Emily May’s review of Lolita > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Christy (new)

Christy Wow! So, a couple years ago as an undergrad at my university I was given the chance to be an intern at the Regional Sexual Assault Center for my community. It is extremely disturbing the amount of children who are put through this type of treatment. They are taught to believe their "friend" deserves the sex/molestation. The children believe they deserve what has happened to them but feel ashamed. I want to read this book because of my experience at the center. Your review makes me want to read it because of the power you saw it has!


message 2: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I still remember reading your original review of it and thinking - well, this is one time where we completely disagree:) But I understand how at different points in life we interpret the same stories differently. There've been more than few instances when I completely changed my mind about books I'd read as a teen.


message 3: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Great review!


message 4: by Linds (new)

Linds Great review


message 5: by Dyuti (new)

Dyuti Amazing review. It shines an entirely different light on the so called "love-story" aspect of the novel. Even though I have not yet read the book I already feel sick with Humbert. What a sick and perverted character! But kudos to the writer if he managed to portray him sympathetically!


message 6: by Emily May (new)

Emily May Tatiana wrote: "I still remember reading your original review of it and thinking - well, this is one time where we completely disagree:) But I understand how at different points in life we interpret the same stori..."

I went through a lot of "classics" between the ages of 11-14 and the older I get the more I realise I was too young to appreciate/understand/"get" the stories being told half the time. I'm glad I took the chance to get a new perspective on Lolita, I have you to thank for that. (view spoiler)


message 7: by Emily May (new)

Emily May @Christy, s.penkevich, Linds and Dyuti Thanks so much!


message 8: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana Emily wrote: "Tatiana wrote: "I still remember reading your original review of it and thinking - well, this is one time where we completely disagree:) But I understand how at different points in life we interpre..."

That time was the time of the most "intelligent" reading for me as well, but clearly a lot of it just goes over your had at that age.


message 9: by Tarra (new)

Tarra Great review! I like how you started this. It is smart to acknowledge that different people take different things from the same book. I always think of that when I read someone's review on a book. I try to see what it is they dislike to see if it could be the same things I may also dislike and ultimately if I should read the book myself. I won't be reading Lolita. :)


message 10: by Emily May (new)

Emily May Thanks Tarra!


message 11: by Mary (new)

Mary Very interesting review. Well said.


message 12: by Mike (new)

Mike "Humbert is not a reliable narrator..." That's one of the key things I think some people somehow miss, even though H. himself exults in his deceitfulness and frequently brags about it to his readers. And yes, it's a story (the most powerful I've read) about evil of tremendous repugnance, not love. Great review.


message 13: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it

do you mean this bit?

Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation

I could delete that, i have the power...


message 14: by Emily May (new)

Emily May That and the audiobook one:

"a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness"

- in fact, most of them seem to give the impression that this is some tragic romance.


message 15: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I would like to raise the question of whether there has been a change along another dimension than that of the reviewer's own awareness. I'm speaking of the dimension of time. Not that there has been a huge amount of time since the original (2004?) and the rereading. But maybe between the point the book was written and now. In the early 12th Century Abelard got into big trouble with Heloise, but more for harming her father's property than her. Hannah Arendt and Heidegger when when she was a teenaged graduate student seemed to be perfectly okay at the time. Even 35 years ago, affairs between professors and graduate students were not a problem, that is, there seemed to be little concern or awareness about the power differential and seduction. And what about boys in Socrates' day?

My own view is that the morality of humankind is evolving, so we may see something new and different when we read this book now. ...That would be no excuse for the advertising copy, though. The authors of that have the same temporal advantage of reading through today's lens as anybody else.


message 16: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant this is a great question. Morality does evolve, I don't know how though. At one point the majority of western middle class people were okay with the slave trade; then after some very strenuous political campaigns, they weren't. How did that happen? In 1967 homosexuality was decriminalised in Britain - before then we jailed men for being gay. In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking.

According to Wiki the age of consent for girls was set at 12 in England in 1275 and raised to 13 in 1875 and ten years later to 16.

However.

