Friday, October 06, 2006

Plus ça change

I’ve been rereading Lolita. I’ve just finished the part, on the stripped davenport where Humbert for the first time steals, the honey of a spasm.

The book begins,

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

It could be, a love story between Humbert Humbert and his Lolita no? Look how poetically MM. H.H. adores his Lolita. One can only hope to be loved so eloquently.

For the first few line, it is an unqualified romance.

But, I cringe at the back of the book, printed three years before my birth.

Vladimir Nabokov’s world-famous erotic masterpiece Lolita. The most tender, shocking, and outrageous love story ever told…”

Non, non, et encore non!
Tender and erotic, only in Humbert’s solipsism; these adjectives are absurd. I firmly believe there is a stupid gene linked to a blurb-writing gene.


Anonymous said...

i'll be intrigued to hear more of the feelings, reactions and thoughts of a feminist female as she reads this book. not that i'm trying to put you in a box, just curious to hear how your react to this book.

(i haven't read the book, but wonder if it objectifies women, overly sexualizes a young girl, or if it is seen as a story that empowers & liberates.)

i would also be intrigued to hear a discussion between you and adam, both self-described feminists on this book. i listened to two artists talk about a series of work the other day, and whether or not it objectified women. i won't tell you if the art was done by a female or a male, but i thought it was the beginning of an interesting discussion. (it didn't end up great though.)

Ann Thrope said...

I hesitated to elaborate on a lot in this post because there's so much to discuss regarding this novel and I just don't feel up to trying to fit it in a post.

That said, I would love to discuss Lolita further with you Ed. Perhaps this weekend? I should be in Fresno provided I can weasel out of a wedding.*

How familiar are you with the premise of the book by the way?

*not as bad as it sounds! Really.

Anonymous said...

it's my understanding that the book is about a love tryst between a man and a young girl. a scandalously young girl.

roman polanski

although, i'm less interested in discussing the book itself (detail wise) as i've not read it. more your reaction as a feminist. but, i'm sure that will also relate to the details of the book.

Ann Thrope said...

Well, the reason I asked about your familiarity with the details of the book is because of the question you asked.

That is, you wondered if it objectifies women, etc. and my immediate reaction is “no, of course not.” However, depending on familiarity with the novel it’s not at all obvious why I would answer firmly negative.

I guess the best way to address you question might be thus:

There is a long and illustrious history of authors writing “love” stories which actually compromise the personal autonomy/equality/humanity/whatever of the woman. A good example of this is the lame ass plot device where a man essentially forces a woman into sex. You know, she says no and pushes him away but he eventually has his way and she dissolves into a moaning orgasmic mess and we all only wish we had sex that good? Meanwhile over in the real world, when a woman says no and pushes you away, if you still have sex with her, that’s called rape.

With Lolita, are we to believe that Nabokov is writing in complete neutrality with respect to his characters? Is he simply reporting on the facts? Well, it’s fiction so I’ll assume no. Is he attempting to portray H.H. and Lolita as lovers, attempting to titillate with the sexual encounters between them? Not in my estimation, that is why I cringe at the blurb on the back of the book.

In fact, I find H.H.’s dislike of older (i.e., non-pre or pari-pubescent) women illustrated in his distaste for femininity. That is, he doesn’t like developed breasts, broad hips, curves, these sorts of visual cues of femaleness. From the novel I might interpret this as a pathology of his pedophilia. I suppose one might then make the jump to interpreting H.H.’s pedophilia as judgment on those who disparage femaleness. I believe this would be a flawed interpretation, since H.H. is not just an every day garden variety child molester; he only lusts after very particular girls in a very particular age range.

Which brings me to my final point (thank god!) Given all this, I’m not sure how one might frame the novel in terms of The Dominant Feminist Paradigm ™ and more importantly, I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Lolita has been analyzed (and re-analyzed and then again for posterity) from The Feminist Perspective and I think that’s fine and good and useful, however this doesn’t really play a part in my reading of the novel.

Contrary to what might be believed of me, I don’t actually run around pointing at things and labeling them good or bad for the Women of the World. Except some people, ‘cause they’re just tools =)

Monticore said...

Ehh.. I think I'll just watch Cape Fear agian. Counselor!!!