Short Synopsis: Humbert Humbert — scholar, aesthete and romantic — has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.
What I liked:
1. The plot. The ingenious way Nabokov toys with the reader’s mind. You get a self-confessed madman — a scheming pedophile who has a taste for young girls. And not just any other younglings at that. Humbert Humbert did not find Lolita sexually attractive because of her beauty and wit (which are almost non-existent), but because she is a nymphet. An ideal combination of childishness and preadolescence.
As Humbert presents the story of his affair with Lolita in first person, this is where Nabokov’s brilliance as a writer shows. Humbert comes across as an intellectual and romantic, detached and fixated. He is both ashamed and proud of the steps he takes to gratify his passion (or obsession). The moral and emotional conflicts that Humbert goes through are so human that he could trick you into thinking that, perhaps, what he has done is excusable. While I personally was wary of Humbert most of the time, there was one instant that I had to rethink ─ is this really love in a very weird form? But then, when you see through his manipulation, you get pentapod monster (his own words) not a man.
2. No pornographic sex. I know Lolita has been frequently described as an erotica but some people tend to overlook its beautiful prose. Nabokov writes about sex in the language of metaphors and figures of speech. While contemporary novels are filled with explicit descriptions of sexual acts, Lolita introduces a one-of-a-kind orgasm through Humbert.
“I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life.”
3. It gives you glimpse of a predator’s mind. If we look at the sexualization of women then and now, not much has changed. Lolita shows a clear picture of the schemes that are often used by abusers. When those accused of sexual crime defend themselves, they often say “she wanted it” or “she started it.” They consciously or unconsciously misinterpret a laughter, soft voice or tensed hands as gestures of consent.
Reading the book is a tough journey (for me especially as an ISFP) but a good one. It’s the kind of read where I had to constantly remind myself not to draw hasty conclusions because of my principles, politics, personal reservations and emotions. I had to look beyond the romanticism and be critical at how the characters are portrayed. At how pedophilia is being normalized. At how women are being objectified.
What I didn’t like: Nabokov did a splendid job. Too good that his work still reflects the plight women continue to face up to this day. There are still many who romanticize Humbert’s depravity and many who blame Lolita for being naïve. The world is still filled with enablers and complicit to the crime.
“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”
“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”
“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”
“Life is just one small piece of light between two eternal darknesses.”
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”
“I shall be dumped where the weed decays, And the rest is rust and stardust”
“We all have such fateful objects — it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another — carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of specific significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane’s heart always break.”
Final Thoughts: If age is just a number, what makes Humbert and Lolita’s relationship seem wrong? Would you see through lust if it was clothed in love? How would you draw the line between the two? There were a lot of irony and moral conflict to digest in this book. Kudos to Nabokov (again) for a thought-provoking read. But like what I said when I finished it last May, I don’t agree with the featured comment on the cover from Vanity Fair. It was far from being convincing or a love story to begin with. No, no. It was calculated rape.
So, we are down to final month of this challenging year. I know it has been hard all of us but I hope everyone is safe, sound and thriving.
November — the month that was. It’s when half of the world transitions from autumn to winter. It’s when dead souls are honored and bounties are celebrated. It’s when creatives around the world try their hands at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
I guess for me it would be “Nah, no writing November.” Anyhow, here’s a quick wrap-up.
My book collection is still continuously growing — all thanks to online resellers and Booksale. And despite the rise of scammers online, I was lucky enough to transact with kind and honest people who helped me find the books in my TLF (to look for) list. For this month, these are the gems that I got:
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (Php180 @a_bookworms_closet)
Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror by Edgar Allan Poe (Php150 @a_bookworms_closet)
Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell (Php25 @Robinsons)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (Php44 @Robinsons)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Php125 @Robinsons)
After Nature by Purdy (Php39 @Robinsons)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Php100 @mgaaklatnitanna)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Php125 @mgaaklatnianna)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Php85 @mimilybluebooks)
Politically Correct Guide to the Bible (Php75 @mimilybluebooks)
Meanwhile, I kept getting sidetracked in between reading with all the chaos brought by typhoons, work and politics. I was able to finish two books though: Letters To My Son by Kent Werburn and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
A big shoutout as well to LibriVox for their free public domain audiobooks. I was able to revisit once again the good ol’ favorite, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this month.
