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 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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Not aging well. Overwritten and indulgent on second reading. I thought he was so smart first time around; now I think he's not written a natural novel but written a work about... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kyle Kay
great until the third act. the first 75 % of the book is really intresting character study and a little tension but near the end of the book the scene devolvs into sensaltiolist... Read morePublished 7 months ago by elliot wilson
A must read! I have seen both versions of the film and wanted to delve deeper into this tale of obsession. Read morePublished 18 months ago by sam
One has to have an open mind to read this novel, obviously it's controversial, which isn't my issue. My issues are with the characters. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Mooncakes