Author Topic: Lolita  (Read 3706 times)

Lolita
« on: January 18, 2021, 05:13:59 PM »
I've just completed my third reading of Nabokov's novel because I want to be a paedophile there's a new podcast series dedicated to the book.  It's pretty woke-y but nevertheless based on the first couple of episodes it is well-structured, thoroughly researched and very well produced and presented.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lolita-podcast/id1536839859

I first read it nearly thirty years ago.  I loved it then, but Lord, it wasn't exactly a close reading.  When I re-read it for the first time about ten years later I remember thinking, "Oh, he does rape her!"  I can't see how I missed this, but understanding that it happened and then forgetting about it seems almost as implausible.

This time around I was surprised at just how funny the book is.  I remember Michael Palin once included Nabokov on a list of the ten funniest people.  "Nabokov's so arrogant," he said, "but he's very funny.  Every sentence is worth reading three times."  I definitely had that in mind when I first read the book, and I was hugely impressed by Nabokov's wonderful dexterity with English but I can't remember laughing out loud as much as I did this time around.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2021, 05:44:54 PM by Keebleman »

Re: Lolita
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2021, 06:01:55 PM »
I briefly dated a younger girl (like, early 20s, not an actual lolita) in America who was obsessed with the book. She would talk about it constantly, to an annoying degree, and had a quote from it ("My sin, my soul") tattooed on the back of her neck. She didn't like the film which she thought deviated too much from the source material. One time we were out and she was talking about the ebook version and I said "It's probably available as a pdf file". She just said "yeah probably". It was all downhill from there.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2021, 06:12:12 PM by El Unicornio, mang »

Re: Lolita
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2021, 06:15:03 PM »
'The film'.  I assume you mean the Kubrick one?  I've seen it, but decades ago.  The next episode of the podcast is about that version so I'll stream it in the next couple of days.  Nabokov gets sole script credit, though his draft was immensely long and largely discarded by Kubrick.  Nabokov did approve of the film though.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2021, 06:47:45 PM »
The Kubrick one, yeah. She actually preferred the 1997 one, which I haven't seen.

chveik

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2021, 07:00:04 PM »
She actually preferred the 1997 one, which I haven't seen.

you are better off

buttgammon

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2021, 08:12:37 PM »
Can't say I thought too much of the Kubrick film, despite being a fan of both him and the book; I haven't seen the other one and think that's probably a good thing.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2021, 08:37:28 PM »
This time around I was surprised at just how funny the book is.  I remember Michael Palin once included Nabokov on a list of the ten funniest people.  "Nabokov's so arrogant," he said, "but he's very funny.  Every sentence is worth reading three times."  I definitely had that in mind when I first read the book, and I was hugely impressed by Nabokov's wonderful dexterity with English but I can't remember laughing out loud as much as I did this time around.

I've read it once, I think, in print, and like you I found it absolutely hilarious, surprisingly so; even, I would say, embarrassingly so -- I felt it just looked weird for a young woman to be enjoying "that paedo book" quite as much as I did.

I haven't seen either film adaptation* but I imagine it was his casting in the 1997 film that caused an audiobook version of the book to be recorded with Jeremy Irons. I'm a big audiobook listener and it is easily one of the best performances in the medium I've ever listened to. He wrings everything out of the text, it is joyous.

*I'm on a bit of a James Mason jag at the moment, I should probably add the Kubrick one to the list.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2021, 08:45:00 PM »
I listened to the podcast, and thought the first few episodes were fine. But the host was not.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2021, 12:05:08 AM »
I love the book and, like many here, would say it's one of the funniest novels around.

Might seem crazy, but would put it alongside something like I Partridge in some ways. Unreliable narrator, inflated sense of self importance, strange sexual vices.... it's basically the same book.


bgmnts

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2021, 02:46:20 AM »
Did I just read that Lolita is as funny as I, Partridge?

I suppose I have to read it, although I suppose Lolita suffers rrom not having Vladimir Nabokov read the audiobook and enhancong the humour to unprecedented levels, like Coogan did.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2021, 10:57:41 AM »
Did I just read that Lolita is as funny as I, Partridge?

I suppose I have to read it, although I suppose Lolita suffers rrom not having Vladimir Nabokov read the audiobook and enhancong the humour to unprecedented levels, like Coogan did.

As above, try out the Irons narration!

Re: Lolita
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2021, 11:12:15 AM »
I'm on a bit of a James Mason jag at the moment, I should probably add the Kubrick one to the list.

Have you seen Bigger Than Life? He's magisterial in that.

I'm another one who dated a young woman in her early 20s whose favourite book was Lolita. She now makes a living writing visual novels.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2021, 04:38:57 PM »

Might seem crazy, but would put it alongside something like I Partridge in some ways. Unreliable narrator, inflated sense of self importance, strange sexual vices.... it's basically the same book.

No, major differences on all three counts!  Humbert is intentionally unreliable while Partridge is deluded, and Humbert's sexual vices are more than just strange, they're immoral and illegal.  And an inflated sense of self-importance is something that I wouldn't say Humbert has.  He can, in private, be hideously contemptuous towards people he considers stupid or silly, such as Charlotte, but he doesn't over-estimate his intelligence or achievements or expect people to be awed by him or treat him with deference. 

