Lolita Paperback – Mar 13 1989
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Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.
Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion:
She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion, "those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake
From Library Journal
This unabridged edition of Nabokov's classic story about a middle-aged, expatriate European man's obsessive love for a 12-year-old girl?which is being released to coincide with director Adrian Lyne's new film version?is a beautifully produced recording that pushes the boundaries of the audio medium. While Lolita continues to raise the hackles of would-be censors even today, most listeners will marvel at the restraint and playful humor with which Nabokov limns his tale. Narrator Jeremy Irons, who plays Humbert Humbert in Lyne's film, is an uncompromising audiobook reader whose performances on cassette are as laudatory as his Academy AwardR-winning work on the silver screen. This landmark release is highly recommended for all library collections.?Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
"I imagined Lo returning from camp -- brown, warm, drowsy, drugged -- and was ready to weep ...".
"A few more words about Mrs. Humbert while the going is good (a bad accident is to happen quite soon)"
"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three ..."
What this all actually reveals in some symbolic way I have no idea, but I have never seen such a full-scale use of the tools of language in a straightforward (non-Ulysses) book, and I love it. I have read exactly one other novel that comes close to being as entertaining and well-written: the uncelebrated Love Songs of the Tone-Deaf (pleasing, rewarding).
A postscript: you know, dear friends, that English wasn't even Nabokov's first language, do you not? (Good God, what absurd talent.)
I must warn readers who are planning on reading Lolita: have patience ( It takes time before he mentions the plot and the first 80 something pages are talking about his past life in Europe. ), keep a dictionary handy if you are vocabulary challenged, and don't be so held up with the theme.
In shorter terms, I love the book. I, at first, would have gaven it three stars but I just kept coming back to it more intrigued every time I read it. By the way, I don't think anyone really mentioned this but it's a funny book when you think about. There were many times, I was laughing out loud in my study hall class because of Humbert's annoyance but devout love for Lolita.
Heather ( Grade 9)
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