Tuesday, March 31, 2009
In Humbert’s attempt to convince the audience, community, and himself of his successful attempt at fatherhood, he uses almost every language trick in the book to form his “fancy prose.” In this paragraph, he refers to himself as “dark-and-handsome, not un-Celtic, probably high-church, possibly very high-church, Dr. Humbert,” “Professor H.,” “Mr. Edgar H. Humbert,” “Monsieur H. H.” To create credibility, he gives himself official titles. He is attempting to fool us in this paragraph just as he used his credentials to fool his colleagues and neighbors. Humbert provides us with a listing of the Fatherly Activities he engages in. The paragraph ends with Lolita’s friend comparing him to a movie character. The little girl notices that he resembles someone playing a role. He is, in fact, playing a role, the role of Good Father.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Emily, I really like your last sentence about how only true love can overlook flaws, which proves how much H.H. really loves Lo. It immediately reminded me of this (from Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs):
"What's painful and wonderful about loving somebody is loving their small things, like the way he is able to smile when he sips his wine, the way his hands fall down at his sides, fingers slightly cupped, or the way he is conducting the orchestra on the radio. Or now, the way he is lighting candles, just now this one in front of me. This is the one he lit first, actually. The one in front of me. Even though there was one on the way, he passed that one, lit it next.
"The truth is Dennis has no bad qualities and no faults. When he's working late and I'm alone, or sometimes when we're in bed together, the lights off, I try and make even a small list in my mind of his faults: Things I Put Up With Out Of Love. But I haven't been able to think of a single thing that I am not able to first overlook and then come to cherish. Even the fact that he sometimes loses things has led to a treasured nickname: Mittenclips.
"Unconditional love. That's what this is. I love him, as is, fully. I've had to stop arm wrestling with the facts. Why me? Didn't I already have a big love once? And lost it? So why should I get it again? I've had to stop trying to look for cracks and flaws to prove that it's not as good as it seems. Because it's as good as it seems. Even when we fight, we fight inside the container of good.
"Somehow, through a flip of the coin, I ended up here. Feeling like somebody at the top of the heart-lung transplant recipient list. Damaged but invigorated and fucking lucky."
Anyways, I thought I'd share that. I've had this idea that love and hate are irrevocably intertwined, like good and evil, "you don't know what its like to be alive until you now what it feels like to die" ect.
To some degree we are all mentally insane, but would it benefit or hinder society if everyone was to come out and claim insanity? I guess it is the difference between killing someone and “simply” thinking about it, but how big is that difference?
At one point, soon after Humbert and Lolita begin their year long road trip and rape, Humbert writes that Lolita turned out to be more of a handful than he expected. …”Lolita, when she chose, could be a most exasperating brat. I was not quite prepared for her fits of disorganized boredom, insane and vehement griping, her sprawling, droopy, dopey-eyed style, and what is called goofing off-a kind of diffused clowning which she thought was tough in a boyish hoodlum way.” (pg. 148) The man saying these words is madly in love with every inch of this girl and still, he takes detailed notes of her sour attitude. I was really at a loss as to why Lolita had to be portrayed as an angst-filled prepubescent and it got me thinking. Maybe Lolita’s bad attitude makes the situation seem more real. Humbert’s adoration of Lolita is almost too much and too far; a little unrealistic. So, by making her character into a little bitch, it’s clear that Lolita is human and has flaws. It also makes Humbert’s love for Lolita even more intense, because only someone who is absolutely and completely in love with someone is capable of overlooking unappealing character flaws.
"human life would be "nasty, brutish, and short" without political authority. In its absence, we would live in a state of nature, where we each have unlimited natural freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to harm all who threaten our own self-preservation; there would be an endless "war of all against all" (Bellum omnium contra omnes). To avoid this, free men establish political community i.e. civil society through a social contract in which each gain civil rights in return for subjecting himself to civil law or to political authority."
Upon entering this social contract we agree to remain more or less civilized for the greater good of society and for individual protection against outsiders and our own countrymen. Therefore, the right to rape little girls is given up in order to maintain some semblance of civility and cut down on the "nasty, brutish, and short." If we roll over on our backs and say "Oh, his morality is not society's morality...he can't be blamed." Then we are giving up every little girl's right to innocence and normality.
