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Marj
Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2004 7:37 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Lolita!! Light of my life! Fire of my loins! My sin, my soul-- Lolita!

And thus we begin our book discussion of Lolita. Your moderator is the oh, so handsome and debonair, Charles.

Welcome everyone and enjoy!
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pedersencr
Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2004 8:07 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 921 Location: New Orleans
Marj!
I think it's that cough medicine! Rolling Eyes
But let me at least second the welcoming part of that post from our most gracious host.

I can see Lolita, pale-gray-eyed, standing, looking at us, half-smiling, wondering what we will think of her and her story.

The book became simultaneously famous and scandalous when it was published in the United States in 1958. Vladimir Nabokov's writing style, the story he told, and the memorable characters he created, all combined to secure his place as one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century and, together with film rights, also helped secure his financial independence.

Some called it a love story, others a tragedy and others yet, even something of a detective story. And some called it much, much worse.

Now, almost fifty years later it has become, Rashomon-like, a thrice-told tale.

So, now let us talk here about our own thoughts and reactions to this difficult novel, Lolita.

Welcome to the Lolita Forum! The floor is open.

Charles
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yambu
Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2004 10:35 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 23 May 2004 Posts: 6441 Location: SF Bay Area
Good intro, Charles. I'll start with the book's third sentence:

"Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."

If Spanish is your first language, you may form your T's on the teeth. I am a native English speaker, and I form my T's somewhere on my hard palate. Maybe I'm different? Also, somewhere in the annotated version (I knew I would have trouble citing this stuff), Alfred Appel suggests that Humbert favored "Lo - " pronounced as in lollipop.

So I guess my point is that Humbert is already possessing Lo, just in the unique way he proinounces her name. Or at least the way he sounds it to hiumself. If he ever addressed her that way, she would have been sure to call him on it. The thought just now occurs to me - does he ever call her by name directly? Maybe he does a hundred times, but I'm not checking now. That's what you all are for :)

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tirebiter
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 1:07 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4011 Location: not far away
Yeah, Nabokov loves to tell people how to pronounce stuff. In his book Gogol, he spends a whole paragraph telling us how to pronounce "Gogol" and "poshlust" so we'll say it just right. As for Lolita, he wants a very Latin pronunciation, with the "t" not just at the teeth but between the teeth. Sounds dirty (if you do it right)....
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pedersencr
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:29 am Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 921 Location: New Orleans
The very (very) little I ever learned about Russian pronunciation made me wonder if he didn't have the Russian in mind when he wrote that three-step description. Especially that "t," which makes all the difference in how an American sounds when trying to pronounce Nabokov's beloved original language.

As to the other question, I see Humbert using both "Lo" and "Lolita" in direct address, and when he isn't thinking of her in his other ways.

BTW In Lyne's film, I thought Melanie Griffith's pronunciation (as Charlotte Haze) of "That's my Lo," was utterly fantastic, with intonation and emphasis exactly as if she were saying "That's my chair."

Glad y'all are aboard,
Charles
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marantzo
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 10:05 am Reply with quote
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I haven't re-read Lolita since reading it when it came out. What I remember about some of the comments on it was when one critic said that it was old Europe seducing young America and another critic disputed this by saying it was actually young America seducing old Europe.
pedersencr
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 11:35 am Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 921 Location: New Orleans
marantzo wrote:
one critic said that it was old Europe seducing young America and another critic disputed this by saying it was actually young America seducing old Europe.


Marantz,
You are right on target, and Nabokov hmself heard those two criticisms also, because he took particular pains to dismiss them. For myself, I'm not so sure the first one goes away so easily. In what would be the afterword to Lolita, entitled "On a Book Entitled Lolita," Nabokov is discussing the reactions of some of his early readers/reviewers (p 314):

"...an otherwise intelligent reader who flipped through the first part described Lolita as 'Old Europe debauching young America,' while another flipper saw in it 'Young America debauching old Europe.' ..."

which to me begins to suggest something of a lofty attitude toward the reader who would dare review him. When I further read, in his own words two pages further on:

"My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English...."

then I begin to wonder whether indeed the literary satire which abounds throughout Lolita doesn't also reflect something of a European attitude looking down at aspects of American culture, as has occasionally been known to happen.

Be all that as it may, I have to say that it is his writing style that I find to be the most appealing aspect of Lolita, and that his satire is not only keen but exactly accurate wherever it appears. One cannot say that it is just created for the sake of invecctive.

