Monday, February 16, 2009

Lolita. Vladimir Nabokov.

New York: Berkeley Medallion Books. 1955.

10-second review: Ah Ha! A dirty book, eh? I have to admit the situation is dirty, middle-aged Humbert trying to seduce pre-teen Lolita. But the book isn’t. As you read, you will see that Nabokov is having fun with the English language and American culture.

Some Sample Quotes:

“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever, but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.” p, 62, ………. “A combination of naiveté and deception, of charm and vulgarity, of blue sulks and rosy mirth, Lolita, when she chose, could be a most exasperating brat.” p. 135. ………. “…the whole gamut of American roadside restaurants…impaled guest checks, life savers, sunglasses, adman visions of celestial sundaes, one-half of a chocolate cake under glass, and several horribly experienced flies zigzagging over the sticky sugar pour on the ignoble counter…. p. 142. ………. “…the institution might turn out to be one of those where girls are taught…not to spell very well, but to smell very well.” p. 161. ……….. “We had been everywhere; we had really seen nothing.” p. 160. ………. “That is, with due respect to Shakespeare and others, we want our girls to communicate freely with the live world around them rather than plunge into musty old books.” p. 162. ……….

Nabokov: “In pornographic novels, style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust.” p. 285. ………. Nabokov: “Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned…. Two others are: a Negro-white marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.” p. 285. ………. Nabokov on the possible symbolism of Lolita: “…old Europe debauching young America…young America debauching old Europe.” p. 285. .......... Nabokov: “For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere connected with other states of being….” p. 286. .......... “After Olympia Press in Paris published the book, an American critic suggested that Lolita was the record of my love affair with the romantic novel…. …substitution of ‘English language’ for ‘romantic novel’ would make this elegant formula more correct.” p. 288.

It took me a while, but I soon began to notice the way in which Nabokov played with the English language. It’s almost like playing word games. And to all you censors out there, lighten up. RayS.

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