Humbert Humbert gave up his right to freedom when he violated the social contract. Humbert was not moral, correct or even pitiable. Nabokov never intended that we sympathize with him nor did he intend that we hate him. He merely wanted to create the perfect story, a fairytale in which he satirized everything that we laymen hold dear in our interpretation of a microcosm. Fuck you Nabokov.
Maybe I wasn’t clear in my last blog—I completely agree with Edgar that Humbert was an asshole. He is a manipulative, twisted bastard. And it is true that Humbert took advantage of Lolita completely and as an adult he should have known better. However, it’s not like this (according to Humbert) was a case of a man overpowering a girl and forcing himself on her. Lolita was young and probably didn’t know that her flirtatious actions would lead to a horrible two years for her, but she did play a part in it. Humbert always had the desire for “nymphets” in him, but it seems like Lolita was the major catalyst that set him off. That being said, Humbert is completely responsible for his actions and just because Lolita may have tempted him didn’t give him the right to touch a young girl.
On another note, I’m with you Liz! I miss the days when plot was a major focus of study (i.e. high school). It’s interesting and nice to learn about the authors’ styles and what not, but I don’t read a book to marvel at the genius of writers—I read books for their plot. But maybe I need to get out of my high school mindset.
Humbert the Pedophile is quite clearly a detestable rapist, but why did Nabokov choose him as the vehicle for this story? When you get past the discomfort of the actual story itself, Lolita paints a portrait of a man suffering from the dilemma of his morals versus the morals of society around him.
The underlying idea is moral relativism. Morality is subjective to the cultural, social, or even personal background you are from. We are quick to dismiss Humbert’s desires as taboo and wrong, but who are we to judge? There is no universal moral standard that we all naturally follow from birth. Our unique environments impart to us moral values, and no set of values is more right than another. When we start banning books and censoring based on personal moral standards of right and wrong, wholesome and obscene, we are imposing our morality on others. Nabokov is in no way supporting pedophilia. Lolita is an extreme example used to illustrate the point that right and wrong are in the eye of the beholder.
Second, even if Humbert were doing everything within his power to remain as neutral as possible in his account, his character is too mentally unstable to make sound judgments about the world. Is it just me, or did it seem that everywhere he and Lo went there were just more pedophiles? Cue was almost jailed because he "liked little girls" and Gaston Godin was "caressed by the young--oh, having a grand time and fooling everybody." Then there are the seemingly countless (I certainly can't remember how many) number of men who eye Lo with a "lecherous grin."
This rampant pedophilia disturbed me, so I looked up some stats. Convicted child molesters (some of which I'm sure are women) make up roughly .08% of the U.S. population. If we buffer that number with a generous .02% for uncaught/acquitted child molesters, that's still only 1% of the population. (Of course this says nothing about people who have attraction to children but don't ever act upon it, but I'm sure that's still less common than the way Humbert depicts it.) Nabokov probably didn't look up the stats, but still, Humbert is delusional and paranoid. Lolita might have been a pretty little girl, but I don't think she was a deliberate temptress. Humbert found her attractive, perhaps saw her as a seductress because he was seduced by her, and then impressed upon other people his own feelings about her.
Maybe. I'm still making my mind up about Lo, but this is one of the possibilities.
Even if you assume that HH was being truthful, I find it hard to believe that Lolita would be a willing participant, much less that she would have initiated the sex. As I read the book, I couldn't help wondering if Nabokov was pointing fun at Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is the idea that abductees can begin to commiserate with their captors and even "switch to their side." Maybe Nabokov was using Lolita's supposed apathy to her situation to continue to make fun of psychoanalysis.
I cheated a little and read some of what Eagleton had to say about Psychoanalysis, and it has made me appreciate Nabokov's pointed satire even more. By having the pompous, idiotic, blowhard HH reference Freudian Psychology throughout the book in often ludicrous ways, Nabokov perfectly illustrates some of the ridiculous theories one can come up with if you're always looking for a symbol. The best example Nabokov's mockery is Humbert's constant blaming of his relationship with Annabel as the source of his pedophilia, as if anyone who had a relationship cut tragically short as a child would seek to fulfill that relationship later in life.
