3. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë 
  4. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  5. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  9. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  10. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  11. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  12. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  13. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  14. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  15. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  16. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  17. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald 
  18. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Howards End by E. M. Forster
  20. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
  21. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  22. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  23. The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  24. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  25. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  26. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy 
  27. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  28. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
  29. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  30. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  31. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  32. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham
  33. The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham
  34. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  35. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  36. 1984 by George Orwell
  37. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton 
  38. Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
  39. Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger
  40. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  42. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  43. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  44. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  45. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
  46. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  47. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  48. Night by Elie Wiesel
  49. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  50. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The list may change at my discretion.