Monday, December 10, 2007

BOOK: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

read for Something About Me Challenge and my own 50_books top twenty challenge

While I recognize that this is an important book and very popular, it didn't do it enough for me. It took me two weeks, at least and I never had a point where I couldn't put it down. That is for me what makes a book terrific: I can't stop reading it, I have to know more, read more. And this wasn't it.

Maybe it's too important for me. I had the annotated edition, and that doubled the size of the book. I would recommend this edition, but I went in stages, of checking the notes, and then ignoring the plethora of information at the back. No doubt, Nabokov is a genius, and the book is layer upon layer of alllusions and riddles, with interesting debates about ethics and morals and insanity that could last forever.

We've all heard the phrase Lolita to describe a wanton female, but this book is all about Humbert Humbert, the narrator and Lolita's lover/abuser. Our knowledge of pedophelia has changed over time, and this book would certainly be received differently now. I think what scared me about HH is that he appears to function in society, talking to people, and yet is quite crazy in his head, and can rationalize his obsession with nymphets, or 12 year old girls. And without the notes, I don't know if I would have understood the basic plot. Parts were interesting, but as the second half builds to the climax, I missed a lot without my periodic update.

It wasn't graphic per se, no big love scenes described, but obviously it was still disturbing. Part of the problem is that HH tells you that his memory of events is not perfect, so the story is hard to decipher, wondering what really happened. We only know about Lolita from what HH tells us.

As with most classics I've read this year, I am glad I read it, but I certainly didn't love it. At least now I feel ready to read Reading Lolita in Tehran.


  1. I am trying to work up the courage to try this one. I own a copy at least. That's a start. :-) The subject matter is very off putting to me, I'm afraid, but I probably will give it a try at one point.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. Like you said at the end, I fee lthat I need to read this before the Reading Lolita in Tehran. I plan to read in for the Russian Reading Challenge in the New Year.

  3. Reading Lolita in Tehran is on my To Read list.


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