Reading Now: Lolita

After running across many references to this novel I decided to pick it up.  I am about half-way through it and am thinking of putting it down for good (I almost never do this). While Nabokov's wonderful use of language is something to be praised, the perverse subject matter has been leaving a sick feeling in my stomach. 

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Nabokov begins this novel with these words, spoken by the aging Humbert Humbert, in which he is describing the "nymphet" Dolores Haze.  From the very start of the novel I have hated the speaker Humbert. His obsession with nymphets, a term used to describe girls between the age of nine and 14 who posses "the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate," is sick to a point of illness. Not only does he claim these nymphets have the ability to cast a spell over a man, but to be fully appreciated "the student should not be surprised to learn that there must be a gap of several years, never less than ten I should say, generally thirty to forty, and as many as ninety in a few know cases, between maiden and man". A little too twisted for my taste...

While I am tempted to throw this novel in the trash and never look at it again, I feel I have some sort of obligation to Lolita. I can't just leave her hanging in the balance of Humbert... Perhaps this reaction was one of Nabokov's aims; just as the main character is conflicted with his own impulses and desires, the reader is conflicted as well. Just as much as this book is terrifying, it is also gripping to the point where I feel I can somehow help Lolita. 

Regardless, the novel is truthfully written and examines the mind of predator obsessed with this prey. I am going to keep reading, for now.

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