Wednesday, April 1, 2009

pg 309

It was so difficult to pick just one passage because the entire book is just so pretty. I went with the last one of the novel.  It would be cool to post this absurdly late and to have it be the final close-reading post, but knowing my general ineptitude, I would forget to post it or something, and the whole idea would just fail.  So, here:

"Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book. But while the blood still throbs though my writing hand, you are still as much a part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska.  Be true to your Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity C. Q. One had to choose between him and H. H., and one wanted H. H. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of alter generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality that you and I may share, my Lolita." (pg 309)

On to the close-reading...

The beginning of the excerpt opens with a reference to the promise Humbert has made a few times - that the record of the love affair cannot be made public while Lolita is still alive, by which time he will surely be dead.  It incriminates both of them, and despite his abhorrent behavior with her, he does truly care for Lolita, enough to want to protect her in this way.

He assures Lolita that even though they are both dead, they still exist [in our imaginations], in memory.  They are no less real today than when they walked the earth together, drove across America together. They are still "a part of blessed matter" and he emphasizes this similarity as if they are still 'together' in death.

"while the blood still throbs through my writing hand" - Throbs: a very visceral, sensual, rough word - almost inherently sexual.  Humbert has used "throb" multiple times prior to this in reference to his penis.  It almost seems like this fervency, this raw sexual energy and desire for Lolita has been converted into a passion for writing it all down, recording the love story in its lovely, horrifying, vividly gruesome entirety.

I really love how Humbert sort of desperately spits all of his well wishes out at once.  He seems almost nervous here, like he wants to make certain that he communicates everything before he signs off... almost like the kind of drawn-out goodbyes you have when you are parting with friends for a very long time.  Sentiments get repeated ("have a safe flight!" "I love you!", etc.) and the process inevitably becomes longer than anyone intends.  It almost seems strange that Humbert, this monster, would be concerned about Lolita's morals, her safety, or whether she'd be true to her husband.  But if we really think about it, we remember his fatherly protectiveness of her - an odd contrast to his decidedly un-parentlike behavior.

Humbert sees his own"specter" as "black smoke." This is worth noting because we usually (or I do, at least) imagine ghosts or dead spirits as being white and misty, not noxious and dark as Humbert describes.  I feel like he sees himself as such a despicable human being that his ghost would be unusually sinister like this.  He also calls himself a "demented giant" - which he kind of was with Lolita.  He was a hulking giant (especially in comparison to her,) he was perverted, deviant, even, yes, demented.

"aurochs and angels..." He finishes with several allusions to art, especially techniques and stylizations of past centuries, as if his affair with Lolita is becoming more and more ancient... which it is.  My dictionary says that aurochs are oxen, so I'm guessing that this is a reference to cave paintings (definitely ancient) and then angels evoke a kind of preraphaelite image - not quite ancient, but absolutely old.  All of these are artistic and beautiful images, like the story of Humbert and Lolita - or at least he'd like us to see the artistry and beauty present in the story, even amidst the inherent disgust and horror.  All of these, (including the "prophetic sonnets") are ways of immortalizing the past, preserving the love and passion forever. This explains his reference to "durable pigments," only his version is rendered in his lovely wordplay and haunting metaphors.  Humbert wants us to know that though he and Lolita could never last forever - for she grew up! she had to! - their memory lives on in the novel, in the "refuge of art" - a sort of safe haven for their sin.

"My Lolita" - possessive, even still.  She was such a focus of his life that he still considers her 'his,' even in death, even once she has moved on. For at some point, she became his love, his life - "light of [his] life, fire of [his] loins.  [His] sin, [his] soul." (9)

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