Year Published : 1955
Genre : Classics, Modern Classics, Literary Fiction, Banned Books
Mood : Slimy yet beautifully written, perfect for bewildering a reader’s thoughts.
Edition : Annotated version, Kindle eBook
# of Pages : 457 pages (Paperback)
Time Spent Reading : 7 Hours
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.
I’m not much of a classics reader, basically I’ve read and loved 1984, Animal Farm, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, O Henry’s stories, and a smattering of titles typically covered in highschool and I’ve failed to finish everything else.
After discovering the Word Wise feature present on Kindles AND finding an annotated edition, I decided this is the perfect time to get into a much lauded book I’ve always wanted to read but always put off for another time- Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
I’d heard this book presented for years as containing some of the most beautiful prose ever written in English- made ever more impressive by the author’s native language being Russian. The premise is a mind-bogglingly opposing force to “beautiful”, about as far away from beautiful as you can get. The main character- Humbert Humbert- is a pedophile.
I’ll start with my impression of Humbert and the seeming intent of the author in characterizing him. My first impression was that this was a rather dark comedy of sorts as the author seems to hate Humbert and writes his inner voice and the trajectory of his life in a sarcastic manner.
Many a joke or reference seemed to just barely not go over my head though. The annotations are so exhaustingly numerous and much-needed as to warrant more than just a book. A multi-part documentary might better suffice to properly elucidate the many references.
The annotated Kindle edition is not set up very well. You’re expected to flip back and forth between the annotations section and the actual chapter via tapping on a chapter title. Basically, you read the annotations for a coinciding chapter first, then go back and tap on that chapter’s title to go back to the book and read that chapter. I don’t know if I’m making this make sense but the main point- it sucks. Unfortunate that this edition doesn’t make use of actual pop-up hyperlinks and annotations, a feature that the Kindle can handily utilize in a few other annotated books I’ve sampled.
The annotated edition does contain a lot of extra material in the form of an introduction, analysis, and afterward by the author. These tidbits are worthwhile and shed light on many facets of the novel.
Anyway, back to the actual book. I went through this novel feeling about Humbert similar to how we’re meant to feel about the main character in Caroline Kepnes’s You, the only book I’ve read that is remotely similar in tone to Lolita.
A short overview of You for those who are not familiar- it’s about a serial killer/stalker who is also a hopeless romantic. He’s the main character and voice of the novel. Due to Kepnes’s sneakily masterful writing, he can be fascinating to observe and in subtle ways manipulates the reader into grasping his point of view.
Humbert’s actions in Lolita are too disgusting to possibly sympathize with but the prose is indeed beautifully adept at getting into the character’s head and sustaining interest.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Why You Should Try It – Contains some literary prose of the highest quality and several discussion-worthy points. The horrible sequence of events is creepily compelling in how easily it develops and the often simple yet horrifying motives of the main character.
Critique – At the end of the day this is a book about a pedophile and so much of what occurs, while not graphic, is gross to read about.The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated (Amazon Link, Click To Read A Sample)