Humbert was the ultimate asshole, that's all there is to it no matter how he tries to spin it.
I too didn't think of Humbert and Lo's first night together as rape untill Lolita mentions it herself. I even had to go back and read that part in the book to make sure what I thought happened even happened. The way Humbert tells it, he says that Lolita kind of initiates sex, even though Humbert so longs for it, but this too could also be a manipulation. But I think if Lo did initiate sex, it does add to her whole mischievous characterization as she was plotting to leaving Humbert ever since that night. What Humbert does is wrong, and also that he kept repeating his offenses and would give Lolita gifts, money, and freedom to do so is wrong.
Yes, his prose style is fancy, but ultimately after you read the book and you think about Humbert you tend not to like him. He is a pedifile, rapist who descibes women who arent 12 year old nyphlets as "old, fat cows." Humbert... not so much a great guy.
Miku thinks Lo may be a willing participant and Meredith didn't even consider labeling what happens between HH and Lo as rape until Lo says, "You know, where you raped me." Lets step back a bit. When reading Lolita, you are reading what Nabokov decided the character Humbert would decide to tell you. Having that in mind, is Humbert even telling the truth? Usually one wouldn't question the narrator's integrity, but we are dealing with a child rapist here who rationalizes his actions. If we are to consider Humbert as a human, then we must consider that humans lie frequently and so does Humbert.
As for Lo's supposed wickedness, are we ever truly to know what she was like? We only ever see Humbert's view. Lo seducing Humbert is almost laughable to me. When I was her age, I knew little to nothing about sex but as hell pretended to ("then the baby comes out the butt"), and whatever I pretended to know came from friends who pretended to know. Of course, this was before the internet came around to take all our innocence away. I blame it all on the piss poor sex "education" I got from school. So what could Lo possibly know? Little to nothing outside of what goes where I wager. I'm sure she knows exactly how to seduce a grown man. Why would she be so nonchalant about what Humbert does to her? I would think that her relationship with Humbert feels normal to her since it is the only relationship she has for a while. She doesn't know any other way until she grows and then ends up to resent Humbert. Also, women who are raped can develop complexities about sex and relationships. This could explain Lo's errant behavior.
Humbert says his want is only natural. No human want is unnatural. Murderers act on natural urges of hate. I'm sure that justifies such acts. Humbert says that sex between father and daughter were accepted in some dignified cultures of the past. That must mean slavery is fine considering it was accepted in cultures of the past.
Humbert also states he tried to keep Lo's innocence intact. This is a very fatherly thing to do and paints him in a good light except for the fact that Humbert gets off on young little girls. Its a completely selfish act. He doesn't want to protect her from the world; he just wants her to stay the same so he can get off.
Don't fall for Humbert's fancy prose style, he is an asshole. Never listen to what a guy says, just pay attention to what he does. Humbert says all these nice things but rapes his stepdaughter. I rest my case.
The way the writer always reminds us that we’re reading a book, is just another amazing thing about this story. Right when I feel like I cannot handle the way this “relationship” is going on, he adds in his “famous parentheses” and pulls me back out. I feel like I just keep talking about the same things in my blogs, just in different ways, but I really just am amazed by Nabokov’s way of writing, and making us follow HH’s thoughts. There seems to be nothing wrong with what HH and Lolita are doing, only because Nabokov creatively makes us believe so.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
He named his own species of butterfly! Carterocphalus canopuncttus.
Butterflies are noted for their unusual life cycle.
“The diverse patterns formed by their brightly coloured wings and their erratic yet graceful flight have made butterfly watching a hobby.”
“Butterflies exhibit polymorphism, mimicry and aposematism.”
“Some butterflies have evolved symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants.”
“…a few species are pests, because they can damage domestic crops and trees in their larval stage.”
