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Old 07-22-2014, 11:26 AM   #101
CheddarTrek
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I assumed that this wasn't the thread that people wanted to discuss it in, else they'd be discussing it? I thought this thread was meant to be for selecting which book to discuss.

But the group is easy enough to delete if it isn't used. I don't think it necessary either, but I didn't get the impression we were going to use this thread. /shrug

[Edit] And yeah, groups aren't great because you lose traffic from everyone who comes on to the forums and looks for active discussions. You have to go seek them out when they're in groups.

Edit2: Yeah, okay, nevermind on that front. I'll let someone else sort it out.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:32 PM   #102
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Huh... guess I'll throw a question out there to get people started, then.

I'm interested to know what people thought of the authorial voice/narrator. Was it distracting? Did you like the prose? What captured your attention about it?

For me, there were three things. One I mentioned upthread was the way he used nominal phrasing to capture passing time and movement, like two and three word descriptions of scenery standing in for travelogues.

The second was the way he'd turn a phrase. It wasn't often, but when he did it, it captured my attention. One I remember laughing at was "to think that between a Hamburger and a Humberger she would - invariably, with icy precision—plump for the former."

The third was how he used assonance and rhyme. Funny, because so many of the writing/editing books of I read say to avoid it in prose. Yet, he did it well, and it drove the point, rather than bringing focus on the writing itself.

What did you all see/think?
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:50 PM   #103
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The two most appealing aspects of his writing that I noticed were the way he used negation, or a kind of negative, narrative space to imply what was left out, complimented by a kind of descriptive correspondence of forms.

The idea that with his first love, Annabel, there was some kind of almost divine union of the spiritual and the physical, reinforced by his descriptions of how his father's hotel was a 'white-washed cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside (sheltered, rigidly-structured childhood),' and his conflation of natural settings with the acts in the mimosa grove, that led to his later transgressions. The thin-limbed girls and and the slender-mimosa leaves, corresponding to the description of her legs, simultaneously as the barrier to and indication of a cruder imagination of what was actually happening.

It is all the more vivid for its exclusion of details. Beyond even the use of metaphor, this felt like a kind of skillful shrouding that left only the shape of something more.

EDIT: And of course this guy majored in English Lit., lol. -_-
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Old 08-08-2014, 06:22 AM   #104
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Heh, I somehow missed the two posts above. I had assumed that no one wanted to talk about it lol. Okay, my brief thoughts:

I was quite disappointed by the book in general. Lolita has a reputation for being challenging and unnerving, but I got none of that. From its reputation, I was expecting the book to somehow make us sympathise with Humbert. I was expecting to be challenged in my concept of the nature of consent.

But no. It's just a straight up account of what appears to be a completely typical paedophile. There's no sense, not even remote, in which his victim could be said to be consenting or enjoying herself. I was expecting Lolita to have seduced Humbert, but she's completely innocent. Nor is there a sense in which Humbert is a victim of desires against which he struggles.

He plans, premeditates, and glories in his abuse. He feels no guilt. He has plans to continue his abuse through generations.

So I thought the book rather shallow. I suppose when it was published it would have been far more shocking, both because paedophilia was talked about less, and because of the detail of the narrative. But in the age of the internet our skin has been thickened considerably. Things that used to shock propriety are now commonplace. The narrative is still stomach turning for sure, but we're not offended by the fact that someone dared to write it.

From a technical standpoint, there were a few things I admired.

Firstly was the tying together of past and present events. I think a lot of the most successful books do this: they dip into the protagonist's past, their childhood, and from there the motives for their present action can be found. The masterclass of this type of characterisation is Khaled Hosseini.

Another clever technical thing was the use of speech. Lolita barely speaks, ever. Or at least, her speech is barely ever reported directly. It's paraphrased or reported after being parsed through Humbert's egomania. I've mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's a clever technique that shows how Humbert dehumanises his victim. She's not a person, she's an object, a possession that exists for his gratification. When he rapes her he doesn't even try to maintain a pretense that he wants her to enjoy it too: he hurts her and it doesn't bother him at all. The fact that, in Humbert's narrative, she isn't even capable of voicing her own opinions or desires reflects this.

The downside of the technique is that it gives the book a rather dead feeling. Dialogue is, in my view, what brings a scene to life. It gives a scene dynamism and colour, makes the characters feel more real. Narratives that are light on speech feel like they're taking place entirely in a realm of thought, not through actions in a physical world.
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Old 08-08-2014, 04:01 PM   #105
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Finished it yesterday. Really enjoyed it, especially from a technical perspective. Lolita just floored me with its highly rich language. Nabokov invents new words (quite a few of which I couldn't find in my Kindle's dictionary/wikipedia which was a little annoying), co-joining words here and there, and is just toying with the language. That is pretty much the sole reason I ventured on with my reading and didn't drop the book. This was my first read and I am quite certain of the fact that I must have missed out on certain subtle aspects of the language Nabokov uses. So I'm planning to give this book a re-read as well.

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Originally Posted by Taure View Post
Heh, I somehow missed the two posts above. I had assumed that no one wanted to talk about it lol. Okay, my brief thoughts:

I was quite disappointed by the book in general. Lolita has a reputation for being challenging and unnerving, but I got none of that.
I think the challenging aspect might just be from a purely technical standpoint. And tbh, I was a little unnerved when I started reading. Yes, your point about people in the Internet age having a thicker skin, but I've never quite read a subject matter so depraved, especially from a POV character.