The world of Lolita is Humbert's middle class privileged world. It is not the Appalachians, it is not Stepney or Toxteth. In Humbert's world in the 1950s it was indeed considered child molestation for an adult male to be fiddling around with a 12 to 13 year old. On this website

http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sourc...

the age of consent for all states in 1920 is given - half are 16, the other half 18, and Georgia is alone with 14.


message 17: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 16, 2012 01:03PM) (new)

Antonomasia Wow. I took a few books the wrong way through reading them young, and far more importantly, not having anyone good to discuss them with. But the baleful influence of Martin Amis' Nicola Six pales by comparison with the idea of having read this the wrong way.

I've still never been able to bring myself to read Lolita beyond a few pages - despite all that's said about it as a masterpiece of style - and I may never do.


message 18: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 16, 2012 01:15PM) (new)

Antonomasia Jan wrote: "I would like to raise the question of whether there has been a change along another dimension than that of the reviewer's own awareness. I'm speaking of the dimension of time. Not that there has ..."
The level of hysteria about paedophilia / pederasty has certainly increased in Britain during my lifetime (mid-30s).

The veiled "Stranger Danger" that kids were taught about in the 80s had become quite a different public concept by the time a frenzied mob attacked the home of a paediatrician, not knowing the difference, in 2000.

And since then, with cases such as nursery teachers having found to be abusive, and some schools not allowing children to be photographed at school plays, it is the great collective paranoia of our age. (Though at least this is better than the hushed-up uncomprehending shame of the past that made it so much more difficult for abused people to get help.)


message 19: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant yes, and remember this from 1995 ?

IS IT every parent's nightmare, or is it simply the best way to protect children? The arrest of newsreader Julia Somerville over allegedly indecent photographs of her seven-year-old daughter has opened the debate this weekend on the law relating to child pornography.

Ms Somerville, 48, and her architect boyfriend Jeremy Dixon, 56, were questioned by Scotland Yard's child-pornography unit on Thursday night, after Mr Dixon was met by detectives at a London chemist. He had gone to pick up what the couple insist were "family photographs".

Both Ms Somerville, who regained a top position in news broadcasting after a brain tumour operation, and Mr Dixon, who designed the extension to the Royal Opera House, strenuously denied the allegations. They said the pictures, which reportedly include a picture of Ms Somerville's daughter naked in the bath, were innocent. Ms Somerville also said she was "deeply distressed" that the arrests were made public, leading Scotland Yard to deny last night that it had leaked the news to the media.

Leading child-law experts said the case would renew the debate about the law surrounding child pornography. This has intensified over the decade, focusing in particular on whether society has become too sensitive to the possibility of child abuse - sometimes with traumatic results for innocent parties.



message 20: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 17, 2012 12:41AM) (new)

Antonomasia Oh dear, yes. Perhaps there's actually more understanding of that sort of thing these days. So I read somewhere anyway, but as a non-parent it's of no practical relevance, so can't be sure.

The turning point in attitudes in the UK would have been the Moors Murderers wouldn't it? And in my own lifetime it seemed that the Cleveland scandal was what really put the issue in the open as something which happened in families, not necessarily perpetrated by lurking suspicious strangers.


message 21: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I think the paranoia started with the satanic abuse mania of the late 90s. That was a very interesting phenomenon whereby a myth promoted by right wing fundamentalist Christian zealots in the USA was successfully imported via seminars targeted at social workers in Britain and fused into the loony-left mindset around at the time. The social workers swallowed the whole thing and launched these huge swoops on certain communities where they would take dozens of children into care and claim they had evidence of organised "satanic" abuse. It was a very crazy period.


message 22: by Jan (last edited Dec 26, 2012 06:22PM) (new)

Jan Rice The satanic abuse mania and "recovered memory" hysteria was from somewhat earlier--the '80s. Most therapists had a generalized acceptance of the alleged phenomena at one point, until the exposès of the '90s. I remember reading this one, but you have to be a subscriber to get it online: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1993...

The whole thing about morality is so complicated. I guess philosophers deal with this area. We don't want to turn into rigid moralizers blaming Abraham Lincoln, for example, because he just wasn't good enough for us.

