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Old 02-08-2013, 10:29 AM   #1
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Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

This is the MR Literary Club selection for February 2013. If you've already read it or would like to read it, feel free to join in the conversation at any time!

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So, what are you thoughts on it?


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Old 02-08-2013, 01:49 PM   #2
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I have read the book, but that was some years back. I have started rereading it and I hope to be able to answer my own question whether this is (classic?) literature or not.

edit: for me personally, that is.

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Old 02-08-2013, 07:17 PM   #3
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The sheer literary beauty of the opening is amazing!
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:08 PM   #4
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What I find interesting is that the Italian edition of the book is cheaper than the (I assume) English edition of the book. Why that is I have no idea.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:00 AM   #5
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Just borrowed my copy from the local library. Now I just have to read it before it becomes due. Got two books on the go already and another one waiting in the wings.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:47 AM   #6
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The sheer literary beauty of the opening is amazing!
There is that, I agree. But ever since I read this journal of an obsessed man, I have been in two minds about this book.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:08 AM   #7
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There is that, I agree. But ever since I read this journal of an obsessed man, I have been in two minds about this book.
Lolita actually nauseated me in many places. In the early chapters in his ramblings about nymphets I set the book down and considered whether I had been right never to have read it before. I was drawn back by Nabokov's beautiful mastery of the English language.

In Lolita we are seeing the events and people through the eyes and mind of a pedophile, a very sickening place to be. I despised Humbert throughout the entire book. I never felt a shred of empathy or compassion for him. But I felt tremendous compassion for his victim, Dolores.

What is most interesting for me are the many ways people see the book and Dolores. In many reviews I've read she is seen to be at least partly responsible for her situation. Some people see the book as a love story or erotica. As much as I looked forward to a discussion about Lolita, I was disturbed that it might win in the book club's romance category.

Throughout my reading of the book I was particularly offended by a critic's review describing Lolita as a love story. But by the end I began to think that in Humbert's crippled, poisoned brain he had come to feel something for Dolores that resembled actual love, but I'm not so sure that his emotions would have distilled into actually caring about her well-being had he not been separated from her. While she was in his control, in the conflict between his desires and Dolores's best interest, Delores would always lose.
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:52 AM   #8
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I have been hovering above the MR-bookclub for a few years, which has deepened my insight on some of the books I had already read (Forster etc), and I discovered some new ones (The master and Margarita, Bulgakov); I like researching, discovering and reflecting on a book.
A good book, in my mind, must be resistant: for it to be trampled upon, to be shaken about, to be read for-and backwards and, in the end, to stay upright as a book.

A few years back I saw the book-club 'tip-toeing" around Lolita by Nabokov and, intrigued, I started to read it. At first I had the same reaction as Belle Zora has; and I still am at two minds about this book.

Now Lolita has been chosen for this month and I decided to read it again. This introduced me to some of the literary beauty of it. Vladimir Nabokov does have a way with words.

But I don't like anyone in this book and that is part of the difficulty:it begins with Humbert, for obvious reasons. He preys on little girls to satisfy his own sexual cravings. That is difficult for me to accept: being someone's daughter and having a daughter myself. It gives an insight in a mind that I hadn't encountered before and I ask myself if this contributes to my life.
And I wonder which part of his story is true.

Last edited by desertblues; 02-10-2013 at 05:04 PM. Reason: excuses: grammar
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:52 AM   #9
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I have just finished reading "Lolita" and am still mulling it over. I certainly can't say I enjoyed the experience, but I do admire Nabokov's skill. As mentioned already, some of his descriptive passages, for example when writing about their travels across the States, are beautiful.

But there is also the skill of making the reader feel almost complicit in what Humbert is planning and then doing, and that's a very nasty thing to feel. I was reminded of the very clever way in which Alfred Hitchcock could manipulate his audience to want something nasty to happen, as for example when in "Dial M for Murder" Ray Milland was making the phone call which was intended to result in his wife's murder, and he wasn't initially able to get through.

And there is that horrible claim which seems to be made by many pedophiles, that "she seduced me". Humbert seems to think that he truly loved Dolores, and yet he acknowledges that what he destroyed her childhood. There is a passage near the end where he remembers seeing her reflection in a mirror and that she looked helpless. Poor child, she was indeed.