Quote:
From its reputation, I was expecting the book to somehow make us sympathise with Humbert. I was expecting to be challenged in my concept of the nature of consent.
While I didn't sympathise with Humbert, I could see easy it would be for people to do so. Humbert is a pedo, yet he thinks of himself as a person who is undeniably in love. He practically worships Lolita. It could be very tempting to fall for his charming and flowery words and start sympathising with him, despite him confessing his depravity right from the start. Hilarious as well. Dolores is portrayed as a smart and ruthless girl who schemes, plans, is mingling with people our protagonist doesn't want her to, and in the end, just stomps over poor Humbert's heart and runs away. Never once is the reader led on to believe that Lolita was miserable with him.

Of course all that is just a trap. But a trap many can fall into.

Quote:
But no. It's just a straight up account of what appears to be a completely typical paedophile. There's no sense, not even remote, in which his victim could be said to be consenting or enjoying herself. I was expecting Lolita to have seduced Humbert, but she's completely innocent.
I do remember there being a scene where Humbert claims that Lolita seduces him. She talks to him about her sexual experiences and whatnot, and then asks him about a certain thing that she thought everyone did. So while she's not quite enjoying herself, she does initiates the encounter. Of course, this is still at the beginning stage of their relationship, so it can be chalked up to her schoolgirl crush.

Agreed with what you say regarding the use of speech as well. Though it was not just with Lolita that he does that. His interactions with other characters are also similar, where he just goes on into long monologues where he paraphrases the entire conversation, the result is quite humorous in numerous cases.

The one other thing I enjoyed a lot was Humbert's description of other characters. Almost every side character is described in a hilarious manner, using often metaphors and wordplays.

Overall, I can easily see the appeal of Lolita. It was often unnerving, a few times just plain repulsive, while being absolutely beautiful most other times.
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Old 08-13-2014, 07:06 PM   #106
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Originally Posted by Nae'blis View Post
I do remember there being a scene where Humbert claims that Lolita seduces him. She talks to him about her sexual experiences and whatnot, and then asks him about a certain thing that she thought everyone did. So while she's not quite enjoying herself, she does initiates the encounter. Of course, this is still at the beginning stage of their relationship, so it can be chalked up to her schoolgirl crush.
You're right, the scene comes after he picks her up from camp and takes her to the hotel. The drugs he gives her don't work, but she wakes up the next morning and, based on what she learned from camp, initiates sex with him.

We don't learn until later on in the book that he actually goes at it three times, and that's why she's so sore and upset with him. What I found more disturbing, however, was the fact that I couldn't trust the author's tale. As he shifts in the book from providing a defense, to giving an account of his life with Lolita, little pieces slip in when he references the past events. The problem then, is that the reader is left trusting only the brutally honest parts where he does things to hurt her, because, though he may be many things, he's not a sadist.


Quote:
Agreed with what you say regarding the use of speech as well. Though it was not just with Lolita that he does that. His interactions with other characters are also similar, where he just goes on into long monologues where he paraphrases the entire conversation, the result is quite humorous in numerous cases.
I found that pretty intriguing, in that it's a way to not only give us the other person's character, but the author was revealing numerous tidbits about Humbert as well.

Quote:
The one other thing I enjoyed a lot was Humbert's description of other characters. Almost every side character is described in a hilarious manner, using often metaphors and wordplays.

Overall, I can easily see the appeal of Lolita. It was often unnerving, a few times just plain repulsive, while being absolutely beautiful most other times.
That it was. I can absolutely see why it's considered a classic. I can also see why there was an uproar over it. Pedophilia is one of the last true taboos in the West.

_____

Did anyone pick up how the bodies of water were named based on the overarching theme of the storyline at that particular point? Moreover, it seems as though they were telling a substory . . . of pursuit, orgasm, relationship difficulty, and finally pregnancy (the opposite of what he would want, since a Nymph shouldn't be able to get pregnant, because that's an "adult" thing).

"Our Glass Lake" (which was literally "Hourglass Lake") is something brittle and easily broken, then as it shifts in the story to Hourglass Lake, it also shifts to "time and fate" (as others have stated on this book).

The camp, where Lolita had her eyes opened both by other youth on Willow Island (willow = slender arms and legs), and then where Humbert picked her up before their first sexual act was "Lake Climax." Thus, equaling the climax of Lolita, or, since the island was part of a test, the climax of conquering Lolita.

In the travelogue, around page 175 and ff, we get Iceberg lake in Colorado, and Crater late in Oregon, both of which we find out later, were places where "We had rows . . . . The biggest ones we had took place . . . . on Milner Pass, 10759 feet high, Colorado . . ." Note, that pass is the closest Southern pass across the mountains from Iceberg lake, and they were going to Arizona, which would make sense for them to be leaving Iceberg lake and going across the pass. Crater lake is further, from Portland Or (another row), but they most defintely a day's drive. Idaho falls holds the first fish hatchery and Sun Valley, where they had another row, is just a little ways away, etc. etc.

In the middle of this, we get this strange "other." The dry land of the south, where they are in Texas at "Conception Park," a border he dare not cross (hold on to that...).

Then, we get that Lolita "radiates" or "glows," and becomes lustful (177). After that, we learn about dramatic mood swings and crying every night.

All of this comes then, before we get a soliloquy about him taking Lolita across the border, and into Mexico, where he could wait a couple years, then marry her and raise a child... and he be a grandpa who would have another nymphet.

So . . . Based on the water names that seem to be about his pursuit of Lolita, and then the opposite of what he wants, dry land at conception, followed by stereotype actions for a pregnant woman, was "conception" actual conception?

Did Lo get pregnant here? Note also, that the next place they visited was a "ghost town," which may be hinting at something once alive being dead—though this comes before the other signs of pregnancy given above.
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