I can't really be sure I remember Humbert Humbert accurately, but isn't there something sleazy about him all along? If that's right, what is the author trying to do? Gain acceptance for such behavior? Is it just soft porn? Or, maybe, to have us see the varieties of humanness, with all its spots? Maybe that last is going too far. Every book is not a tragedy in the classical sense.


message 23: by Paul (last edited Aug 19, 2012 10:28AM) (new)

Paul Bryant Maybe that nasty Nabokov is suggesting that the nature of love is that love does not care about the loved one, not really, it says it does, but when you look at the thing closely, it doesn’t. The weddings, the honeymoons, the diamonds, the sweet words, all of it, maybe that’s just all bribes. Could even Vlad be that cynical? Maybe.

(from my own review, reproduced with permission)


message 24: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I remember reading about Nabokov's intent behind this novel and it was more along the lines that he just wanted to write a portrait of someone like Humbert and let the readers judge him any way they can. And that's what we've been doing for decades now. And apparently some think this book is erotic and romantic, and some - appalling and disgusting.


message 25: by Deborah (new)

Deborah I also find it ridiculous that the book is marketed as some forbidden love tale, but what I find most surprising is how seldom its humor is mentioned. HH, despite being easily unlikeable for his thoughts and actions, is, frankly, hilarious. I marvel at the author's ability to bring humor to such dark subject matter. You know the narrator is a sleazebag, but his descriptions and interpretation of events are endlessly entertaining. The way that he romanticizes the unromantic is what makes the writing so smart. That, and that HH's many clever words plays, that her seems so tickled with himself for making. It makes for such an enjoyable read because you want to condemn him but he's still able to make you laugh... but maybe that's just my experience of the novel.


message 26: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (excuse the typos - written on my phone)


message 27: by Emily May (new)

Emily May Hi Deborah, I completely agree with you and I think Nabokov's ability to make HH such a charismatic character was why I was so taken in by his charms on my first read. Because the reader likes HH, it's easier to forgive him for everything, he manipulates the reader just as much as he manipulates the characters in the novel.


message 28: by Lauralee (new)

Lauralee Moss He is the most unreliable narrator in all of literature, aside from Benjy. Lolita is so masterfully written, but yes, the subject is sick.


message 29: by Kat (new)

Kat Robinson Hi! I really enjoyed your review anbd totally agree!!


message 30: by Sharon (last edited Jul 11, 2013 04:26AM) (new)

Sharon L I remember when I actually argued with my proffessor about Lolita, he cailmed it to be a great love story and one of his favourites. talking about how he read it when he was 17, 23 and 29 (he was 30 when we had the argument). I read it for a school project and while I admitted out loud the Nabokov is a master in writing I can by no means overlook the fact that what Humbert is doing is awefull and by it is not a love story (not even close).
Eventually we agreed to not agree as he refused to accept Humbert's true colors.

Wonderful review, I can see while a 13 year old might see this book in a romantic point of vew and fall into Nabokov's trap. and I'm glad you saw through it now.


message 31: by Emily May (last edited Sep 04, 2013 03:06PM) (new)

Emily May I just don't believe that rape is love. I think Humbert tries to justify his abusive behaviour to both the reader and himself by believing it was done out of love. Actually, I think it's done out of selfishness. People can't help who they are, but there's a difference between wanting to do something and actually doing it. I would have pitied Humbert if he'd never acted upon his "love" for Lolita, but the fact that he rapes someone he claims to love makes me think it isn't love at all.


message 32: by Sharon (new)

Sharon L Emily May wrote: "I just don't believe that rape is love. I think Humbert tries to justify his abusive behaviour to both the reader and himself by believing it was done out of love. Actually, I think it's done out o..."

Well said!


message 33: by Kat (new)

Kat Robinson Lucas wrote: "Emily May wrote: "I just don't believe that rape is love. I think Humbert tries to justify his abusive behaviour to both the reader and himself by believing it was done out of love. Actually, I thi..."

