Jul 11, 2012

Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

My computer was down for a few days so I have a backlog of book posts to catch up on, but I'll start with the most recent one, a book I gave up on: Lolita. I'd been wondering for a long time if I even wanted to try reading Lolita, because I knew well what it was about: a pedophile professing his twisted ardor for a preteen girl he forces to basically be his sex slave. The only thing that made me curious about this book was that all those bloggers (see a few below) profess that despite the distasteful subject matter, the story was so well-written and such a fascinating character study of this disgusting man Humbert that it made good reading.

For the most part, they were right. The writing is very rich. In spite of what you know is really going on between this older man in a fatherly role and the twelve-year-old he is abusing, the revolting bits are never stating explicitly, and in fact you might even miss them because they are so casually mentioned between pages and pages of rambling lists and descriptions. It's really rather frustrating to read, actually. I'd rather have known more about what was happening, or more about Lolita herself; the bare glimpses you get of her through Humbert's endless dronings on about how lovely she is or describing all the hotels they stopped at or all the cars they saw or all the landmarks they visited etc etc are so obscure you never really know what she's thinking or feeling about all this. One moment it seems she is actually flirting with the creep, the next she's sobbing and protesting. Overall she comes across as a spoiled brat (he's constantly buying her gifts to keep her compliant), mouthing off, talking back, acting like a regular teenager. He's constantly paranoid that she's going to run away, or ogling her friends, or worrying about how to keep his obsession a secret. The first part, about how he weaseled his way into her family and became her stepfather, was interesting but then it gradually just got so dull I couldn't stand it anymore. Not that I wanted more details of a particular sort, I just wanted more story. Of course I suppose this is just to give the reader a picture of what it's like inside a depraved mind, but it was boring. I really did try to finish, because I wanted to know what happened to Lolita. I quit actually reading the book around page 180, then did some skimming, enough to find out

SPOILER ALERT highlight if you want to read the next paragraph

that she ends up in the hospital and then later on is married and has her own kid, escaped from Humbert's clutches and still it appears, communicating with him begging for money, and so on while keeping her distance. Unfortunately I didn't care anymore, not even enough to try and read the pages in between to learn how she got to that final place, much less interested in the agonies Humbert was going through being apart from her or the mess his life was afterwards.

Bah. O well. I didn't finish it, and I don't care. If somebody ever writes a book about Lolita from the girl's point of view, I might be interested in that, but just barely.

This is the first Nabokov book I've attempted to read, and I'm afraid it might also be the last. In the back of the edition I borrowed was a list of all his other titles with brief descriptions, and not a single one caught my interest.

Borrowed from the library.

Abandoned ......... 317 pages, 1955

more opinions:
Joyous Reads
Shelf Love
The Lost Entwife
Rachel.nu

3 comments:

Stefanie said...

I'm hoping to give this one a go this year even though I know there are a good many like yourself who had to give up on it. I still feel compelled to give it a try though and if I don't like it and give up on it I can at least say I tried.

bermudaonion said...

I'm surprised there is a renewed interest in this book since that kind of thing seems to be so popular now.

Jeane said...

Stefanie: I'm wondering how many of those other readers who gave up on it were simply bored like me, and how many turned away because of the distasteful subject matter?

Bermudaonion: I was surprised myself at how modern this book felt. For some reason I supposed Nabokov was a writer from a much older time, I don't know why! Maybe the new interest in these kind of stories has sparked curiosity about this book for some.