Since I can’t seem to stop myself, I’m reading another book now (this will be number 43 for the year, or at least the ones I tracked through my Kindle app on my iPhone) and getting really into it. When I was young, I didn’t think there was anything strange about reading three books a week. In fact, my English teacher in middle school didn’t believe me when I said I read this much. So my school tested me – assigned a number of books and asked me to do a project for them. Not only did I do all of this, I distinctly remember complaining about how easy these books were. They’d given me interested material, certainly, but I was more into classical books (I didn’t know they were classics at the time, I just thought they sounded interesting). In high school, I hated the so-called classics we were forced to read because my teachers would dissect all the good parts, overanalyze and read into every line (and even stuff that wasn’t in the book at all) and then assign stupid projects that only served to make us (the students) hate those books even more. In the end, I managed to get away with not reading the books and simply waiting until someone else in my class started talking and then picking up the thread of conversation from there. I… was really good at being a bad student. Not that anyone noticed since I had a 3.78 GPA in my college prep high school, but that’s not the point. I was really good at faking interest in these books.

In my last year of high school and for my first few years of college, I decided to read some of these classics on my own and see what I really thought of them (without my teachers telling me that the mother, really, was telling the main character that she was in love with him and that her oppressive behavior and even her physical abuse was just a manifestation of her childhood fear of being left alone… yeah, I didn’t buy that either). There were some I liked, others that I thought were so-so, some that I realized right away were classics because some stuffy guy in a cushy university position thought it would be wonderful to inflict eight circles of hell on school children.

Anyway, right now I’m reading Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita. I’ve heard of this book before, many times. I even kind of know what it’s about – an underage girl who is pursued by an infatuated, older man – but nothing beyond that. Writers I admire, like Amy Tan, and writer friends from college who I respect have spoken with high praise for his writing style (like poetry, they said) and with a deep sense of people. I had avoided reading it more out of lack of time and a desire to focus on other things, like my writing and reading books specifically in my genre. However, now that I’ve begun, I’m completely immersed.

Nabokov has a fluidity to his words and a unique flare for description (“a salad of racial identities”) that immediately drowns you in his protagonist, Humbert Humbert’s, mind. Even as he describes his complete and helpless fascination and desire for underage girls, whom he specifically calls “nymphets” for their nymph-like allure, you don’t feel so much repulsed as uncomfortable. His descriptions make you think the way he thinks, to see the girls in your mind’s eye the way he does. It’s chilling to be sure, since he is a pedophile by definition. I am also fascinated by the continuous allusions to his arrest and his having murdered someone, but he doesn’t go into it in the beginning. Also, the decisions he makes seem perfectly logical (his decision to get married, for example) as do the consequences for his actions.

Not done with the book yet but I wanted to write a little something about my initial feel to it. Sometimes, I have one feeling towards the start of a book and a completely different one in the end. I think I will continue to enjoy the writing style; as for the plot, Lolita hasn’t even shown her face yet (although with so many allusions to her, I feel as if I know her already). I don’t know what’s coming (from what he keeps hinting at, I wonder how much more uncomfortable I will become) but I am reading with an open mind and trying to learn something from what I am reading. When I finish the book, I’ll let all of you know what I think.

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