He's a freaking pedophile. Ort hebephile or what ever. Quote romanticising a perversion. It's obsessive and sick. not love


message 34: by Emily May (new)

Emily May I completely agree, Kat.


message 35: by Emily May (new)

Emily May Lucas, I respect your opinion. But I believe that a 13 year old is a child and I also believe that Lolita was the victim of an adult's manipulation and abuse. BDSM is fine between consenting adults and please note the two words there: 1) consenting and 2) adults. People are welcome to their own perversions but I don't think it's fair to subject children to them. Obviously, it's a grey area as to when a child becomes capable of giving consent but we have age of consent laws for a reason - so that adults can't manipulate children and claim they "wanted it".

A lot of thirteen year old girls haven't even started their periods and most are a long way from being fully developed. That's why I consider Lolita a child and incapable of giving consent to sex with Humbert. Looking at it that way, I don't think it's comparable with BDSM (or whatever else). Do you consider rapists to be simply acting on their perversions? Do you think we should be rid of anti-rape laws because they can't help wanting to rape their victims? Because I don't.

And, by the way, I would 100% argue that the relationship in 50 Shades is not love but, again, a man selfishly acting upon his sexual desires with little regard for what the woman wants.


message 36: by Emily May (new)

Emily May I'm a bit confused. Do you believe that love and sex are the same thing? I never said that 50 Shades was rape because it isn't, it's sex. But sex between consenting adults doesn't necessarily mean love. Or it certainly doesn't in my opinion.

And you ask me what I think love is? There is not a single person in the world that can give an adequate definition or even prove love exists. So there's no real point in speculating. You also say you don't want to talk about rape but I can't see any other way to discuss this book - it's a story about rape.

The problem here (and it was also a problem for me when I first read the book) is the assumption that rape has to be violent or done with malice. You say it is not "presented as rape" - how do you mean? Because Humbert doesn't hold down a kicking and screaming girl? Because Humbert doesn't *think* he is doing something wrong? Many sociopaths don't think they're doing anything wrong. Many rape victims don't fight (they know it to be futile) but that doesn't make it any less of a crime. You seem to be arguing that it could be seen as something other than rape because Humbert doesn't see it as rape. But that's the brilliance of Humbert's unreliable narration. He's clever and charming and, in other circumstances, you would like him a lot. This book shows us that not all monsters are ugly and repulsive. But they are still monsters.

And I'm sorry, but I disagree. Rape is rape no matter how it is told. Rape is rape no matter what the culprit *thought* they were doing. You start approaching dangerous territory by saying that we can somehow justify rape because the rapist claimed to love the victim. How many men do you think have stalked women, obsessed over them and eventually raped them... only to claim it was done out of love?


message 37: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant If I may break in to this discussion, I have a couple of quotes to share.


This was an orphan. This was a lone child, an absolute waif, with whom a heavy limbed, foul-smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times that very morning. (p140)

When, during our longer stops, I would relax after a particularly violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of my lulled heart allow her – indulgent Hum! – to visit the rose garden or the children’s library… (p160)

Thrusting my fatherly fingers deep into Lo’s hair from behind, and then gently clasping them around the nape of her neck, I would lead my reluctant pet to our small home for a quick connection before dinner. (p164)

… and her sobs in the night – every night, every night – the moment I feigned sleep. (p176)


I would suggest that what you have there is non consensual sex with a child.

Rape.


message 38: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant He never portrays her as wanting it - note that he says

and her sobs in the night – every night, every night – the moment I feigned sleep

- that's HH speaking, and confessing that Lolita hated the whole thing. It was non-consensual.


message 39: by Emily May (new)

Emily May I'm trying, Lucas, I swear I am... but I fail to see what the other side can possibly be here.


message 40: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Here's a comment I'm making without rereading everything, so I hope it's not redundant: The book is creating the understanding that the relationship is abusive.

That would be a possible understanding if values aren't eternal but are evolving. People--writers--are part of that evolution. In other words, what's wrong hasn't always been so. If people didn't know any better it couldn't be said to be wrong, then.

Complicated topic, so I'll just leave it at that. I did get into it some in my review of Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.


message 41: by Paul (last edited Sep 16, 2013 02:57PM) (new)

Paul Bryant Hi Jan - are you saying that up until Lolita. there was a notion that this type of relationship could be okay, but after Lolita, people had to re-think?

