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Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita

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I'm halfway through the book, and i truly adore the heroine. She is such a sassy creature. I will try nabokov's other works after finishing lolita. Although my tutor doesn't recommend me reading lolita, for i'm a teenager.

 

Snowla, welcome to Nabokovia! :) 

I don't think I've heard the adjective "sassy" applied to Lolita before, but it is quite appropriate.  She is just that, really. 

 

I would recommend any of Nabokov's works actually, but for a next one...perhaps Pnin would be a good choice.  It's one of my favorites and parts reflect Nabokov's own past.  For a partial biography of Nabokov, I'd say you must read his Speak, Memory.

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So, pontalba, Lolita...  OK, but sounds like it may make Tess seem like a park picnic...  I'll let you know...  That was quite an opening gush, btw.  And I'm glad I've seen neither movie yet.

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I haven't read Tess....looks like I should.

 

And thanks! :D

 

Oh, you def have to see both films.  I wish I could mix them up into one, as I'd like it!

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the challenge is on, and Northanger Abbey is short, so I should be into Lolita in a week or two...  responded at J.E. page first...

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the challenge is on, and Northanger Abbey is short, so I should be into Lolita in a week or two...  responded at J.E. page first...

 

:D  Happy news!  Saw and responded over yonder.

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So, into Chapter 12.  She's 12; Juliet was 13, etc.  And L likes an actor that looks like him.  Another place and time?--sure, sure.  That's not my problem.  And with those persistently interfering 'Old World manners', I'm not expecting "Heart of Darkness" anymore, despite the already numerous use of terms like "demonic" or "satanic"--sure, sure.  Again, this is not my problem.  And I mean the best thing I can say so far is that I will reserve further judgment to give it a chance--even though he says we should already fully know him somewhere less than 50 pages in.  But I will say that so far L is the park picnic compared to Tess and Wuthering Heights in all respects (if you speak some French), and certainly is as 'existential' (read meaningless) as the nameless stranger's life in Camus' novel  Or maybe it's more like the battle against going 'down the existential drain' like in The Metamorphosis (Kafka) where transforming into a gross bug at least makes you feel alive--before it ruins your life entirely... (yawn).  May not make anymore progress till after T-day...   But you might already know me by now too...  I always have hope.

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I didn't mean to cry.  I cry so easily, but all the way through I was sure this story could not do it.  It is a basic test of mine.  Comedy or tragedy, if doesn't make me cry... and it was a painful cry.  But overall I had more 'problems' with HH than not.  And I will surely have second and addition thoughts beyond this post, but let's, as decorum dictates, start with the bad news...  Two things stood out for me in the forward that it would be better I had not known to start--that maybe I should be starting with James Joyce (hereafter referred to as James--that I haven't read), and that more vigilance was needed to guard against behavior like HH's in society.  (In his defense, if L were Juliet and HH were Count Paris--who testified that 'maids younger than her were already married with children'...)  So not long into the story I knew that there must be other debauchery involved than just HH's.  And the story in some ways reminds me of R&J, but HH reminds me of the existential 'stranger' too (though he mocks the philosophy!), and such a man capable of such depth has only a superficial obsession with L,   All his rapture, until after he had lost her for good, involved her looks and immature behavior--while he often complained of her immaturity,  MAKE UP YOU MIND.  I mean he never really understood--though he finally admitted--that his 'relationship' with her made depth and substance impossible--at least for her.  For a guy a lot smarter than me, he operated apparently oblivious to such stark contradictions in his own perspective.  I found him to be an intellectual snob, with the ironic exception of L.  I understood maybe half the French--which in most cases did not contribute to anything (at least to me), and often when it did, it was too far over my head to be understood without annotation.  And yes I noticed the "annotated" version when I was buying it online and guessed it might be occasionally useful.  I didn't think to use the notes until about 2/3 in--and then because of a reference in French I though might be to James, and confirmed it was, and by then I was tired of how often his allusions were going somewhat to completely over my head. The notes are half as long as the book, btw.  Another example of his duplicity is that he intermittently gives deference then savages certain types of people, like Elizabethan women writers, for example.  He is verifiably schizophrenic sometimes in this way.  He constantly pleads for mercy, and as often speaks and behaves as not worthy of it.  And I read to be entertained, but too often I felt I was reading for HH's amusement.  Someone with such a mind and so well-read could not--believably--destroy his life with any brand of superficial aesthetics.  If it wasn't true story I would not have bought it, pun unintended.  HH is an oxymoron--the Mona Lisa rendered in bottle caps and pixie straws.  His often esoteric, unfathomable brushstrokes to canvas such shallow, hollow perspective entirely failed for me. Oh, and I didn't 'guess who' in Ch.29, Part 2.  It was humiliating.  Such a deep, rich well--and I have all the notes to understand it all!--but no interest to.  I have tasted enough.

