I picked this book up having seen it on several top 100 lists, hearing/reading rave reviews, and a general interest in what it is about a book about a...moreI picked this book up having seen it on several top 100 lists, hearing/reading rave reviews, and a general interest in what it is about a book about a pedophile that would warrant such acclaim. I started to notice it referenced frequently in film and television (Beautiful Girls and Californication for example) as I was working my way through my reading list to it. I decided it was high time I move it up the queue as I found the curiosity overwhelming. What I found made me laugh myself to a point where I nearly could not breath.
I may not be correct or, I may be spot on in my analysis, but what I took from this novel is that Nabokov was making a farce of American publishers and readers. He was poking you with a finger with a big wide grin on his face and laughing the whole time like an annoying little pest. And I loved every second of it. Having read this long after initial publication and not knowing Nabokov's personal story, certainly lends to the opinion that I am way off base, but bare with me.
Having begun my voyage into becoming a writer myself, I have stopped reading stories and begun reading the author's voice. A fine line sure, but a dramatic difference in what is taken away from the text. In Lolita, a fairly benign line on the fist page which sets up the character we know as Humbert Humbert became infinitely more important as I moved through the text: "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."
By about midway through the book I nearly lost my mind with laughter having recalled this line. Of course it is the character who is "writing" this, but it is by Nabokov's hand that each word makes it to the page. He is mocking everyone right from the first page. The entirety of the book is saying "I can write the most vile things you can dream up, things you scoff at and find repulsive, I can have sex with children and murder with my words and not only will you keep reading, you'll thirst for more, and praise me for my brilliance. Fools."
Remember, this was published in the mid-50's when people weren't very open minded to this sort of writing. It would have been considered a "problem novel". It is also important to remember that English is not Nabokov's first language and only a year prior to publication, the debate between the styles of Hawthorne and Hemingway were in full gear, sparking the famous line by Hemingway: "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use. "
The debate over style had been running for years about which of the two great authors style truly was best. It is my opinion that Nabokov had been following this debate and in an effort to poke fun at some American publishers belief that verbosity shows the brilliance of a writer. He then set off, with his second, maybe even third language and unrelentingly from page to page pieced together a work of art with $10 words on the most vile subject he could dream up knowing American publishers would believe the story to be brilliant without realizing he was making fun of their nature at the time.
It is all conjecture of course, this is simply a hypothesis I have. For me the story isn't about a pedophile, it is about a man knowing he is talking about something that will disgust the reader, but get them excited about how it was written and praise it. In a context, it is Nabokov displaying child pornography but with such beautiful cinematography that people hail it as a masterpiece.
Just some thoughts. I'm probably wrong. But one way or another, brilliant stuff.(less)