“Unlike many insects, butterflies do not experience a nymph period…”
But. Nabokov doesn’t advocate grandiose symbolism. So it probably doesn’t mean anything. Just thought that these are interesting facts to know! Also, in my butterfly research, I found the poetry vs. science/precision vs. passion context:
“In Speak, Memory, Nabokov reports that he ‘discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that [he] sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of enchantment and deception,’ Note also: ‘Coincidence of pattern is one of the wonders of nature. The wonders of nature were beginning to impress me at that early age .’
In nearly every interview Nabokov reiterated this theme. He told the BBC, for example, that ‘all art is deception and so is nature; all is deception in that good cheat, from the insect that mimics a leaf to the popular enticements of procreation.’ When asked for a more specific tie between lepidopterology and his writing, Nabokov replied, ‘I think that in a work of art there is a kind of merging between the two things, between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science.’”
Like I said, I went into it with malice already on my mind, so of course it was there. His description of his first love, Annabel, moved me very slightly, but mostly I remained surly, partiularly his descriptions of any woman over the age of 14. And even more so as he went on to describe nymphets in general--the notion that some percentage of the population of pubescent girls are somehow evil and deserve creepy thoughts and desires and "ask" for them! Humbert had that against him, but his general writing (Humbert's, not Nabokov's, if that's possible) also came across as pretentious at best, unsettling at worst. At best, it has a nice tone, but he mentioned how attractive he is about six times and seems to dismiss a lot of things as below him. At worst, he writes about lust for children (and later, the touching of them) as though it is beauitful--thouroughly disturbing! My revulsion hit a peak when he was first infatuated with Dolly, creepily doing anything to be near her undectected. When he got off on her sitting with her legs on his lap, I was oddly... not repulsed, and even less so when he mentioned how glad he was he didn't have to defile her to get off (pleased is much too strong, though).
His decision to marry her mother... didn't really affect me at all, nor did the vivid killing day-dreams. I think I had softened up a bit by this point, actually. When she told him that she was sending Dolly to a boarding school, I thought to myself "oh no!" I rooted for a child molester/rapist/pedophile! What?! I feel like being at such odds with the narrator and protagonist was eventually hindering my ability to get through it and so I accepted what few charms he had to offer--his occasional deep emotion for Lolita, his wit. By the second time they'd had sex, I was almost accepting this relationship as some kind of legitimate, which was also unsettling to me, my own feelings. As they traveled throughout the country, my opinion mostly moved to curiosity as to how this would play out, how long such a secret could be kept. I knew from the start that there was not brutal rape, but I vowed not to be "okay" with the happenings anyway. As I read, though, I found myself not hating Humbert, even rooting for him occasionally. Lolita's blase attitude to what was going on didn't help either. I reminded myself, though, that all I had was Humbert and he was certainly an unreliable narrator. I cannot know for sure what was actually going on at any given time.
Now that Humbert and Lolita have settled and his only sin (besides the continual rape and paying her for sex and kisses, which I have somehow just started taking for granted) is being much too overprotective a father (father?!), I've certainly settled with them into a comfortable, if not grotesque, pattern. I look forward to stretching the limits of my ethics as I read further.
I first stumbled across Lolita on my older sister's book shelf about five years ago. When I was fourteen, I had been thoroughly disturbed by H.H.'s actions and Lo's lost innocence. I found the book compelling yet depressing. Now, however, since I've started reading it again, my current reactions contrast completely with my prior ones. I still find the text just as irresistible, but now I can't help but be amused by the word play, such as when he describes her (Dolores Haze) as "dolorous and hazy," and more than once my room mate has caught me giggling uncontrollably from the wry narration. She asked me what the book was about, and when I told her, she replied with, "And that's funny?"
Clint was right. I find myself now disturbed that I am not disturbed, especially since I used to be.
Azar Nafisi said that "Humbert appears to us both as narrator and seducer--not just of Lolita but also of us, his readers[.]" So am I being seduced?