Places I’ve been…
My SMS friends and I got a chance to catch up and hike the Spartan Trail for the first time after lockdown. The heavy rains weeks before brought the trail to life. The riverbed was filled with water, the leaves were greener, the wind was cooler — it was the lovely day indeed to convene with nature. I went back to Spartan Trail on the third week of November, this time with James and his colleagues.
Posts I loved…
My virtual presence during this month was faint. I didn’t get a chance to read other people’s posts or interesting reads from the likes of Brainpickings/Medium. Let’s strive to do better this December, shall we? 😀
Genre: Modern Classic/Dystopia Copy: Paperback Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖
Quick Notes:“Are there any questions?”
To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.
Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.
The story ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, “Are there any questions?” To me this seems like a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses — both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.
Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?
The Handmaid’s Tale, told in simplistic prose, is a clarion call for upholding women’s rights to take control over our own bodies, choices and lives. With the current political climate, this book is definitely a must-read.
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, one of history’s finest novelist and whose philosophical thinking endowed life with new meaning, was born on this day in 1821. I have only read Crime and Punishment (still looking for preloved copies of his other works) but I could say with confidence that I love the man’s writings. The moral dilemma after reading his novel still clings to me to this day. Ah, Raskolnikov.
What do you prefer to do first: read the book or watch the movie adaptation?
Mine would be the latter. The book ─ in most cases, if not all ─ will give you a much better experience. But as much as possible, I try to watch the film first. This way I get to enjoy the cinematography without prior judgments.
But that’s just me. I still believe that whether it is a book or a movie, each has its own singular merits. Instead of pitting these two against each other, we should search within ourselves how we can appreciate both mediums.
Below are some noteworthy reasons why people choose to read the book first before watching the movie (or vice versa):
A book allows you to be part of the story as it gives a personal insight into each character’s thoughts and feelings.
It gives you the power to create the character/setting/mood that is unique to your own mind.
More. A book gives you more detail, more background, more focus, more depth that some movie adaptations tend to leave out due to constraints in time or limitations in dialogues.
A book allows you to take your time to savor every scene.
A movie lets you experience the story without prejudice and expectations.
It allows you to get to know the characters or see the places portrayed in the book.
Visualization. It brings to life all the elements of the book that were confined in a reader’s imagination ─ from the concrete details of each character/setting to the intangible aspects such as emotions.
A movie lasts about two hours at most. It’s time efficient.
Quick Notes: Stephen King was on point when he said that the ending was unexpected. The succession of plot twists. The revelations. The truths — and lies. It was all carefully weaved into a story that played like a movie in my mind.
Like Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly’s novels are often seen in Booksale. For years, I have been curious about his works but it took a pandemic for me to pick his book. I initially bought this one for four reasons: 1) the title, 2) the lure of Edgar Allan Poe, 3) i’m a sucker for crime thrillers, 4) it’s cheap. After the first 100 pages, I knew then that there are far more better reasons why anyone should read this book.
The Poet is unique in a sense that the main POV is seen through the eyes of a journalist whose beat is death. Not a police investigator like Montanari’s or a forensic pathologist like Cornwell’s who directly deals with murders. This book gives you a glimpse of how reporters, the local police and the FBI work together (or not) in solving a case. I like how Connelly takes time to build the thrill and explain the curiosities surrounding the scenes without dragging the story. The killer’s life is gradually revealed in bits and pieces BUT just when you’ve settled with catching a pedophile, Connelly delivers a series of unexpected twists. I was Jack turning to see a gun pointed at my head. I did not see that coming.
Would I read more of Michael Connelly in the future? Definitely yes. Would I read the sequel (yes, there is)? Probably. Because after all the guessing and profiling characters on my own, there is one thing I got right: The Poet got away!