Off the Shelf - "Lolita"

by Marcus Pan

Chain Border

LolitaAgainst the will of one of my coworkers, I did in fact read straight through Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. It was a long ordeal, difficult at times, but overall I'm glad I did. Nabokov's prose is quite well written, with lovely analogies and beautiful backdrops of scenery. What made it difficult for the most part was the text would occasionally slip into French, which I know nothing of. Because it was usually surrounded by English verbiage, I was able to determine the meaning by context - but still I wasn't ready for it.

Made at least two times that I know of into film form, Lolita is the erotic story of a middle European man who doesn't fancy women his age. Rather, he fancies girls in the "not quite legal" age range. As such it took a number of publisher inquiries for Olympia Press to finally pick it up in France in the year 1955. It crossed the shores to be printed by Putnam in 1958.

It is about as erotic as Shakespeare, actually - only those able to peel back the analogies and verbiage to get to the root of the language will be able to tell that sexual acts took place. If you can get past the fact that the lady of Humbert's fancy begins the sordid sex at the age of 12 or 13 (I forget exactly, it was a long book) you might even say it is a sardonically twisted love story.

Considered a classic in most circles, the biographical story of Humbert and his nymphet Dolores is quite dramatic. It moves along slowly at times, but the scenery is always pleasant along the way. I wouldn't even call any portion of it "exciting," not even the near-parody death scene that is considered the novel's main climax and effectively closes the book. But it was overall pleasant to read something as well written as this.

I can't recommend it to today's book fancier. Pulp fictions and Harlequinn romance readers would find Lolita much slower than today's writing style. But if you're really in the mood for something to settle down to, for a long time, and you like the long drawn-out drama thing, it might tickle your mind a bit.

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Buy Lolita

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
Originally published by Olympia Press, 1955
Copyright © 1955 by Vladimir Nabokov
ISBN 679-72316-1

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