After learning about Nabokov’s synesthesia I started looking for examples in Lolita. This could be reading way too far into the condition, but on almost every page Nabokov does mention color and physical sensation. Of course, any good writer is going to incorporate all of his sensory perceptions into his or her work; however, Nabokov does do it very frequently. At the beginning of chapter fourteen Nabokov writes, “The afternoon drifted on and on, in ripe silence, and the sappy tall trees seemed to be in the know; and desire, even stronger than before, began to afflict me again.” Nabokov uses a lot of personification in his writing. Just in the following chapter, he writes, “As we sat in the darkness of the veranda (a rude wind had put out her red candles)…” Again, personification and color are utilized. I realize that probably the vast majority of Nabokov’s writing is not affected by his diagnoses; however, after reading some of his work, a good case could be made for justifying the affect that synesthesia had on his writing style.
I don't know about you, but whenever I read, I automatically imagine the settings, characters, everything down to the smells and noises. So when the narrator asks me to imagine I say to them "I already have imagined you!"
So why do they directly ask the reader to "imagine." Do they ask for those readers that do not imagine? Are they asking it of everyone, regardless of their imagination? Or are they asking those readers (who like myself) are already in the full bloom of imagination?
I've pondered the answers to all this lovely questions, and I continue to lean towards the last question as the audience the narrator was speaking to. Nabokov (as we have all come to learn) was for 'Good Readers.' So a person with no imagination and people as a generality can all learn the art of 'good readership.' They all share the possiblity of being shaped into 'good little readers.' But those with a blooming imagination already have preconceived notions-- yes yes, they may be more open towards art and all the forms it can shrink and expand, but their ability to automatically enter into another world, limits them as readers. We (imaginers) go into a novel armed with our cabinets full of colors, shapes, voices, smells, feelings (touch - not emotional), etc. We solve the visual puzzle with each page turn. We solve OUR personal visual puzzle of the novel. We do not let the characters speak and present themselves. And that, (in this pieced together post) is one of the main reasons I think Nafisi, Nabokov, and everyother author/narrator-asks, demands, pleads, and begs for us to "IMAGINE them." Imagine them not as they may be, but Imagine them as they ARE.
One last, and random thought about Lolita. While reading it, I snorted out loud at Humbert's line "She tabooed my pin." [In fact, this might be the moment I realized I'll forever be a Nabokov fan]
This is written when Charolette Haze has read H.H.'s journal and he is going to calm her with a drink.
1) Pin in the quote is a play on the word Pen. H.H.'s journal was nothing, it meant absolutely nothing when it was just H.H. and the black bound journal. But, once its subject matter had been previewed by another's eyes, the thoughts contained in it were up for scrutiny. And seeing how the subject matter was his Love for a 12yr old girl- a Love that society was against- it made this Love and these feelings societially taboo. So....Mama Haze, 'tabooed his pi(e)n' by reading it.
2) Pin (we later find out) is the name H.H. has given to his choice drink- pineapple juice and gin. When he is fixing C.Haze a drink, he makes Whiskey and Soda. However he makes the same drink for himself (whiskey and soda), thus hinting to the fact that thru her anger and outrage, C.Haze had 'tabooed [his] pin' as it would not be appropriate to drink a drink that is a defined character trait in H.H.
One of the first things I realized while reading it aloud was all the alliteration Nabokov uses, "the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap , at three, on the teeth". And also that all his sentences are relatively short. The professor said that Nabokov doesn't like symbolic thinking in literature. So his words are very straightforward, but this doesn't make them any less beautiful. He gets to the point without having to hide it in the symbolism of a color representing the way a character is feeling. It's a brave thing to do I think, putting everything out there just as it is. He isn't hiding anything from the readers, just like Humbert Humbert isn't trying to hide what he has done from the 'ladies and gentleman of the jury'.
I also question what was meant by the sentence "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style". HH says this after saying "about as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer". This sentence isn't very clear. So is he trying to say that murderers will use fancy prose to get around an answer to something? But HH is about to explain absolutely everything. He uses a fancy prose style to tell us his whole story. When I think of 'murderers' in general, I don't see them as using fancy prose style. So this kind of confused me.
I also realized that I didn't know what seraphs are. I looked it up via the OED and found out that they are a high ranking form of angel that hover over god's throne and are "specially distinguished by fervour of love". So is HH saying that these divine creatures with all this love for god, would be envious of HH's love? And is he talking about his love with Annabel, or with Lolita?