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2021, 06:19:15 PM »
Agree with Keebleman. You know what happens to Dolores, right?

Re: Lolita
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2021, 08:15:05 PM »
Have you seen Bigger Than Life? He's magisterial in that.

Ooh no but ta for the nod, I'll put that on the list too!

Re: Lolita
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2021, 08:41:05 AM »
A poignant frisson reading it this time is that, as it's his wish that it won't be published until after both he and Dolores are dead, Humbert assumes his manuscript won't be read until around 2020.  "1935 plus eighty or ninety, live long, my love."  Of course we're told, well sort of, at the very start that Dolores outlived Humbert by less than two months.

The Mollusk

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2021, 11:03:59 AM »
I thought the Kubrick film version was a load of dull shite.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2021, 11:49:54 PM »
No, major differences on all three counts!  Humbert is intentionally unreliable while Partridge is deluded, and Humbert's sexual vices are more than just strange, they're immoral and illegal.  And an inflated sense of self-importance is something that I wouldn't say Humbert has.  He can, in private, be hideously contemptuous towards people he considers stupid or silly, such as Charlotte, but he doesn't over-estimate his intelligence or achievements or expect people to be awed by him or treat him with deference.


Are you suggesting that VN is the one with the who intentionally makes Humbert unreliable, or that Humbert himself chooses to be unreliable?

I'd agree with the first option, but would question the second.

My reading of it is that both HH and AP are a combination of deluded and self-promoting. There are some points in where you think "wow this guy is deluded" and some where you think "wow, this guy really thinks I believe this version of events" and many where it's a mix of the two.

On the sexual side of things: yes - I was being glib.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2021, 12:45:32 AM »

Are you suggesting that VN is the one with the who intentionally makes Humbert unreliable, or that Humbert himself chooses to be unreliable?

No, I'd say that Humbert is choosing to show himself in as positive a light as possible, and so selectively reports the facts of the case.  His motivation is that he does not want to be thought of as a monster.  That he reveals enough for the reader to infer how desperately miserable Dolores was when she was with him can be seen as either ignorance on Humbert's part, or a necessity for Nabokov on both a thematic and a moral level (without it the novel would have been open to the accusation of completely ignoring the effect of the abuse), or a ploy by Humbert to show that yes he was aware of the effect of his behaviour hence this memoir isn't a crude plea of innocence.

The first reason is not plausible considering how bright Humbert is.  I think the unreliability is a mix of the second and third reasons, but Nabokov is so skillful a writer that the structural reason, the second, is almost completely hidden behind the third.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2021, 02:25:24 AM »
No, I'd say that Humbert is choosing to show himself in as positive a light as possible, and so selectively reports the facts of the case.  His motivation is that he does not want to be thought of as a monster.  That he reveals enough for the reader to infer how desperately miserable Dolores was when she was with him can be seen as either ignorance on Humbert's part, or a necessity for Nabokov on both a thematic and a moral level (without it the novel would have been open to the accusation of completely ignoring the effect of the abuse), or a ploy by Humbert to show that yes he was aware of the effect of his behaviour hence this memoir isn't a crude plea of innocence.

The first reason is not plausible considering how bright Humbert is.  I think the unreliability is a mix of the second and third reasons, but Nabokov is so skillful a writer that the structural reason, the second, is almost completely hidden behind the third.

Maybe I just didn't explain myself before - because I agree with all of this. But Alan does this too! Think of how the "smell my cheese" episode is recounted in I Partridge, for example.

Retinend

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2021, 10:35:15 AM »
I recently read his first novel, "Mary". The plot involves a White Russian émigré living in Berlin who realizes that his first true love, Mary, is still alive after the civil war. 

He learns this because she is actually now married to his obsequious housemate in his cheap Berlin shared accommodation (both living as neighbors to other Russian émigrés in the same building, including a great, aging Russian poet).

edit: if anyone was unaware, Nabokov was, himself, a White Russian émigré living in liberal Weimar-Republic Berlin after the White Russians lost the war

They had become separated during the Russian Civil War and now this hasty marriage of convenience is her fate - married to a loser. She is not yet in Berlin, but will be arriving by train very soon. He feels offended, somewhat egotistically, that she would end up with a man like this, and he is determined, and secretly plans, to steal back his girl. He is certain that if they met again she would immediately leave him and come with him to Paris. To him it seems like this way, he can symbolically recapture both his youth and his country, and take it with him wherever he goes.

He tricks his odious flatmate into missing her arrival at the train station so that he can go meet her instead. But as he is travelling to the train station, he has the sudden emotional realization that, in fact, he could never get back the Russia he lost - you can never go back in time like that. He is scared of being sucked into the past and seeing that past, that innocent love, perverted or contaminated. He never goes to see if the Mary he left in Russia is the Mary who would arrive at the station. He flees with his suitcases to Paris, but alone.