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Old 02-13-2013, 04:20 AM   #10
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I'm not reading the above reviews yet, as I'm still only 10% into the book. Some great writing, but I must admit to feeling a little conflicted, as it is reading a bit like a paedophile's justification for what he does and why. But then that's what great writing does - helps us understand a different point of view, and even if we don't agree with it or sympathise, it does give us insight.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:50 AM   #11
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I'm about 40% in and yes the author is painting a detailed picture of Humbert's particular perversion, but I honestly don't get the reaction people have to this book. Hannibal ate body parts of his victims and no one freaks out when people read The Silence of the Lambs. We happily read extremely violent books, books from a serial killer's perspective, biographies of monsters like Hitler or Stalin, etc. and don't blink an eye, but if the topic is sex everyone gets squeamish. Damn those Puritans.

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Old 02-13-2013, 12:23 PM   #12
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I'm about 40% in and yes the author is painting a detailed picture of Humbert's particular perversion, but I honestly don't get the reaction people have to this book. Hannibal ate body parts of his victims and no one freaks out when people read The Silence of the Lambs. We happily read extremely violent books, books from a serial killer's perspective, biographies of monsters like Hitler or Stalin, etc. and don't blink an eye, but if the topic is sex everyone gets squeamish. Damn those Puritans.
I did have those same thoughts going through my mind as I read it. I enjoy serial killer thrillers, and often you find yourself inside the mind of the killer, and get an understanding of their twisted logic that almost makes what they do seem reasonable in a screwed up world. However, there is still something just beyond the pale about the subject matter of Lolita that makes me feel uncomfortable.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:43 PM   #13
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I reminded myself of the point Synamon made throughout the reading of Lolita. Now I think the difference in my response to The Silence of the Lambs and Lolita is that I've never personally known any cannabalistic serial killers, but have been acquainted with too many pedophiles. Pedophilia has touched many people in sad and damaging ways so that the controversy surrounding Lolita is understandable.

Every topic is fair game to a skilled writer, and no one I've read is more skilled than Nabokov. He is not presenting a justification for pedophilia. He is simply telling a story. I would no more engage in a debate about whether Nabokov was a secret pedophile than I would about whether Jim Thompson, author of The Killer Inside Me, was a secret sociopathic killer. Both skilled writers presented chillingly real protagonists.

I think that Lolita is a great book which is not to say that it is a pleasant book. What is most interesting are the ways that people see the book as expressed in reviews. Many blame Delores even though she fell into Hubert's control when she was twelve and had to survive without any personal power or help, especially in the late 1940's when people were even more likely to blame the victim than now. Others see it as an erotic book, a particularly disturbing view. It is often described as a love story. I just don't understand how anyone can read the book and miss that it is about a predator and his tragic young prey.

Delores has no voice in the book. She cannot tell her story. She is a victim in the book and beyond the book in the reviews of people who take Humbert's self-serving tale at face value. I remind myself that she isn't real...she is only a figment of Nabokov's imagination...and yet she breaks my heart.
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:58 PM   #14
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I'm about 40% in and yes the author is painting a detailed picture of Humbert's particular perversion, but I honestly don't get the reaction people have to this book. Hannibal ate body parts of his victims and no one freaks out when people read The Silence of the Lambs. We happily read extremely violent books, books from a serial killer's perspective, biographies of monsters like Hitler or Stalin, etc. and don't blink an eye, but if the topic is sex everyone gets squeamish. Damn those Puritans.
I think the difference is in the fact that Hannibal's victims were either dead when we hear about them or were going to be. A dead person can't feel pain or suffer mental anguish after they are killed, but a victim of someone like Humbert can suffer even after it's all over. That and we've all had the desire at one point or another to hurt someone else for what they did (or we think they did) to us. It's easy to understand rage but not so easy to understand what makes someone like Humbert tick.
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Old 02-13-2013, 06:09 PM   #15
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I think the difference is in the fact that Hannibal's victims were either dead when we hear about them or were going to be. A dead person can't feel pain or suffer mental anguish after they are killed, but a victim of someone like Humbert can suffer even after it's all over. That and we've all had the desire at one point or another to hurt someone else for what they did (or we think they did) to us. It's easy to understand rage but not so easy to understand what makes someone like Humbert tick.
I'm not sure I buy that, people get squicked out by necrophilia too. However, your last sentence is a great reason to read the book.

The book is fiction, but the fact that it makes us uncomfortable and pushes us out of our comfort zone means Nabokov hit the mark. I certainly wasn't suggesting we should be blasé about the subject matter, just that I find it odd that other very disturbing subjects aren't nearly as taboo.

As I'm still just under halfway through, I can't comment on whatever happens later in the book, this is just what popped into my head after reading as far as I have.
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