Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review-Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t know why I wanted to read this book. Perhaps it’s because it’s on the 1001 books to read before you die list. Perhaps because the word Lolita and the idea of a Lolita is part of popular culture. Whatever idea prompted me to read this terrible book, I don’t know. For those who don’t know the basic gist of the plot is that Humbert Humbert is obsessed with young girls (“nymphets”).  He longs to make one his and finally he meets Dolores (also known as Lo, Lolita, Dolly). He maneuvers his way into her life first as a boarder in her mother’s home, then her step-father. Humbert talks about his love for Lolita, his deep love for her but he withholds trinkets & favors for her physical affections. To me that’s not love. He lusts after her, he’ll do anything to hold his precious Lo. And she knows this. Even at 12, she is isn’t blind to Humbert’s obsession with her. In fact, she uses him just as much as he uses her. Humbert is an immature man. He manipulates situations in an almost childish manner to keep his relationship with Lo hidden. His obsession with nymphets is due to his sexual desire never maturing. He’s longing to consummate his relationship with a childhood sweetheart so he uses Lolita to fulfill that fantasy. Lolita, I believe, is looking for a father figure. She didn’t grow up with a father and her relationship with her mother was tumultuous. Lolita was looking for someone to love. And in Humbert, she found freedom. Freedom from school, her mother, the little town she lived in. Freedom to roam the county and an adult to buy her ice cold sodas and take her picture shows. Humbert was convenient. She used him til she found someone else. I felt nothing toward either character. By the end of the novel both of them irritated me beyond belief.
Nabokov’s verbose writing style made it hard for me to understand what was going on. I had to reread sections before fully understand what was going on. At first I thought no more fluffy books for me. You are losing your edge. More Tolstoy, less Sookie Stackhouse! But the story didn’t interest me so the writing didn’t redeem the book.
 I’m glad I read it and able to say I read it and finished it, but I would recommend it to anyone.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

However, this is on Top 100 books to be read in five years. Hmmm...may be I just want to say I also read this book.

Briony said...

Yeah this is coming up in my TBR pile - I want to read it, but I'm not sure that I'm going to come away liking it.

M. said...

Really? I thought it was one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. Yes, the subject matter is horrific, but the prose is amazing and Humbert is an incredibly compelling character -- he wants so desperately for the reader to feel sympathetic toward him (look at the lengths to which he goes in order to explain away his actions), but his pedophilic lusts make sure that never happens.

Eva said...

I second M's comment! I think Nabokov's writing is almost unbelievably beautiful.

I also don't think that Lolita was using Humphrey nearly as much Humphrey tries to make it sound. ;)

Amanda said...

I agree with M and Eva. This is one of my favorite books of all time and Nabokov's way with prose is absolutely gorgeous.