Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; New Ed edition (December 17, 1992)
  • ISBN-10: 185715133X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857151336
  • List Price: $21.58
  • I finished this book on Feb. 6
  • Number 4 on the list.
Okay, so I think that everyone has an idea about this book. It's one of those books that you hear about, and maybe wonder about. I admit I was very curious, having seen the newer film version, to get my hands on it.
For those who don't know, Lolita is often banned, challenged and considered obscene, as are many of the books on the list (see which ones, here). It is the confession of a man in prison. Humbert Humbert stole away his 12 year old stepdaughter and systematically raped her for years. Hum unapologetically explains his thought processes and habits. Though the sex scenes are never very graphic, the explanations of his habits are still disturbing.
Somehow, though the subject matter is upsetting and in fact there really is no uplifting message nor is there redemption at any point, I found Humbert's telling of the story easily accessible. I found him poetic, and while I didn't sympathize with him, I'm not even going to lie that there were times when I was rooting for him. Though the whole of Humbert's tale is about child rape, there were really only two sections I found overly disturbing, and they were both brief and not at all graphic. I have a feeling I was not as freaked as I thought I would be because you kinda go into it knowing what it's about and that's what you're getting into. You are prepared. Plus, like I said, Humbert is an eloquent story-teller.
Movie side note: In the film version Jeremy Irons plays Hum. Though I find him wonderful in the role, the Humbert of the book is very handsome. While I find Irons oddly attractive, he is not, perhaps, as beautiful as the novel's Humbert proclaims himself to be. Okay, sorry, back to the book.
The book uses a lot of repetition, as well as copious allusions to other works. Humbert also goes to great pains to describe Lolita to us. Her beauty her actions, his feelings. At times, it's actually sort of romantic, until you remember that he's talking about a little girl. One thing that kept bugging me throughout, is that our main character speaks French, a lot. With no translation. I could understand some of this from high school French, but not much. It wouldn't have killed me to know what he was really saying in this parts, I'm just saying. There were some sections where the action of the story dragged, but Humbert's narration usually brought me through them without boredom. In researching this book after reading it, I liked coming across all the different covers. A google image search shows several different, as well as pictures from the movie, if you interested, dearies. The cover I have is simply the title and a flower with some wilted petals. Lame-o. I prefer the lips, or the pigeon-toed legs covers, personally.
So, the moral of this story is: I liked this book the most so far out of the ones I've read from the list.

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