Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

The fall from grace of House Representative Mark Foley and Senator Craig (for sexual offenses) made me think of Humbert Humbert, the infamous narrator and main character of Nabokov’s Lolita.

If we ignore the sordid theme of seduction of a minor─or perhaps the other way around: the minor’s seduction of a pervert─and focus on the language itself, we can appreciate Nabokov's mastery of the English language. A fact even more remarkable since he--being Russian--wrote the novel in his second language.

I can only think of a handful of authors who have dared write English fiction in their second language: Rafael Sabatini, Joseph Conrad, and Nabokov. I have also written a novel in English, though Spanish is my native language; that is not say that even for a nano-second I'd consider myself in the category of the aforementioned authors. (I'd wish!).

Lolita is a veritable trove of puns, double entendres, hidden literary allusions, and other rhetorical devices. If you love the rustle of language, some passages will make your spine tingle and send you to heaven with aesthetic ecstacy.

The invention of neologisms such as the word nymphet, places Nabokov in the class of literary tricksters such as James Joyce and Borges.

To enjoy the fireworks--the glow and sexual heat--I’d recommend an annotated edition of the novel.

Written with due respect for the formal structures of the English language, the novel endures; and it will delight many generations in the future. But why is this so?

The answer is that a literary work seizes the imagination of many generations simply because it creates strong, powerful characters that become prototypes: Don Quijote, Tarzan, Ana Karenina, and so on. Just as Thomas Mann created in Death in Venice the prototype of the tortured, elderly homosexual infatuated with a youth─Tadzio, a “Lolito” himself, so Nabokov created two protoypes: Humbert Humbert and the immortal nymphet Lolita.

Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse

The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers

Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn

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