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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reading Lolita in Westlake #003

I continue to plunge forward with "Lolita." What still strikes me is its use of language and the avid depiction of the narrator's mind by use of stream of consciousness. The parenthesis indicating internal thought also add to the equation. Last night, as I was entering page 200 something, the scene where Lolita gets sick drew a barrage of disgust from me, but I continued reading. The reason I thought it was bad was that Humbert states that he "gives up all hope for intercourse" as Lolita burns up with a high fever in bed. I hate the degenerate selfishness. My only sympathies come when he is finally alone (before he meets up with Rita), as he bounces from one corner to the other not knowing what to do. This scene is the only place in the book where the narrator becomes human, or more than human, the quintessential heart-broken lover left to pick up the pieces of his life. The sense of alienation is terribly painful to any reader who has experienced the desolation of being abandoned by a loved one. It is only then when one feels some association to him.

I have been reading some critical analysis of the novel and I am in agreement with those that feel the ugliness of the book is necessary to counter what is otherwise a blissful use of language. Humbert speaks with a refreshing command of English and French, and this only goes a long way to make the reader appreciate Nabokov's ideas and use of language. This is not to justify the book or its subject matter. As one critic observes: "The moral structure of "Lolita" is surely strong enough to support and contain the anti-moral material the novel permits itself. A novel is not pornographic (except in the case that it can be used as pornography)when its interest in sexual excitement is a necessary part of such large and serious interests. It is not anti-cultural when its cynicism (Humbert's cynicism) dramatizes an alienation which is so moving, though unobtrusively, placed and judged." I have to agree with this assessment. Compared to "Memoirs of a Beatnik," "Lolita" is a school primer.

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