Lolita (Nabakov)

The first time I read this it was because I was curious. Here was a book, considered by so many a classic (and by some pornographic), and I just thought I should read it. I did, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me. It was more like I was relieved that I could now check it off my list.

The re-read was strange. It felt much longer. Funnier in places, satirical in others (though Nabakov adamantly denies any anti-American agenda (in his short piece called, “On a Book Entitled Lolita” that follows this 50th anniversary edition). I also know more about Freud than I did the first time I read it; that helped and Nabakov admits he has no love for the man’s ideas.

Still, though he mocks it in his post-novel essay, I do want to know what he’s doing here – confounding our expectations? Playing with an unreliable narrator? Nabakov suggests he’s after something he calls “aesthetic bliss,” and if I understand him, I don’t think it’s here, at least not for me, not this time.

Why does this book sit near the top of so many lists of classics? Interestingly, the board of Modern Library put it at #4 whereas the readers put it at #34 (http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/). There are some memorable moments (the ending) and some great writing (“I was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past”). But why does this book get such critical acclaim? What impact has the controversy had on it?

At the very least, it allowed the literate Sting to offer this –

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