I really love the way that Nabokov writes. It's so simple yet so beautiful. Or maybe I should say I love the way that Humbert writes? Because this is all really written by Humbert. He is the murderer with the fancy prose style, not Nabokov. I'm interested to read another story by Nabokov to see if he always writes in this way, or if he was just giving Humbert a more complex character in writing his story this way.
It was also interesting to learn that Nabokov studied butterflies, one because it is an unusual subject of study and two because I began to see how lolita is seen by Humbert as a sort of butterfly, but a butterfly that evolves in reverse. Humbert is so hell-bent on keeping Lolita near, and making sure that she remains his personal "nymphlet" so she will remain a beautiful innocent twelve year old girl. But she does end up evolving with the more time she spends with Humbert, and she becomes resentful and deceptive towards him. I also have the annotated version of Lolita and in chapter 35 of part 2, when Humbert confronts Quilty, Quilty calls him self "Maeterlinick-Schmetterling" Schmetterling is German for Butterfly, and Maeterlinick was a Belgian playwright. I just thought that was interesting that he threw that reference into the novel and the purpose for which it serves.
To Quote Krzys, “John Ray views Lolita as a ‘case history’ rather than art.” While I would hope that most of us wouldn’t take it to the excruciating extreme that Ray does, the idea of trying to psychoanalyze Humbert is a tempting one, but a trap that Nabokov is warning us to avoid. We should learn from Ray’s mistakes and not focus on Lolita’s plot, use psychology to empathize with Humbert, or try to take a socially applicable moral lesson from the story. Instead, we should focus on it as a work of art, and focus just on the language of Lolita: the imagery, the structure, and the sound Nabokov chooses. So now that John Ray has shown us how to read Lolita badly, I’m interesting in delving into how to read Lolita well, because about all I can do now is stand in awe.
I realized, almost every profession is like this. I was reading one of my friend's blog criticisms on the current economy. He said it was a matter of the government making the taxpayers finance a bailout. To anyone who has looked at where the money is coming from (Fed balance sheet, etc), this idea (to date) is untrue. What kind of economics background do you need to understand the fundamentals of the recession, something that is effecting every American and the majority of the global economy?
Our world is becoming more and more specialized. People have realized that general practice pays less than a unique job. More people are going to college, more people are pursuing degrees higher than bachelors to even think about entering the workforce. Is literature just following this trend? I have always been under the impression that literature and the arts is for everyone to enjoy. It requires just as much specialized understanding as the economy or biology. One of the differences is who much emphasis is spent on literature in grade school. I have taken one economics course in grade school, but a literature or English course every year. Is that why I thought it was intended for everyone because it is being taught to everyone?
I also found Nabocov's view of psychology and art as two extremes interesting. I had always seen psychology and art as two separate entities that were as comparable as apples were to dogs. This I feel stems back to a point Dr. Nafisi had made during her lecture, that in the past poetry and science were seen as part of one another, but in today's world, we see them almost as opposites. When you really think about it, Nabokov does have a point. There are times when one can analyze a piece to pieces. Art is to be appreciated, not analyzed, and when you do the latter, you are in danger of destroying it's essence.
Clint said in his last blog something about how we were disturbed about how we felt, but really, (as he pointed out) we were disturbed at how UN-disturbing this novel was. I didn’t realize it until he said that, but that is exactly how I felt, I thought I should feel sickened by this story, but because of the way Nabokov has written it, I wasn’t..
This is a short blog entry, but I just am still so fascinated by the use of language in Lolita that I don’t know what else to write about. Nabokov truly is a mastermind.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I think that most people's imaginations are almost inept. I was arguing with someone I know about something like this. She said she felt that she much rather imagine things than be shown them. I find that understandable. An exercise of the mind can be just as pleasurable as the exercise of the body. But exactly what does the imagination create? Does it really create a vision or does it create a false experience of what we believe we are creating in our minds? I don't really know which one is acting when I'm reading a book but I know which one is acting when I'm creating something.
