Welcome to the first (real) post for my What Are You Reading? series! If you’ve missed out on our Introductory Post please check it out here. Many of the posts within the series will be of books from my Ultimate Reading List that is still growing. Through these posts I’ll bring in my own analysis of the books and leave it open to discussion. Please feel free to bring in your own interpretations and opinions into the discussion in the comments. [Note: Before commenting I recommend reading our Commenting Guidelines page.]
This post’s book is….. *drum roll*
Author: Vladimir Nobakov
Genre: Literary Fiction
Originally Published: 1955
Of course I had to pick a controversial one to start with! Before reading Lolita I had heard that it was a must read for all writers and that Nabokov’s writing was so great that it became an instant classic. All really great things about the work, and I absolutely refused to check out the summary to see if I would even like it. I even told my boyfriend to “Shut it.” when he tried to tell me about it. I wanted the opportunity to be completely open to the book.
Humbert Humbert narrates the story in the form of a memoir from his jail cell. Through his memories we are told of his life, but particularly about his time with his “Lolita.” We get a quick glimpse to his past before he arrives at Lolita’s home, meant to be a tutor for her. Over time he develops a fixation for her, and as a way to get to her marries her mother and proceeds to kill said mother. The fear of losing Lolita, and going to jail, causes Humbert to take the young girl and run with her.
For the rest of the book, Humbert’s fixation continues but Lolita’s begins to fade as she is growing older. After years of running, she leaves Humbert for the man she eventually marries and he goes on the search for her. Once he finds her, she is married, middle aged, and no longer his little Lolita.
My First Thoughts:
At first I thought, “Oh he’s just a pervert, indulging in younger women.” then I continued reading. That first thought turned into “PEDOPHILE!!!” Even worse was that it appeared that Lo was encouraging him! I’ll admit that at first I seriously believed that she was digging herself a hole that she would never be able to get out of, especially when Humbert killed her mom. Then it was nothing but a downward spiral for them after. I did get excited when Humbert was getting paranoid. I guess I wanted him to get caught but was hoping for it a lot sooner.
I now understand why many people say that Lolita is a must read for authors. The storyline and Nabokov’s writing style create a complex work.
His strength is description and makes paragraphs last two to three pages. There also lies a little problem for me. With descriptions so detailed and yet so subtle, I ended up losing my place quite often when he switched scenes. There were many times where I had to go back a couple pages and read the scene over again to understand what was going on. In a way I think that’s what Nabokov was going for. From context you know that this story is a memoir/confession for Humbert and a sort of scattered one at that. The character was trying to go into detail of his experience with Lolita and their “adventures” on the run but was trying to keep himself from saying something we all end up saying.
“Then there was this one time…..”
(Five bonus points if you finished that sentence with “at band camp.”)
He admits that he is incriminating himself further with every word that he pens on the paper but continues on. In doing this you see his character develop through his eyes. Much like if you read your journal from high school, you see the change. Through him you see the change in Lolita as well and you see how it affects him. He becomes more obsessive with her as she tries to pull away. He becomes even more paranoid as she becomes suspicious. Something you don’t see much in today’s works. Character’s change but how often do you see effects of that change? I mean really see the other characters experience the changes and have reactions to it.
On that note, I found it really interesting that in one page Nabokov created a mini character profile of Lolita. It included all of the little things she does, like biting her nails during class. I really like how he used it to give us a glimpse as to how Lolita is when she isn’t around her stepfather/lover/captor.
And the Verdict is:
I’m still not sure if I would read this again. If I did I would probably do it when I’m not in a loud environment and actually have the time to focus on reading the work.
Do I think it’s something all writers should read? Yes. Reading it is a good way to understand the creation of description as well as writing in the past tense while also in first person POV.
Now it’s your turn. If you’ve read the book and want to give your opinion on it let me know in the comments. If you have a differing opinion, start up a discussion or debate. I would love to hear your perspective on this book, or maybe even Nabokov’s work in general. 🙂
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