On the good side I appreciated the story as a slice of American history.  HH a monster?  His rival?  L?  By comparison, not anymore.  Ironically, Monster is making it's way though American high school's now, making L maybe midway between it and R&J.

And though I'm now sure I should have started with James, there was an enchanting quality in Mr. N's descriptions, often with lists, evoking memories, that to me was like a cornucopia of the sense of smell, converting, magically, to a stream of interconnected visualizations.  But they were just too brief--even though they were easy to get lost in--but enhanced by my own memories that would more than fill in the gaps.  Provocative that way--IF THERE WAS ONLY ANY SUBSTANCE TO IT.  But I'm trusting James will satisfy further cravings along these lines.  It also reminded me of William's Lord of the Flies--the description I mean.  But LOTF, though entirely base, primal and prepubescent, was somehow deeper.  But I do now more resolutely intend to get to James.  And Mr. N did pull off that 'Catcher in the Rye' ending--as Salinger absolutely did not--I only shook my head; there was nothing near crying, for that "stranger' clone.  Mr. N had a aspect of 'real' nobility--a life sacrificed, but for little more that nothing.

In the process of settling on my disappointment with Mr. N, and new hope for James, I ordered 8 or 10 books, (I didn't make a list), including one of Charlotte's that I had overlooked, a couple of Edith's, 4 or 5 of Thomas' (love his description too), one of Leo's--Oh! and a couple of Anne's.  Drag me back, kicking a screaming, if you will, but I press on, probably starting with those two of Thomas' I've already started.  But Thomas' descriptions--and stark outlook, for example, might lure me back to a connection to Lolita at some point.

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mrjhale, Hi,

Sorry that you appear not to have enjoyed Lolita. Many people haven't, for some of the reasons already outlined above.

However, your disagreements seems to be different from all others I have seen, so your posts seemed worthy of rereading. Unfortunately, or fortunately for you, you seem to have read far differently and wider than I have, so I have great difficulty following your allusions and fragmentary reactions, even if the disparaging tone of your posts comes through quite clearly. But please tell me one thing, since you raise the issue:

 

Did you cry?

 

You never mentioned in just so many words.

Edited by Paul

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It sounded to me like he did cry right at the end... I could be wrong

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Wow.  Just wow.  mrjhale, it sounds as though you read a different book from the Lolita I read.

 

 

VF...I couldn't tell one way or the other.......

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Doh I am going to have to put this on my TBR now....

 

Definitely!  It's actually the book that opened my eyes to.......how can I put it?........lyrical prose, non-genre (type) novels. 

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To recent posts: You follow Mr. N, but can't decipher whether I cried or not?  Do you decipher any more from Mr. N?  Truly I am no longer interested in deciphering any more.  But, to quote, "...it was a painful cry."  And I am glad I read the book for unusual reasons for me.  I mean, though not really offended, I am sure I was not entertained by it at all.  Off to other niches, peace.

