Lolita: A book review
A Love Story?
Intense. Poetic. Daring. Demanding. It is perhaps one of the most loved and one of the most hated stories with one of the most loved and hated characters of all time; argued on both sides for as long as the print has been read and passed along (and passed along it has been!). It has been praised for its seduction and banned for its brutal truths. It is uncomfortable to read and leaves a warmth upon your cheeks without so much as using a single crude four-letter word. It is erotic and disgusting and hilarious and heartbreaking. It is funny and charming and wretched.
It is a book of the evil lust and true love all in the same breath.
"Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."
~Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
All images Copyright Gina Blanchard, All rights reserved
Have you read Lolita?
Vladimir Nabokov. Despite the name of the author (and his birth place) the book was originally written and published in the English language. It was rejected more than once before it went to print (because of the heavy content). No matter the shortcomings in the beginning, the third print sold 100,000 copies in the first week.
In 1955 while the Sunday Times writer Graham Greene touted the book to be one of the three best of 1995 while the Sunday Express editor John Gordon quickly fired back to call it the filthiest book he had ever read.
Like wildfire the book was banned in several countries.
Okay, confession time: I refused to read this book not once, not twice, but three times upon request from several friends. We often reviewed together and passed each other great reads but this one I simply couldn't agree on. The subject matter of Hebephilia was unacceptable no matter how many people told me how deep and true and beautiful a story it was.
For at least a year they tried convincing, even sending me the book in the mail against my better judgement. Well, I finally thought that somehow this man managed to turn define very word Lolita as a sexually promiscuous girl as recognized by our very pop culture even today so surely I had to be missing something.
I am a lucky girl to have such intelligent friends!
Confession of a White Widowed Male
"All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add..." Vladimir Nabokov - LolitaOh Vladimir how I wish you could have seen how you passed so much on with your art. How you made the English Language feel edible and taste visually stunning with your now world-renowned wit and expression. What could I say I haven't already said? I want to convince you, reader, to at least give it a glance with the "look inside" option that Amazon offers. On a side note, evidently there is an Annotated Lolita as well (you can find it on Amazon) that the annotator consulted with Nabokov himself on but here I write about the original, washed of opinions other than your own. Just Lolita.
Nymphets and Annabel
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I urge you to receive the tales of H.H. to see if he weaves a different opinion for you of himself and these otherwise unforgivable actions. Understand then, if you will, of the reasons that this man who may be considered a monster did all of the things he did.
Certainly you don't agree with the idea (who would?!) but if given the chance you may sway just a smidgen from your solid standpoint to at least take into consideration there may be something more to the story than black and white. Know what happened to him, to her, even if at the end you still don't agree. At the very least hear him from beginning to end as he fully and wholly testifies every event to you and the rest of your peers.
Mind, reader, I would never ask you to forgive him - just grant audience to the saga. In fact you will find that often Humbert Humbert tells you himself that there are some regrets to the actual events but let him tell it!
A sequence of events (a butterfly flapping its wings, perhaps?) starts the story by hurling you instantly into the throes of a love so pure and unimaginable and innocent - oh! How innocent a love indeed the children (oh, Humbert and Annabel, you'll see!) share! The start of your trip is full of gorgeous, sunshine filled days at the beach with clumsy gropes and salted lip-grazing.
Then I must warn you that things change (they always do don't they?) in the most drastic of ways. . What could be perfection if the gods would allow leads instead to a devastating hardship that serves to haunt poor Humble Humbert for all of his life. A darkness falls over the relationship in a way that cannot be undone by anyone, let alone the then 12-year-old companions.
It is a bittersweet, sorrowfully dark comedy about how once there was a man who worshiped a female with every unrestrained, untainted ounce of himself. Of how he cherished every follicle, each pore; he was convinced a hundred times over that even her flaws were never flaws from beginning to end. How he would do anything for her if only she asked.
A story about a man who would give up his very heart and soul if he were able just to keep her in his arms or at least within the reach.
A story about going mad with the kind of unbridled passions that would make Venus herself jealous.
A story about devotion.
"It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight."
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Is it right or wrong?
Is Lolita a Love Story or Trash?
Even as I write this lens I am in the midst of reading Lolita yet again and find myself just as enraptured as I had been the dozen times before. In some ways the re-reads bring up different emotions each time. The movie I watch from time to time but the book...
In a hundred thousand years no movie could do justice for the account as told by Vladimir Nabokov (April 1899- July 1977). The narrative is a fierce frolic and a terror of a twisted tango that as I have stated hence was (and still is) argued over for the sake of moral standings but no one could possibly say that Nabokov doesn't have talent behind the pen. His self-proclaimed love for the English Language is made abundantly clear here.
The way the story is written is a graceful and well choreographed with such true-to-life descriptions of scenes you might find yourself standing then in Paris, in a courtroom, at a play or beside a glassy lake with the characters. Do not expect to find that ones hair is red or eyes are green alone, but expect to know the shape of a body from the dips and twitches of ankles to the bobs and swallows of throats. You will not read just of a walk but of the willowy movements of arms drifting through the air and the scent it leaves behind.
Though Nabokov wrote many a story (among them one of my favorites: Invitation to a Beheading) it was Lolita that soared him to any sort of stardom. It was daring and he refused to regret the subject no matter how many evil glares he caught for writing it. Lolita was made into movies, musicals, plays, and even an operas!
Despite being born in Saint Petersburg, his first language he could read and write was English (followed by Russian and French). His father was assassinated by a Russian monarchist while shielding a leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party-in-exile in 1922. Nabokov had synesthesia (he associated red to the number 5) and so did his mother, and so did his wife, supposedly leading to their son Dmitri associating numbers with blended colors of his parents hues.
Fire of my Loins
If you ask me the only thing that can make such an artistic, lovely book into a movie at all is Jeremy Irons. My love for this man goes far enough to write a lens about him. Personal obsession aside, Irons is a very convincing and solid Humbert if you want to watch this afterwards - but use it more like an after companion to gain a different kind of visual. Don't watch the movie without reading the book. The book is epic.Although Stanley Kubrik did an earlier adaptation of this movie I prefer and have a copy of this one (two, actually, because my roommate came with one!). Like the book (and everything else in life) some people loved and some hated this adaptation but I felt that Irons played the clumsy, awkward H.H. stunningly.