Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Nabokov’

11th Decade Roundup!

It’s that time of my reading life again, where I review the last ten books I read, pretend I can remember them all, and then take stock of what happened. It’s also that time of my blogging life where I’m incredibly frustrated because WordPress has eaten three of my blog posts in the last two days. C’mon, guys, get it together.

This was a pretty good batch of books. It was a good mix of books I knew I’d enjoy, books that were just enough of a digression from my usual taste to be a challenge without being annoying, and books that I really liked but never would have read otherwise. It’s pretty much what you’d want in a book grouping.

I started out with What I Loved, which was fine while I was reading it, but very much on the “meh” portion of the scale. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I read it, I suppose, but I doubt I’ll read it again. Another book in the category of, “glad I read it, now let’s move on” was The Girls of Slender Means. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, but I’d be surprised if I ever revisited it.

Then there were the books about two very different boys who were actually pretty similar, in some ways. Huck Finn is always a classic, and if you dialed up Huck’s delinquency and sense of adventure and combined it with a bit of crazy, you’d have Francie Brady of The Butcher Boy

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was a bit of an emotional read, but it was okay because it was followed by two zany books by Douglas Adams. It’s always fun to revisit Dirk Gently and his friends, and it’s even more fun to try and explain what you’re reading to people who don’t know Douglas Adams.

Finally, I was thoroughly sickened and shocked by Lolitabefore being captivated by some Murakami magic in Kafka on the ShoreI rounded out the bunch with the amazing Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think Vonnegut is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors.

My favorite book out the batch was definitely Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut knows how to spin a phrase and play with language at least as well as Douglas Adams does, but there’s something about the way he weaves chaos through order and brings crazy insights into his work that I adore.

The reward for biggest shock goes to Lolita. I went in with bravado thinking that I was prepared and certainly wouldn’t be shocked like all those prudes who are sickened by books about sex. I was wrong.

And the book I liked the least was probably What I Loved. Like I said, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that it didn’t do anything for me. Not every book can.

Now I’m off to (hopefully) catch up on my post for the next book, House of Leaves, assuming WordPress stops eating my posts.

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Book #108: Lolita

Wow.

That’s about all I have to say about Nabokov’s Lolita.

Wow.

Its reputation definitely proceeds it, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. I assumed the scandal was just because the novel was racy and the girl was a bit young. I was thinking maybe she was 17 or 18 and the guy was in his 40s.

I was not expecting the book to be, “My name is Humbert Humbert and I’m a dirty old man who likes 11-and-12-year-olds.”

But it was. It was and I had a much harder time dealing with it than I expected. It just kept pinging on my “wow this is really freaking creepy.” radar. Maybe I went into this book with a bit too much bravado. I was sure that it wasn’t as scandalous as I’d heard and totally confident that I wouldn’t be grossed out or disturbed by it.

But I was. I just…no. So much no. I can’t even begin to actually review the book or think about it analytically because it raises my No, HELL no! reflex too much. So I guess this post is more reaction than review. Hope that’s okay because I want to think about Humbert Humbert as little as possible.

Some people would say that “there’s no need for that” and that Lolita shouldn’t have been written because there’s no place for such stories in literature, but as much as this book truly disturbed me, I don’t agree. Would Nabokov have evoked such strong, visceral reactions from me (and so many other people) if Lolita had been 18 and a consenting “adult”? I highly doubt it.

For me there was the constant battle where I naturally wanted to sympathize with Humbert, or at least semi-relate to him, just because he was the narrator and reading makes you put yourself in the narrator’s shoes a lot of the time, but I’d be going along, starting to come around to him and then I’d stop and thing, yep, yep, you’re talking about having sex with a pre-teen.

It was wild. Not in a good way. I didn’t hate Lolita the way I hate books like The Scarlet Letter, because Nabokov is a freaking good writer. I just hated the experience of reading it. I wound up rushing through the last 30 pages or so just so I could finish and say, “I’m sure glad that’s over with!”

Here’s to never having to share brainspace with a creep like Humbert Humbert ever again!
I hope.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Kafka On The Shore

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