I finished the audiobook of Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, right around the same time as Bossypants (they’re really just two sides of the same coin, no? Okay, I just really needed Tina Fey to help balance out the creepiness of Humbert Humbert’s sick pursuit of his long-lost child love) but then we had the hurricane everyone lost power for at least a few days and we lost it at my office until late Thursday night, and since I do most of my writing while on my lunch break there…I never got around to actually reviewing it.
Anyway, in a nutshell, it’s the story of a handsome writer and his obsession with 12-year-old Dolores Hays, whom he steals away and renames Lolita as they travel cross-country.
Going in, I had been under the impression that it was more like a story about an otherwise respectable man, with no prior inclinations towards pedophilia, who innocently falls in love with young girl who is mature-looking and wise beyond her years, and how he deals with his contradictory emotions. I have no idea where this impression came from, because it’s extraordinarily inaccurate. The only other piece of information I had been given before I began reading/listening to it, was from someone who said that “if you can just forget the fact that she’s twelve, it’s really a beautiful story.” I agree that in a morbid, perverse way, it is actually a beautiful story, but how on earth anyone can get past the fact that she’s twelve is beyond me, because it’s really one of the main things that Humbert loves about her, and he’s always very upfront about it.
The audiobook is narrated by Jeremy Irons, which made it much more palatable in most respects but also all the more sensually sinister. I was surprised by how captivated yet repulsed I was by all the chapters leading up to the ultimate consummation of Humbert and Lo’s “relationship,” and then how quickly the plot line plunged into tragedy. I had expected to be disgusted all throughout. Instead, my disgust came to a violent, rolling boil and was then set on the back burner to slowly simmer as I turned my attention to the overwhelming magnitude of sadness that follows the pair all over the country and well into their future lives and even after death. There is no redemption, but there are trace amounts of genuine goodness, and this helps…a little.
If I were in college again, I would absolutely love to write a paper on the impact of names, renaming, and the loss vs. the discovery of one’s identity. I am one of the few people in the world who misses absolutely nothing else about college except writing extensive papers on gender theory and the like. I’m not promising that I won’t write it someday, either, just for the hell of it, but I definitely don’t have time right now, what with graduate classes starting back up. So boring. Nothing but management theory and grant-hunting – all practical skills, but I miss over-analyzing passage after passage for engendered language and extended metaphors and the significance of light vs. shadows. I digress.
Anyway, read Lolita. I hope you don’t enjoy it, but I hope you like it for what it is and you can appreciate the beautiful prose and strife-ridden lessons. So all of you dear readers and friends who ever thought that abducting a pre-teen and robbing her of her identity and life would really be that great an idea in the first place…DON’T DO IT.