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LOLITA Paperback – 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 389 customer reviews

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Paperback, 2000
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Putnam~trade (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182537
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 389 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #269,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. Read the first page
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Format: Hardcover
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." With those famous opening lines, Nabokov begins a sordid tale told by Humbert Humbert, one of the most fascinating characters in all of American literature. Even many people who have never read this novel know the basic story here since the word "Lolita" has become a part of American culture in that that someone with a "Lolita complex" is attracted to very young girls.
Published in 1955, this novel caused a storm of controversy; it is still provocative today even though there is not a four letter word in it. That is not to say that the book is not extremely erotic in many places. What Nabokov does with words is brilliant. As always he plays constant word games with the reader. Someone goes on a "honeymonsoon" to India. In seaching for Dolores aka Lolita and her run-away suitor, Humbert finds the name "Will Brown, Dolores, Colo." in a hotel register. Humbert and Dolores have breakfast in the "township of Soda, pop. 1001." There are allusions to Poe ("in a kingdom by the sea") and other writers throughout the book. You skim paragraphs at your peril.
The book is wondrously satiric. Nabokov captures the vapidness of the motels in small and middle America in the 40's and 50's with great brilliance. Humbert, with all his perversions, is often a terribly funny character as well. The scene where he wrestles with Quilty comes to mind. "We rolled all over the floor, in each other's arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.
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Format: Paperback
I should probably be better prepared before writing about an important piece of literature such as LOLITA, yet had to jump in to defend one of the most perfectly crafted books I've ever read. Of the readers who are APPALLED by the pedophilic (sp?) aspect of the story, I wonder if they realize that the novel is esentially a comedy. The book is loaded with humor, with the situation between Humbert and young Dolores satirizing several things. Mainly, (and just off the top of my head), the fact that Lolita is such an ordinary, bratty girl makes Humbert's overblown fascination seem funny. Not only is she the wrong age for him, she's so shallow and mundane that she doesn't seem worthy of worship. Doesn't this say something about pop culture, and about whatever your own sexual obsessions might be.....how the most ridiculous, ordinary things can reduce us to dithering idiots? In a broader sense, the book satirizes that whole genre of novels in which innocent American girls (such as DAISY MILLER) go overseas, only to end up being ruined by suave, continental men. In LOLITA, a sophisticated European comes to New England and is demolished by the girl next door. A girl in roller skates with scabs on her knees.
What makes the book haunting, though, is the dark sadness that runs beneath the situation. Because Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze are so terribly mismatched, (their age just being part of it), they can never achieve true love. And even if Dolores could return the older man's affection, he'd stop loving her as she grew up. Yes, if the story were taken seriously, it would be disturbing. But who's taking it seriously? And what no review can convey is the quality of Nabokov's prose - - his sheer gift for the use of language. The words carry you like a river.
Incidentally, if you respond to Nabokov's tone, you might check out another book that made me think upon reading the first page, "God, this writer is a real craftsman." I AM MARY DUNNE by Brian Moore.
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Format: Paperback
Nabokov: the master of whatever.
I feel a bit like a sham writing a review for this, but 360 other readers can't be wrong, right? True, there is not much that I can add to the substantial literature available on Lolita, or the volumes of Vladdy in general. But I can say a few things about what I liked about the book, sprinkled here and there with some minor criticisms, mostly based on personal biases.
First, Nabokov is as much a master of the English language as anyone before or after, as far as I can tell. Lolita could be read at many different speeds. You could speed-read it, I suppose, if you have cultivated that ability, but you would only get the outline of the story, which is a good one, to be sure, but you'd miss some of the finer details - the nuances of word play (there must be fifty examples of themes based on the words "Dolores" and "Haze" - I became a bit obsessive-compulsive after finishing the book - no doubt because of the contagious neuroses of Humbert Humbert - and spent twenty minutes trying to decide if Nabokov, in the afterward (in my edition, there is a six or seven page note written by V.N. a year or two after publication), was teasing the reader with the use of the word "daze" - a final amalgamation of an ongoing thread?); references to Joyce, (thanks Adan) among others; allusions to cultural confrontations, including the confused traditionalism of Europe having to reconcile itself with the nothingness/everythingness of America; and examples of self-reflexivity that would make Brecht blush. You could spend a year reading this book (another type of Joycian reference - or homage, perhaps), analyzing it sentence by sentence, seeing if there is something within the microcosm of the page that reflects the universe of the book.
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