It has taken me over a week to gather my thoughts about Lolita. But then I realized it was in front of me the whole time.
Despite our tiffs, despite her nastiness, despite all the fuss and faces she made, and the vulgarity, and the danger, and the horrible hopelessness of it all, I still dwelled deep in my elected paradise—a paradise whose skies were the color of hell-flames —but still a paradise.
Or, as Jesse said in the comments about choosing my challenge books: “I feel good having read it, but felt dirty while reading it, if that makes sense.”
Yes, it does, Jesse, yes it does.
I’m definitely happy to have read this, but it was a very difficult read. Not in the sense of being hard to understand (although if you don’t know French or have a strong literary background, I would highly recommend the annotated version), but rather in the nature of the story. With a 14-year-old niece, it was hard to divorce myself from the repellent subject matter and truly appreciate the beauty of the language. While there may be a point to making the reader complicit in the narrator’s lust for Lolita, which Nabokov does skillfully, for me it detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. In that respect, it was an interesting follow-up to Hunger, which I read for the Food and Drink book salon. Both depict a singular, selfish perspective on craving, with narrators who are increasingly paranoid and desperate and therefore difficult to empathize with.
I would be interested in Nabokov’s other works (if they are a bit easier in that respect) because his language is beautiful and rich, with incredibly descriptive detail, literary allusions, and poetic nuance; however, I don’t think I would recommend this particular book to someone whose literary tastes I don’t know very well. Like Folsom Street Fair, I’m glad I’ve done it once, but mostly because it means I never have to again.
And I’m really glad I had something like The Night Circus to read as a follow-up.
In other book news, I’m happy to say that the dark days of multi-reading seem to be behind me. Looking over my Goodreads history, I seem to have this tendency to get very ambitious at the end of each year, start a whole bunch of books, and not finish anything. It didn’t help that I started my 2012 challenge with the two books I knew would be most difficult for me. However, I feel like I’ve turned a corner and can finally make some forward progress on my to-be-read pile. Our next book salon is on Paris and there’s lots I want to read, but I’m bound and determined to limit myself to one book at a time. Besides Middlemarch of course. And audiobooks. Okay, three books at a time.
I realize that with my random reading habits, I haven’t made it very easy to follow along with this challenge, but if you would like to join me for any of the remaining books (next up, A Prayer for Owen Meany) or discuss any of these selections in our Goodreads group, you can find out more here.