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When I tell people this is one of my favourite books, I often receive weird looks. I think it's a bit of a brave topic to write about, particularly from the point of view from Humbert. I actually began to feel a bit sorry for him near the end - not that I forgive him for his actions.

 

What kept me going though was the writing. The first paragraph is pretty famous, and I think the rest of the novel maintains that level of writing.

I've become rather fond of Nabokov since reading Lolita, and I recently bought another book of his - Ada or Ardor. I've read a couple of his short stories, and he writes just as well as he did in Lolita. I'm glad that Lolita wasn't just a one off, and I hope Ada or Ardor is consistent with his beautiful way of writing.

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When I tell people this is one of my favourite books, I often receive weird looks. I think it's a bit of a brave topic to write about, particularly from the point of view from Humbert. I actually began to feel a bit sorry for him near the end - not that I forgive him for his actions.

 

What kept me going though was the writing. The first paragraph is pretty famous, and I think the rest of the novel maintains that level of writing.

I've become rather fond of Nabokov since reading Lolita, and I recently bought another book of his - Ada or Ardor. I've read a couple of his short stories, and he writes just as well as he did in Lolita. I'm glad that Lolita wasn't just a one off, and I hope Ada or Ardor is consistent with his beautiful way of writing.

 

Oh, you are so right!  His prose is the most gorgeous I have encountered. :)  Lolita was the first of Nabokov's I read, and it's truly magnificent.  The idea that VN is able to make HH even a little sympathetic is an amazing feat. 

 

And yes,  you are quite right.....one can feel a bit of sorrow for him, without forgiving the deed(s).  Although, I think Lolita forgave him, in the end, herself. 

 

I'd certainly recommend Pnin, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight as well.  I've read about half of VN's books, and loved all.  Let me also recommend Stacy Schiff's bio of VN's wife, Vera.  It is an insight into their lives, beautifully done.  And, of course Speak, Memory by VN.  Both fantastic.

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Oh, you are so right! His prose is the most gorgeous I have encountered. :)Lolita was the first of Nabokov's I read, and it's truly magnificent. The idea that VN is able to make HH even a little sympathetic is an amazing feat.

 

And yes, you are quite right.....one can feel a bit of sorrow for him, without forgiving the deed(s). Although, I think Lolita forgave him, in the end, herself.

 

I'd certainly recommend Pnin, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight as well. I've read about half of VN's books, and loved all. Let me also recommend Stacy Schiff's bio of VN's wife, Vera. It is an insight into their lives, beautifully done. And, of course Speak, Memory by VN. Both fantastic.

Regarding the bit in bold, I wonder how much of the blame can be put on Lolita. I've read a couple of reviews where the reviewer puts some of the blame on Lolita, as they thought she knew what was going on and seduced Humbert.

I can't say I agree with that view at all though, and even find it a bit bizarre. Regardless of how much Lolita may have known about what was going on inside Humbert's mind, she was still a child at the time. I feel that most of the blame lies on Humbert as the adult in the situation (although not all of it).

 

Thank you for those recommendations, I shall look them up on Goodreads. It sounds like you are a big Nabaokov fan - which book of his would you say is his best?

Have you read any of his short stories? I've read Signs and Symbols, which got me hooked enough to make me buy a collection of his short stories.

Edited by Angury

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Regarding the bit in bold, I wonder how much of the blame can be put on Lolita. I've read a couple of reviews where the reviewer puts some of the blame on Lolita, as they thought she knew what was going on and seduced Humbert.

I can't say I agree with that view at all though, and even find it a bit bizarre. Regardless of how much Lolita may have known about what was going on inside Humbert's mind, she was still a child at the time. I feel that most of the blame lies on Humbert as the adult in the situation (although not all of it).

 

Thank you for those recommendations, I shall look them up on Goodreads. It sounds like you are a big Nabaokov fan - which book of his would you say is his best?

Have you read any of his short stories? I've read Signs and Symbols, which got me hooked enough to make me buy a collection of his short stories.