If so, I certainly agree that abusiveness in relationships has been something that is now central to our understanding of the way the world can work, which previously was thought of as an entirely private affair. Over here in the UK we have had a series of painful revelations about abusive celebrities, so even at this late date we are learning more about this wretched aspect of human beings.


message 42: by Emily May (new)

Emily May I think it's time for me to bow out of this discussion. We're just going around in circles and I can feel myself getting more frustrated every time rape is trivialized. I'm sure you'll claim it isn't true, Lucas, but I'm afraid that's what you're doing. A 13 year old can't give consent. If consent isn't given, it is rape. Always. I don't believe Humbert loved Lolita but, the fact is, IT DOESN'T MATTER. Maybe he loved her. Maybe that man who beats his wife to a pulp loves her. It doesn't lessen the crime. That's the real point here: it doesn't matter if he loved her. Rape is having sex with someone without consent and a 13 year old can't give consent. Therefore, Humbert raped Lolita. Robin Thicke might try to convince people otherwise, but there really aren't any blurred lines with consent.


message 43: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Paul asked me, "are you saying that up until Lolita. there was a notion that this type of relationship could be okay, but after Lolita, people had to re-think?"

Something like that but not so definite. That Lolita was part of the process. Yes, that it would have been thought to be a private matter. I was thinking along the lines of how from time immemorial girls were married off at such a young age. Then my thoughts turned to the developing world and the awful medical condition described so graphically in Cutting for Stone, when immature girls (no doubt often suffering from malnutrition as well) give birth. Subsequently I've read that doesn't happen only in Ethiopia but is very common. It is tragic.

It's not so recently (and not everywhere) that women are considered as full human beings, much less children. ...Now I've gotten off topic! But, you see, we can't just go condemning all those who came before or who have other circumstances. Like you say about what's going on nowadays, what will they be saying about us in some hypothetical future?


message 44: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I think this last 25 years has been a very healthy process of dragging things that were hidden into the light. One famous example is the culture of tolerated rape of boys within the Catholic church - obviously this has been going on for centuries and only now, maybe, will it no longer be tolerated by the cardinals and bishops. I believe similar situations happen in Islam, but those countries have not yet been able to debate the issue publicly. Women and children have been the playthings of men until very recently. But things have changed and for the better.


message 45: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Lucas - you may be interested in this book here

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

which specifically continues the debate about Lolita, love, sex and everything.


message 46: by T.D. (new)

T.D. Whittle Jan wrote: "Paul asked me, "are you saying that up until Lolita. there was a notion that this type of relationship could be okay, but after Lolita, people had to re-think?"

Something like that but not so defi..."


What Jan said, yes yes and yes.


message 47: by T.D. (new)

T.D. Whittle Paul wrote: "I think this last 25 years has been a very healthy process of dragging things that were hidden into the light. One famous example is the culture of tolerated rape of boys within the Catholic church..."

And what Paul says here, too, I concur. But when reading and reviewing any book, I think it's important to consider the historical, social, political context. Also, what the author himself had to say about it, which is well-known.


message 48: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Paul said, "things have changed and for the better," and td said we have "to consider the historical, social, political context."

...What went on at Penn State. What is evolving in India now, as to the previous toleration of violence toward women...


message 49: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 17, 2013 09:16AM) (new)

Tatiana Very interesting to see this conversation here, and witness another person completely fooled by HH. I suppose you can argue that Humbert loved Lolita in his own sick way and that at some point she was sort of infatuated by him and his attention to her. But that their relationship was not a consensual love at all is quite clear once you start seeing through the fog of Humbert's self-serving and self-justifying narrative and process the tiny truthful snippets of reality (for ex. the bits Paul quoted). I personally will never agree with the notioon that Lolita actually loved HH, flattered by his attention, curious about sex, seduced by him, etc. - yes. But love? No way.

As for HH's love for Lolita, sure, maybe in his mind he loved her, just like Ariel Castro probably "loved" the three women he held captive for 10 years in his basement. Is that love too? And he just tried to "protect" it?

The line has to be drawn somewhere. Inform consent is where I am drawing it.


message 50: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Tatiana said, "The line has to be drawn somewhere. Inform consent is where I am drawing it."

It's just that I don't believe the line can be drawn retrospectively.


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