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NaNoReMo 2008: Lolita Part I, Chapters 14-22

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Status Report: From sex to death in 30 pages. Having insinuated himself into the home of Ms. and Lil. Haze, our young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of homicide. But even given his history of depravity, he just can't pull the proverbial trigger when the time comes to do the deed. Apparently even Hummy Hum has his limits.

There's something a bit bizarre about the way Lolita turns on its head the conventional wisdom regarding what is and is not permissible in polite literature. There is, after all, an entire industry devoted to fictitious murder: crime novels, mystery magazines, cinematic thrillers, and the like. And yet few of these would dream of showcasing pedophilia in the brazen manner than Nabokov does here. Presumably that is why the spin-off show Molestation, She Wrote was canceled after only 13 episodes.

Aside! I am really enjoying this novel.

Words Looked Up:

  • Preprandial: Before a meal, especially dinner.
  • Venery: 1. Indulgence in or pursuit of sexual activity. 2. The act of sexual intercourse.
  • Incarnadine: 1. Of a fleshy pink color. 2. Blood-red.
  • Chiaroscuro: 1. The technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation. 2. The arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art.

Posted on November 12, 2008 to NaNoReMo 2008


I have the annotated version you're reading, and I sure wish they'd put "Spoiler Alert" at the top of the Notes section -- the notes gave away the ending before I had finished the foreword!

Agree w/ you re: really enjoying the novel -- me too!

Posted by: 3 on November 13, 2008 5:47 AM

No favorite line in this section? Come on, Lolita is so filled with gorgeous prose, surely you can come up with something!

p.s. I am so glad you are reading this, and encouraging others to. On a purely aesthetic level, Lolita is one of the greatest books ever written in the English language, and so many people assume they know everything about it just because they know it's about kiddiesex.

Posted by: amy on November 13, 2008 6:00 AM

Matt, I'm also kind of surprised that you haven't mentioned any of the (dark) comedy inherent in the book. Some of the more pointed humor comes later when HH is railing against all things Americana, but even at the point where you're out I was smiling wryly. It's interesting to me that if HH weren't, you know, a child molester he could pretty easily be a pompous, sad sack, comic figure. I loved watching him get so worked up about stuff to so little effect.

Posted by: Jamie on November 13, 2008 7:29 AM

"Chiaroscuro" - I learned that word from the Trogdor episode of Strong Bad Emails.

Posted by: straight on November 13, 2008 8:54 AM

I am listening to jeremy irons read "lolita" on cd and so am a little bit ahead of you. the one too-convenient element of the plot, i thought, approaches. irons does a wonderful job but one drawback of listening rather than reading is you can't stop and re-read and savor the writing. or look for clues. or try to keep everything straight. when you did "catch-22" last year and i started to re-read it, i was struck by all the shtick i hadn't noticed years ago. "lolita" holds up much better.

Posted by: Chas on November 13, 2008 10:03 AM

I used to like Lolita, before I became a parent. Now it makes me simultaneously want to throw up and kill someone. Ah, art!

Posted by: Emily on November 13, 2008 10:07 AM

I'm not sure exactly where you are (I read ahead... what, its good!), so I don't want to spoil, but I think that what happens next, that Chas thinks is "too convenient", is essential to the plot. The timing is a little cheesy, but the way the Humbert reacts to it is insane and really shows what's in his character.

Posted by: Morgan on November 13, 2008 10:48 AM

This is my favorite novel/work of written language everrr. Glad I passed by before you've gotten too far, I've decided to re-read it along with you guys for the who knows what time. Joyce really only paved the way for Nabokov and it's nearly incomprehensible that this was third(!!!) language. Nabokov's wit and cynical humor rival the Joyce's as well. It's amazing how well Nabokov fuses the deepest tragedy and cleverest comedy together in such a elegant way. I get chills, I laugh and I verge on tears.

A note from the afterword of the book, no spoilers no worries, that I think should really be the preface:

"After Olympia Press, in Paris, published the book, an American critic suggested that Lolita was the record of my love affair with the romantic novel. The substitution "English language" for "romantic novel" would make this elegant formula more correct."

Posted by: Matt on November 14, 2008 9:07 AM

seen this Nabokov clip?


Posted by: HP on November 14, 2008 11:56 AM

Ack!! Am I too late to sign up?? Must I listen to Jeremy Irons while I sleep??

Hep!! Hep!!

--askyermom, professional bookclub reject

Posted by: askyermom on November 17, 2008 11:11 AM

I'm really ambivalent about this book. I started really not enjoying it, but it was decent enough (in terms of writing) that I didn't want to quit, but I wanted the experience over with, so I plowed through and finished the book.

There's a bit toward the end (which I won't comment on yet, for those who are still going), that pretty much turned why I was disliking the book on its head. All in all, it's like a very well written, completely unpleasant time.

Posted by: Craig on November 17, 2008 6:36 PM

@amy -- a little late, but one of my favorite sentences from this section has to be: "However, when I had done such a simple thing as kiss her, she had awakened at once, as fresh and strong as an octopus (I barely escaped)."

Might not do justice to the bounty of gorgeous prose, as you said, but it's too great to let slip by without comment.

Posted by: LIbbey on November 19, 2008 10:39 PM