I love to draw. Drawing is my first love. Sometimes I'll think of something great to draw (or so I think), and I'll eagerly get whatever instruments I have nearby to put it to paper. Then, the actual drawing of what I envision. Truth be told, it never is like what I envision it. No matter how many times I redraw and refine, no drawing I ever make will be what I envisioned. It can come out approximately close sometimes. And rarely, it'll come out even better. The drawing will impress me. I can count the number of times that has happened with my hands, and I've worked with my imagination for tens of thousands of hours. It is my opinion, that an artist who can draw what he envisioned is the supreme master of his craft.
I'm finding it hard to articulate what my point is. Maybe its that artists have the most exercised imaginations. Artists of all sorts of course. Musicians, writers, directors, actors and even particularly clever scientists or chef. They use their imaginations for their craft and I find it hard to believe many of them achieve what they wish for. Sometimes, I remember what someone once wrote or told me. "Originality is splicing things up beyond recognition." Sometimes, I think no one has any real imagination.
Another point I think I'm trying to make is that the imagination we use when reading a book is a limited one. One that is not actually used to create something concrete. Maybe if I drew the room in which most of Reading Lolita in Tehran I would feel better when the author says "I wonder if you can imagine us" because then I wouldn't feel hesitant to say, I guess.
Im sorry this post is rambling and unorganized. Sometimes, my imagination fails me.
While reading, I thought the book was both funny and tragic. Humbert's plight was not about pedophile once he started being with Lolita. He was a scorned lover. Like Lolita seducing Humbert, she ran the shots. His obsession gave him the lower hand. He seemed to be the tortured one, while she was good at manipulation. My sympathy was with Humbert.
bottom of Page 29
"I sat with arms folded, on one hip on the window sill, dying of hate and boredom. At last both were out of the quivering apartment-the vibration of the door I had slammed after them still rang in my every nerve, a poor substitute for the backhand slap with which I ought to have hit her across the cheekbone according to the rules of the movies."
His pain, helplessness, and sheer frustration can be felt right from the get go. I guess what I am trying to say is although in society, we see some of HH feelings, like the way he feels when describing Lolita, as abnormal, the way he reacts to his everyday life seems so natural. When you read a work of literature, there is always this bookish, fabricated after taste that many posses, and through some sort of skill which I stand in admiration of, Nabokov was able to sieve this flaw out of the entire book.
I also love the Idea of HH's little notebook. The fact that he feels a need to write down what is happening, but writes it in a way that only he can read it, and in the end, he destroys it. The Idea of keeping a diary is something I still can not fully understand. Why write thoughts so secret that you will rather die than let anyone know about it, in a place where with a little patience can be easily found. I tried keeping a diary once, but even though it had a lock, I never put any of my deepest darkest secrets in them. It always felt like I was writing to someone, that eventually someone would end up reading it.
Its weird, but HH's honesty with us, made me think of the observations we right down for this class. Having to be honest with yourself regardless the outcome is something I think is difficult, and it requires a keen eye and strength. It is hard to be honest about one's self, but to be able to create another person, and be honest for that person, requires great skill (or so it seems), and for that, Nobokov deserves praise.
It seems like it should be obvious that pedophilia is almost a sort of mental disorder that an individual has no control over, yet that still has never really inspired much sympathy from me. Because of Nabokov’s use of words, I am viewing Humbert’s addiction to young girls as I have never looked at pedophilia before. Humbert comes across as extremely intelligent and somehow rational. Justifying himself to the reader from his point of view works very well. It is very clear that Humbert has a problem and instead of feeling outraged and disgusted with Humbert, I feel pity and sorrow for the man.
When Humbert speaks of his “nymphets,” this never bothered me the way that it normally would. Within the first few pages, Nabokov manages to somehow make the taboo subject of sex with prepubescent girls surprisingly acceptable. The emphasis of the novel seems to be on amazingly well-written language rather than the criminal act of pedophilia and that is an awesome accomplishment. I do not think that most authors possess the skills necessary to turn one of the most frowned upon, socially unacceptable acts into an uneventful, everyday subject. I am thoroughly impressed with Nabokov’s skill.
