Book Review: Lolita

A rejection of pedophillia, this novel hardly glamorizes or justifies the actions of Humbert Humbert. Rather, the novel offers a look inside the mind of a tortured soul. The moral abombination of paedophilia is delivered as almost acceptable, developing conflict in the reader who feels both revulsion towards this trully terrible act and empathy for this character Humbert who is seduced by Lolita, falls in love and ultimately has his heart broken. 

However, Humbert understands his obsession is driving him insane as he contemplates a poem he wrote and reveals, "By psychoanalyzing this poem, I notice it is really a maniac's masterpiece. The stark, stiff, lurid rhymes correspond very exactly to certain perspeciveless and terrible landscapes and figures... I wrote many more poems. I immersed myself in the poetry of others. But not for a second did I forget the load of revenge". While Humbert recognizes his struggle, he is content with pursuing it. Reading on, I actually began to pity Humbert and his tortured soul; his insanity and most of all his humanity. Humbert begins to understand the full extent of the damage he had inflicted upon Lo. "I happened to glimpse from the bathroom, through a chance combination of mirror aslant and door ajar, a look on her face... that look I cannot exactly describe... and expression of helplessness so perfect that it seemed to grade into one of rather comfortable inanity just because this was the very limit of injustice and frustration--and every limit presupposes something beyond it--hence the neutral illumination."

Spoiler Alert: It is the ending that truly reveals the inner-struggle Humbert has within himself. Humbert tracks down the man who took Lolita away from him- another man who has committed the same sins that Humbert has- and brutally kills him. Because this man represents what Humbert hates most about himself, Humbert is symbolically destroying another man for the same sins he hates himself for committing.

While I struggled through the first half of this novel (describing the most lecherous manipulation on Humbert's part) by the end I was consumed by it. It is an examination of the destructive nature of selfish love: selfishness kills love- it is a black hole that can never be satisfied- it is self-pitting and never looks outside itself. Lolita's words to Humbert years later sums this idea up; "He broke my heart, you merely broke my life".

On the shelf to read next: something a little more uplifting.


Recession Professions

I have been out of school for almost a year now, sending out resume upon resume to any job that is some-what related to what I want to do: work in publishing, ideally doing editorial. I’ve had a few interviews here and there and mostly get the same response; “we are looking for someone with more experience”. Okay, fair enough. Editing my university newspaper and interning at a small publishing house in Madison (I love you Bleak House) probably can’t compare to someone who has been in the industry for a few years. But how am I supposed to break into an industry that is firing more employees than they are hiring? How am I going to become an editor in a world where people would rather renew their Netflix subscription than their newspaper? Where ebooks are more talked about than actual literature? The thought is somewhat daunting.

I googled recession-proof jobs today and it doesn’t look pretty. Perhaps I should have studied to become a pharmacist (sorry mom) or a computer system administrator.  The only problem with that is that those things don’t interest me. What does is the written word (yeah, I’m a dork). So, the only thing to do is keep plugging away. Hopefully soon someone from HR will discover all the talent and drive I poses.

Okay, time to send out some more resumes… 

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.