Lyn's Reviews > Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
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really liked it

I once represented a man who had been accused of statutory rape and sexual exploitation of a minor. I did it because it is my job and I fundamentally believe that everyone, no matter how heinous the crime alleged, deserves a fair trial.

That said, it was the single most unpleasant experience of my legal career and high in the running for most unpleasant all time.

In popular culture we are inundated with scenes of crime and violence, we live in a morally relative landscape where “to each his own” is taken to Bohemian extremes.

But sexual attention towards children, in any context, is universally reviled and vilified.

Lo. Lee. Ta.

Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel is masterful prose. Like Joseph Conrad before him, it is understatement to say that his virtuosity in English (not his first language) literature is impressive.

Yes, it is about a pervert, a sex offender, a child rapist. A brute. A monster.

Humbert Humbert names himself such. Whether sympathetic chronicler or unreliable narrator I will leave for each reader’s interpretation, but either way Nabokov has demonstrated his consummate skill with a character as enigmatic and iconoclastically established in modern literature as to be a shadowy lurker in the black alleys of our most maligned society.

Nabokov’s narration, told from the prison diary of HH, is erudite, witty and humorous. The author’s stylish ability is incomparable. In spite of the subject matter I had to laugh many times at the way he crafted his narrative, especially his droll word play and numerous double entendres.

This is presented as a first person letter, recommended by his lawyer, of his unfortunate attraction to “nymphets” (a girl child between the ages of 9 and 14) and to his particular seduction of his erstwhile step-daughter Dolores, whom he affectionately calls Lolita. Several times throughout the chronicle the tragi-comic protagonist entreats the attention of the “gentlemen of the jury”. He describes his yearlong affair with the child in words that are at times repentant and remorseful, and at other times attempting a justification and explanation of his acts.

Humburt, a European émigré to our shores, also fills his account, “joyriding” as they do across America, with an ongoing ironic observation of our culture. Nabakov could use this all as an extended allegory for old world attraction with our new world mores and customs. Lolita, then, would be the central focus of this fascination and a living metaphor for America, at once childlike and alluring.

Brilliantly written with a shamefully outrageous subject, once the reader recovers from the shock quotient (if the reader recovers) this is a wealth of literary genius and style.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 8, 2015 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 59 (59 new)


SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted* Wonderful review!!!!


Bradley Yes, great review! :)


message 3: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it


message 4: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Interestingly, when I type in Lolita in Google images, it gives me no previews or help at all


Sarah Lyn wrote: "Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it"

I do too. But it's so brilliant! Maybe making us like it is his most remarkable coup. Really great review :)


Darwin8u Lyn wrote: "Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it"

God but the language. And when I think of Lolita as being fresh, but not quite innocent America and Humburt as being Old, pervy Europe, it washes the sleaze right out of my hair.


Edward Lorn Damn fine review.


message 8: by Justine (new)

Justine Lyn I didn't know you had a criminal law background; that is my background also. I completely get where you are coming from.


Wayne Barrett Spot on review. Like Oscar Wilde said, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”


message 10: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Sarah wrote: "Lyn wrote: "Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it"

I do too. But it's so brilliant! Maybe making us like it is his most remarkable coup. Really great review :)"


Great point, sarah, thanks


message 11: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Darwin8u wrote: "Lyn wrote: "Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it"

God but the language. And when I think of Lolita as being fresh, but not quite innocent America and Humburt as being Ol..."


Ha!


message 12: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Edward wrote: "Damn fine review."

Thanks Edward


message 13: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Justine wrote: "Lyn I didn't know you had a criminal law background; that is my background also. I completely get where you are coming from."

Thanks Justine. I am mainly a civil / ALJ attorney, but I have taken a few criminal cases. I can play the part when I need to, but cross examining a rape victim is a dirty job no matter how you approach it.


message 14: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Wayne wrote: "Spot on review. Like Oscar Wilde said, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”"


Thanks Wayne, and well said


message 15: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Humphrey Powerful review Lyn. I'll be moving this up my list to read.


message 16: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Chelsea


Better Eggs Really great review Lyn.


message 18: by Justine (new)

Justine Lyn wrote: "cross-examining a rape victim is a dirty job no matter how you approach it."

