2010: 24. Lolita

“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.”

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

     Well.  I’m hardly qualified to talk about Lolita.  Or rather, what can I say about Lolita that hasn’t been said better by those who came before me.  Let me just tell you my take-away, and that will be that.

    It deserves it’s place in the pantheon, and the Modern Library gets it about right in the placing, give or take some my personal preferences.  The writing is like nothing else, and I remain confident that I’m only getting a sliver of what Nabokov is doing.  It’s all of Joyce’s cleverness and allusions, but in English - it manages to be breathtakingly smart and clever, but written so that any one can read and enjoy it.  

   Well.  Enjoy the writing, that is.  The trick of Lolita is how the conman narrator, Humbert, sucks you, with his silver tongue into his terrible story, so that you forget, at times, what he is. Which is, of course, a monster.  It’s, as you no doubt know, a novel of a man who marries a woman he hates so that he can be closer to her prepubescent daughter, and, once that woman dies, makes the daughter his sexual slave.  And he talks of his nymphets and acts as if she gets something from it, but it’s the story a charming man tells of multiple vicious acts of rape.  And Nabokov makes you, the reader complicit, but there can be no doubt that he, and even in the end Humbert know the truth of what happened here. Vanity Fair, in a what is one of the more fatuous things I have ever seen in print, said that this “the only convincing love story of our century” - which to my mind completely misses the point.  But it’s a hell of a book, and should be read.

   I think, however, you should read it - my dad tried to listen to it on tape, and he said it made him too ill.  The literary acumen that make it palatable - nay, enjoyable - on the page might overshadowed by the reality of the facts, particularly as read in Jeremy Irons malevolent twang.


Date/Place Completed:  January 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100; Re-Read

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017