There are motels with the cutesy names he ennumerates; there are service station attendants such as he describes; there are touristy road-side attractions such as he mocks; and there are sappy ads pointed toward the American consumer such as the one that is actually illustrated in the Notes to The Annotated Lolita (p 369). He was a very keen observer and an overwhelming amount of what he saw of American life in his travels around certainly found its way acccurately into his novel.

Or maybe I'm just sensitive on the matter. I'd be glad to hear other views (that being what this Forum is about).

Charles
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marantzo
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 12:59 pm Reply with quote
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I knew I wasn't getting the quote exact. 'Debauching' not 'seducing' that's it.

When Humbert voices his disgust at the motels he stays in on his trip, I disagreed because I always used to like the motels however crappy they were because it always meant that I was on a vacation trip. Now that I'm much older and much more travelled, that isn't my opinion any more. Some really are crappy and I've stayed in a few of them very recently. With no Lolita to take my mind off the surroundings.
mitty
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:19 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
As you, Charles, will remember, I was somewhat reluctant to read this book. I had (erroneous) ideas regarding the James Mason version of the movie. Having not read the book, I had vague memories of the first movie.

I have now read the book, and watched both versions of the movie. Actually, I am still digesting, and need another read of the book. But If I had to go with either of the "seduction" theories, I'd have to go with the young America seducing old Europe. If I had to. Because after seeing both versions, and reading the book, Lolita was certainly as much to blame as Humbert. Or even her inattentive, selfish mother. Perhaps I am getting ahead of the discussion, so I'll wait.
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mitty
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:22 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
BTW, I was surprised to see that Nabokov did the screenplay on the 1960 version. One would be led to believe that version would be the more correct one?? And yet I did not find that to be the case.
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Marj
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:42 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Mitty wrote:
Quote:
Because after seeing both versions, and reading the book, Lolita was certainly as much to blame as Humbert. Or even her inattentive, selfish mother. Perhaps I am getting ahead of the discussion, so I'll wait.

Mitty, no such thing. The disussion goes where you guys want to take it. Wink

And I have always been curious as to how much Lolita seduced HH? Just how innocent was she? At least at the beginning. The question for me, is was Lolita complicit from the start, or was she reacting to a kind of unusual flattery? Also, considering her relationship with her mother, could this have been a form of rebellion?

On the other hand, was she representative of European and South American girls who simply mature much faster?
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Joe Vitus
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:19 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 14498 Location: Houston
That's a really good question. Because the novel is told, like a story by Poe (don't forget the Annabelle Lee "prologue"), from the point of view of a deranged mind, deciphering what really occurred is a problem.
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mitty
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:33 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
Marj wrote:
Mitty wrote:
Quote:
Because after seeing both versions, and reading the book, Lolita was certainly as much to blame as Humbert. Or even her inattentive, selfish mother. Perhaps I am getting ahead of the discussion, so I'll wait.

Mitty, no such thing. The disussion goes where you guys want to take it. Wink

And I have always been curious as to how much Lolita seduced HH? Just how innocent was she? At least at the beginning. The question for me, is was Lolita complicit from the start, or was she reacting to a kind of unusual flattery? Also, considering her relationship with her mother, could this have been a form of rebellion?

On the other hand, was she representative of European and South American girls who simply mature much faster?


Oddly, I'd not thought of the last premise you propose above. I don't think that it is only other continents that mature faster, after all don't we all come from "over there"? Sexuality is repressed in America. I know, I know, look at the American movies that are reeking of so-called illicit sexual content. But it is a sort of school-boy, tittering behind the door type.

If you look in the very beginning of the book, Lolita walks into Humbert's room, and practically invites him to kiss her. I think she was trying to seduce him, but did not actually understand the reality of what she was doing. The consequences of her actions. The "hormonal" wanting was there, but not the brakes of maturity. And later, when she is leaving for the summer camp, Nabokov speaks of her "melting" into Humbert.

Obviously the mother did not even like her own child. There was no true discipline, only angry, controlling (attempted) of the child.

And poor (yes, poor) Humbert. In a way he was a monster, but I think he tried to stay within certain parameters. In Lolita, he met his monsterous half. If her mother was controlling, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

[/i]
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mitty
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:36 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
Joe; I tend to take things literally. The actions Lolita and Humbert and the mother all take I believe are accurately depicted. the reasoning of Humbert is "bent" to say the least, but I take the actions literally.
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Marj
Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:39 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Joe, Unfortuantely I have forgotten it. And I don't have my Poe at the ready. Could you expand?
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