For me, the technique that added the most meaning, and made Lolita both interesting and morally challenging to read was Humbert's narration, and the way Nabokov breaks the 4th wall. Humbert is not only an unreliable narrator, but a downright manipulative one. From the first page, he assumes the role of an accused man pleading his case, and stops regularly to try and justify his actions to his audience. He purposefully and blatantly tries to persuade us to empathize with him, and that elegant bastard does a good job too.
So as I sat down to write my blog, I started to think, why did Nabokov choose this format? What effect did he create by this choice? Humbert doesn't attempt to conceal that he is telling his story in a persuasive manner, but the horrifying realities of his actions ensure that we will never allow ourselves to truly agree with him. We readers are not stupid enough for that, Nabokov knows this, so then what is the point? I would argue that by adding this element to Lolita, Nabokov makes the novel both more difficult and more rewarding. Since we as readers are forced to put up with wiley Humbert, we must struggle to maintain our own moral beleifs (like say, that raping children is bad) against a constant onslaught of verbose rationalizations. The narrator blatantly tells us what to think, but it is constructed in such a way that the thoughts he tries to force feed us (in a spoon of breathtaking imagery) must be fought off to maintain our own moral decency. In this way, Nabokov forces us to think outside the novel and to formulate our own opinions about Humbert, since the opinion presented is unsatisfactory. And this technique is just part of what makes Lolita such an valuable and thought-provoking work.
Hopefully that makes sense, I'm looking forward diving further into the marinas trench of moral questions that Lolita raises tomorrow morning.
In my personal observations so far, obviously I have enjoyed reading it because the language and writing style is so playful, with his puns, forshawowing and irony and use of insults at most of the female characters , et j'adore le Français dans le livre, I feel it put my five hour French class to use. His writing and I suppose the subject matter reminds me of a more traditional, less vulgar Chuck Palaniuk.
Nabokov definatly is right with his rules in "Good Readers and Good Writers" for this novel. while reading Lolita, I don't try and relate to the narrarator , nor does it come naturally to do so. So I guess with that he is able to make people 'good readers'with his 'good writing.'
In Nazar Afisi’s lecture, she instructed readers not to open books to “reaffirm prejudice,” to not look to books to know ourselves. However, my selfishness doesn’t totally stem from wanting to know more about myself. I want to know Why this book?
I remember Nabokov giving the writer three roles – storyteller, teacher, enchanter. In Lolita, I can easily see where he is the storyteller and enchanter. However, I don’t see where he is teaching. Is he teaching us how to effectively use language? That is a copout. To further investigate this question, I reread “Good Readers and Good Writers”.
“If one begins with a ready-made generalization, one begins at the wrong end and travels away from the book before one has started to understand it.” This is overwhelmingly essential in the reading of Lolita. Because of Reading Lolita in Tehran, we knew the premise. The “Introduction” even attempts to force a prejudice that Humbert is a pedophile on us before we begin.
“We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know.” So we should leave our world where Humbert is a pedophile, and enter the world where Lolita is the seductress? This book is an extreme exercise in imagination.
Afisi discussed Imagination extensively in her speech. The magic of Imagination, according to Afisi, is its ability to transcend the limits of time and space. Imagination is a passport to time travel; it plays to our insatiable and sensual urge to know. In imagination, the stranger becomes the intimate stranger. She quoted Nabokov, “Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.” It is our duty as readers to enter this Imagination Land. I have not yet “read” the book on Nabokov’s terms, because I have yet to reread it. But after rereading GRGW, it seems one of the important lessons to glean from Lolita is to use my Imagination.
I didn’t write down the exact quote, so I Googled up a real quote from Nafisi on empathy and imagination. “I believe in empathy. I believe in the kind of empathy that is created through imagination and through intimate, personal relationships. I am a writer and a teacher, so much of my time is spent interpreting stories and connecting to other individuals. It is the urge to know more about ourselves and others that creates empathy. Through imagination and our desire for rapport, we transcend our limitations, freshen our eyes, and are able to look at ourselves and the world through a new and alternative lens.”