Agreed, sexual assault and cases involving children are the most difficult for everyone involved. When I was practicing I was the only woman lawyer in a criminal law firm (whole other issue) and I focused mainly on appeal cases (a mix of defence and prosecution) but it was still challenging even without having to do the initial trial. Sometimes it was almost worse because one side or the other was pretty unhappy to be there after going through the trial process once already.


message 19: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Petra X


message 20: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Justine, I've only done a handful of appeals. Sounds like the procedure is very different down here.


message 21: by Mike (new)

Mike Fantastic review, Lyn. Really enjoyed your take on this one.


message 22: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Mike, it's a difficult book to review in a lot of ways, but his language ultimately makes it worth it


message 23: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Letaw Great review. Personally, I never could get past the first couple of pages: too offensive. On the other hand Kubrick's film of the same name is one of my all time favorite movies.


message 24: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn I have never seen either the Kubrik film or the more recent Jeremy Irons portrayal, and I'd like to, but I might give it a while


Bradley Hell, I didn't even realize that Kubrick made that early Lolita right before Dr. Strangelove. What weird and wonderful world we live in. ;)


message 26: by Raul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Raul Bimenyimana Loved this review!


message 27: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Raul


message 28: by Horace (new) - added it

Horace Derwent this is the most powerful review of this book i've ever seen

salute!


message 29: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thank you Horace


message 30: by S.C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

S.C. Flynn I did not know you were a lawyer either, Lyn. Very good review


message 31: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Yep, general practice in Murfreesboro, TN, nothing fancy


message 32: by Derek (new)

Derek Lyn wrote: "Thanks, this was a tough book, almost feel guilty for liking it"

I totally get that. I jumped at the chance to do a group read of Pale Fire, because I figured I should read Nabokov but have never been able to bring myself to read Lolita.

But you're messing with my general opinion of lawyers! [Just kidding; I count a surprising number of lawyers as good friends.]


Sarah I only read it because the audio was narrated by Jeremy Irons. It's really remarkable.


message 34: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Awesome starting point in your review, Lyn. I always was not inclined to give it a chance to this book, but now you give some to think about. Great job.


message 35: by Michelle (new)

Michelle An amazing review! I only vaguely knew about this famous book before reading your review, many thanks:)


message 36: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Michelle!


message 37: by Denis (new)

Denis Wow.


message 38: by Supratim (new)

Supratim Nice review, Lyn !


message 39: by Trish (new)

Trish The same sense of revulsion grabbed me when I read this gorgeous piece of writing. I still remember my shock.


message 40: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Denis and Supratim!


message 41: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Trish, you just cannot get around it, I know. But the writing is superb


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

I checked this (and The Godfather!) out of the library the summer I was 13 and devoured both before my folks noticed they were a bit...hummm..."adult"! For a time I wondered if ALL grown men were interested in young girls, because a cousin my age was molested by a neighbor only a short time before. I have a friend who as a public defender defended child rapists and the third one (particularly horrific) gave her so many nightmares she quit and now is at a Human Rights Commission. (You remind me to ask her if she read this!) Maybe all public defenders should, tho, to desensitize themselves.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Wonderful review! I'm so intrigued about reading this one :)


message 44: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Bookworm Sean!


message 45: by Mit (last edited Feb 14, 2017 07:23AM) (new) - added it

Mit Wonderful Review! I had no idea that you were a lawyer.


message 46: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn thank you, they have not suspended me yet ;)


message 47: by Mit (new) - added it

Mit Lyn wrote: "thank you, they have not suspended me yet ;)"
Haha! Of course... was not aware of that..


message 48: by Luca (new) - rated it 4 stars

Luca Ambrosino Superb review, congrats


message 49: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Luca


message 50: by Jorge (last edited Apr 07, 2017 05:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jorge Barbosa With your review you just bumped this one to the top of my tbr pile :-)


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