Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

View from this book:

I read bits and pieces of Lolita over several months, often snatching borrowed time by reading on the bus on the way to school.

The Book:

Reading Lolita on the bus gives you two reasons to be disturbed: 1) pedophiles, and 2) motion sickness.  (Another reason to be disturbed: People in Portland like to comment on what their bus neighbors are reading.  I know everyone sees me reading Lolita.  I know it’s a classic that everyone should read at some point in their lives.  That doesn’t stop me from wanting to hide it far, far away from my bus neighbors’ prying eyes—shoot, now I’m talking about it like it’s porn—it’s just that it’s narrated by a pedophile who has erotic plans for his stepdaughter, ok YUCK YUCK YUCK I’m stuffing it into my backpack.)

OK, I’m now safely back in my own room, where I can write whatever I want about a book, whether it has pedophilic protagonists or not. And, truly, Lolita is a very good book.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the plotline.  If you haven’t read it yet, prepare to be absolutely drowned in gorgeous writing and picture-perfect depictions of America, while being creeped out of your socks.  (Look at that book cover. Think stepfather. Creeped out yet?)  Because of this book’s shock-factor, you (dear reader) end up reflecting mightily on societal mores and social expectations, which is like Lolita took a page from The French Lieutenant’s Woman, then decided to go on crack.

And the writing really, truly is excellent.  A lovely quote by Nabokov about 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.” Various snippets of comments online show how critics have just drooled over this book over the years: “a tour-de-force of style and narrative” and “wantonly gorgeous prose” (the review  is beautiful in its own right).  The writing is beautiful, the narrator is fantastically unreliable and could serve as a model for any creative writing class to strive for, and you are tugged along, unable to put the book down, even as the bus halts at your stop.  8 out of 10.



2 thoughts on “Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  1. Absolutely agree, disarmingly gorgeous prose. That Nabokov could write to that level in anything other than his native tongue is staggering and deflating. Completely brilliant.

    My review is here, if interested: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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