 

I've always felt that Lolita kind of knew what she was doing.........as far as a kid of that age can know.  She did have some small sexual experience the summer before with some boy at the camp, so she was no virgin.  She was horny, and curious.  That being said, even if she deliberately set out to seduce HH, she didn't fully understand the ramifications of what she was doing.  PLUS, she had no inkling of what HH really was, or what he was capable of doing.  She thought of him as she thought of the movie star picture she had pinned to the wall of her bedroom.  Something to dream about, wondering. 

 

She was only playing at seduction, I think.  As we know, HH was quite serious and deadly.

Any responsible male would have gently brushed her off. 

 

Also, there is the "father figure" bit to think about.  Lo's father was dead, she was searching in all manner of ways. 

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I've always felt that Lolita kind of knew what she was doing.........as far as a kid of that age can know.  She did have some small sexual experience the summer before with some boy at the camp, so she was no virgin.  She was horny, and curious.  That being said, even if she deliberately set out to seduce HH, she didn't fully understand the ramifications of what she was doing.  PLUS, she had no inkling of what HH really was, or what he was capable of doing.  She thought of him as she thought of the movie star picture she had pinned to the wall of her bedroom.  Something to dream about, wondering. 

 

She was only playing at seduction, I think.  As we know, HH was quite serious and deadly.

Any responsible male would have gently brushed her off. 

 

Also, there is the "father figure" bit to think about.  Lo's father was dead, she was searching in all manner of ways.

 

Those are some very interesting points you've made, I've never really thought about the story from Lolita's point of view. I just thought of her as an innocent girl.. but I guess that's because of the biased narration. I have to keep reminding myself that Lolita didn't always know what was going on in Humbert's head, and Humbert himself must have been a good actor to hide his feelings.

I agree with your last point - I think the absence of a male figure in Lolita's life previously had quite a role to play in their relationship.

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Regarding Lolita's culpability, one has to read very carefully.  There is an early-on paragraph where one can definitely read of Lolita stoking Humbert's fire, to use a phrase.  She was still slightly naïve, even though knowledgeable and no longer a virgin at that point, and may have thought she was just playfully flirting.  However, the reaction she did get is probably more than most readers would have expected to read about, if they noticed Nabokov's phrasing of the event at all.

Edited by Paul

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Funny, I'd almost forgotten about that particular scene.  And, yes,  the wording was very delicately done.  With, I'm sure, an eye to the censors. 

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I read this book a few years ago, but I wasn't enjoying it and stopped somewhere in the middle. I thought the book was void of substance, and so I looked for other people's opinions. In a forum, i was answered that the purpose of the book is to feel empathy towards a paedophile, but I don't think it justifies a book's appeal.

Edited by woolf woolf

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I read this book a few years ago, but I wasn't enjoying it and stopped somewhere in the middle. I thought the book was void of substance, and so I looked for other people's opinions. In a forum, i was answered that the purpose of the book is to feel empathy towards a paedophile, but I don't think it justifies a book's appeal.

 

I believe the appeal is in the contradictions Nabokov presents.  He shows that HH is extremely conflicted and while he abuses Lolita, he feels protective of her....even from himself.  And after all, that is the reason he murdered Quilty, finally. 

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What other novels by Nabokov would you all recommend? I admit I gave up on Lolita. I found it very mannered and had little sympathy with the characters. Always a big turn off for me. 

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What other novels by Nabokov would you all recommend? I admit I gave up on Lolita. I found it very mannered and had little sympathy with the characters. Always a big turn off for me. 

 

Pnin is an excellent Nabokovian entry.  :)  In fact, the story of Timofey Pnin, in many ways, closely resembles Nabokov's own story. 

If you enjoy mysteries, you might try The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

 

I'm curious, can you be a little more specific as to what you mean by "very mannered". 

Of course the characters are not very sympathetic, you are correct there, but for me at least, that makes it more interesting.  

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