Lolita.....oh dear, Lolita.
Sometimes it feels like there aren't enough adjectives in the English language, my trying to think of a way to succinctly describe Lolita is one of those times. Disturbing? Not so much. I think the vast majority of people who find themselves "disturbed" after reading Lolita are actually disturbed at how not-disturbing they find the novel itself. That was a confusing sentence. Hey, there's one: confusing! Confusing fits perfectly. I don't speak French, nor do I have a PhD in English or History, that makes it a tad bit difficult to read this novel. With that being said, my undergraduate eyes aren't blind to the genius that Nabokov spat on that paper. It doesn't take an academic to realize that Nabokov could write circles around 99% of authors who cite Englsh as their first language (which is especially impressive when noted that it was Nabokov's second). One of my favorite parts is in the afterword when Nabokov writes "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English". Second-rate brand of English, really? If that's second rate, I must literally write in the "as x approaches infinity" brand of English, because I've never thought, written, or said anything as elegant and meaningful as any given page in Lolita.
I remember being frustrated, as a few others were, when we read Reading Lolita in Tehran because it gave away so much of the plot of Lolita, I also remember being doubtful when our fearless leader noted that Plot had nothing to do with it. He was right. Nabokov used plot like Picasso used canvas. He only needed a plot to give his genius something to cling to. Quite often I find "great pieces of literature" annoying because it's obvious the author was more interested in promoting his own knowledge than creating something truly meaningful, but the narrator Humbert eliminates that problem immediately; Nabokov isn't the one speaking French at an annoying pace and making random allusions, Humbert is! Pretentious prick. I know this post seemed to wander from kiss-ass comment to kiss-ass comment, but I'm going to have to digest Lolita a little longer before I can form any kind of decent, organized thesis about exactly how it kicked literary ass. Perhaps by tomorrow morning.