I finished Lolita yesterday.  As much trouble as I had before, I didn’t anticipate being able to wade through it in 10 days.  I have this obsession when I read – I make it like homework.  I say, "Okay, I will finish this in two weeks."  I divide the total number of pages by 14 days and mark the sections accordingly.  If the pages fall between chapters, I go to the next chapter so I’m not cliff-hanging or stopping in some random place that will take me 2-3 pages to figure out where I am and what happened.  I did it every time I picked this book up, but this time, I stuck to it.

          This book is like a train-wreck.  It is as repulsing as it is magnetic.  Because of the subject matter, you want to vomit and throw it as far away from yourself as you can, but you can’t help but continue reading. 

          Part of this is because it is taboo.  But I think it is more due to the way it is written.  If ever there was poetry regarding incest and statutory rape, this is it.  There are never any detailed illicit behaviors, just hinted at, or glossed over.  At least the reader is spared that much.  Even so, the gentleness with which it is described is almost worse.  When Humbert reveals that Lolita’s mother is dead, he later says, "We made it up very gently that night."  As if there were any question as to what he is referencing…  Still, it is not the way you would find the same action described in a smut publication, or even a romance novel.  You can’t help but feel the implied tenderness of the affair that Humbert feels.  I was still disgusted, but still, couldn’t deny the softness of the affair’s nature.

          Humbert justifies his tryst with Lolita by citing historical practices in which adults had sexual affairs with what we currently consider minors.  While reading these justifications, even those with the strongest of feelings regarding such affairs can’t help but nod a bit.  You can’t deny fact – the Romans and other cultures of impact made no secret of child-loving.  While the justification itself is appalling, there is sound "logic."  His personal reasons for attraction aside, one can see that there is a clear mental defect in him.  He also talks about Lolita being different from other prepubescent girls because she is a nymphet.  As a nymphet, she is demonic and wants, craves, asks for the type of attention Humbert lavishes on her.  While she is not a lone nymphet, most girls of her age do not fall into this category and are, therefore, not desirable.  Throughout the novel, he compares Lolita to her friends and tries to find a replacement for Lolita, even at some point, trying to get Lo to bring friends over so that he may court one of them!  After sorting through her friends and finding no nymphs, he entertains impregnating Lo to create her successor!  Clearly, even with the "weight" of his logical arguments for pedophilia, he is a very sick man.  As said in the Foreword, "A desperate honesty that throbs through his confession does not absolve him from sins of diabolical cunning.  He is abnormal.  He is not a gentleman.  But how magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!"         

            The whole of the book disturbed me.  The way it was written was almost worse than if Humbert (who is "writing" the book for the sake of Lolita being immortalized) was out and out smutty.  To give it an air of beauty or…  acceptability because of Humbert’s past and that he wasn’t after just any girl makes it all the more grotesque.  Humbert also asks that the book not be published while he and Dolores Haze-Schiller, his Lolita, are still alive.  How creepy to give your illicit affair immortality posthumously.  *shiver*

             Overall, an enthralling read.  While not something I would ever re-read, as I am prone to do with books I love, it is something that I am glad to have "out of the way." 

          "’Lolita’ should make all of us – parents, social workers, educators, – apply ourselves with still greater vigilance and vision to the task of bringing up a better generation in a  safer world."

Analysis of Lolita

          Today I begin reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.

*Edited to add:  Something peculiar.  When reading this book, I never left it out for others to see.  It was never on my coffee table, or even on top of the covers of my bed.  I am very prone to leaving things wherever I last need them, which is usually in plain sight.  When I put the book down, I always stuffed it into a bag or under a pillow.  As soon as I was through with it, I stuffed it into our library bag, as if hiding some nasty little thing and being very ready to be rid of it.  Odd, no?