Nabokov said of the USSR: "There's nothing to look at. Any palace in Italy is superior to the repainted abodes of the Tsars. The village huts in the forbidden hinterland are as dismally poor as ever. As to the special northern haunts of my childhood – I would not wish to contaminate their images preserved in my mind."

I think, therefore, Lolita was inspired by the idea of a man obsessed with "innocent" childhood love, and the perversion of personal development that can come from an obsession with things done and dusted, and best left in the past. The pedophile is a personification of an idealism that cannot admit its own harmfulness. This chimes with Nabokov's political views, as a White Russian who detested the, to his mind, intellectual childishness of his political enemies: their idealism in the context of their brutality.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2021, 02:05:45 PM by Retinend »

Re: Lolita
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2021, 02:06:02 AM »
I've just seen the Kubrick film for the first time in at least a quarter of a century.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I remembered I did the first time.  The pacing is better than most of Kubrick's films, Peter Sellers' performance is wonderfully eccentric, Sue Lyon is excellent, Shelley Winters too.  Even the English buildings and landscape weren't as distracting as I recalled.

But the Humbert of the film is very clumsily conceived.  His lifelong interest in young girls is not mentioned explicitly and scarcely even implied.  As a consequence, his passion for Lolita seems an entirely random infatuation.  And in the film Humbert's obsession with the girl is more emotional than physical.  I do believe the Humbert of the novel does end up loving Lolita, but in the film his need to control the girl is like that of any overstrict parent rather than the serial rapist of the book who wants to keep his victim close at hand.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2021, 04:00:04 AM »
Just found this quote from James B Harris, the film's producer.

Quote
We decided that this was a bizarre love story, and that we were not going to deal with [Humbert's] predilection for little girls.  We're not interested in a pervert.

The great love stories are usually about the inability of lovers to get together.  In the old days they'd alienate themselves from society by religious differences, by class differences, by colour differences.  All of those things have been done before.  But what hadn't been done was the age difference.  If we could make him the most innocent guy in the piece and her a little brat, and he just singled her out as someone to fall in love with - let people put their own interpretation on it.

We knew we must make her a sex object.  She can't be childlike.  If we made her a sex object, where everyone in the audience could understand why everyone would want to jump on her, and you make him attractive, it's gonna work.

Lolita's age is never mentioned in the film, but she is clearly older than the 12 she was in the book (Sue Lyon turned 15 during the shoot).  That, and the rather pathetic nature of Mason's Humbert, means we never fear for her the way we do for the novel's Dolores.

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2021, 02:57:05 AM »
I honestly had no idea the book was a comedy, even though it has a character called Humbert Humbert in it. My interest has been piqued for the first time. Cheers, all!

Re: Lolita
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2021, 04:09:08 AM »
I honestly had no idea the book was a comedy, even though it has a character called Humbert Humbert in it. My interest has been piqued for the first time. Cheers, all!

I think that's one of the great things about the book. It's so many things at the same time, and rejects narrow classification.

It's funny, tragic, cryptic, shocking and - as much as people don't want to admit it - highly erotic at times.

Re: Lolita
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2021, 06:32:34 AM »
Just found this quote from James B Harris, the film's producer.


Life Imitating Art dept:  Apparently Harris slept with Lyon during production!  Not sure why this has come out now, after Lyon's death (but before Harris's).  The article is behind a paywall, but it seems that 'Mama' Michelle Phillips is the main source.

https://www.insidehook.com/daily_brief/movies/revisiting-the-life-sue-lyon-lolita-star-stanley-kubrick

mrlizard

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2021, 12:54:37 PM »
I've just started reading this so apologies if I've skipped some points trying to avoid spoilers.

I thought I was going nuts laughing at this book - it's the farcical adventures of a paedophile - and it's ridiculous. I think it's the third or fourth page, he comes out with "well I suppose I should tell you about why I like young girls". Fucking hell, pal - I didn't ask!

Enjoying it and looking forward to the podcast when I'm done.

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2021, 05:03:25 PM »
I've never read the book nor seen either film. I knew Kubrick directed it in the 60s and that Jeremy Irons was in Lolita, I just never joined the dots that they obviously couldn't possibly be the same film.

After a few drinks the other night, my wife says her first crush was Dominique Swain and she loves the film (I now realise it's the derided 1997 film) and she bought me the Kubrick boxset on Blu-ray specifically to watch it with me.

Is my wife a paedo?

In her defence, I should say that my wife is 14yo.

Endicott

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2021, 05:24:31 PM »
Is she Chinese?

Mister Six

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Re: Lolita
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2021, 06:21:43 PM »
I've never read the book nor seen either film. I knew Kubrick directed it in the 60s and that Jeremy Irons was in Lolita, I just never joined the dots that they obviously couldn't possibly be the same film.

After a few drinks the other night, my wife says her first crush was Dominique Swain and she loves the film (I now realise it's the derided 1997 film) and she bought me the Kubrick boxset on Blu-ray specifically to watch it with me.

Is my wife a paedo?

In her defence, I should say that my wife is 14yo.

Genuine guffaw. Nice one. Wish this place still had Karma.

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