Tuesday, January 19, 2010

LOLITA MEETS AMERICAN PSYCHO


LOLITA was published in 1955 and released in the U.S. in 1958. I cannot stress enough Vladimir Nabokov’s Afterword in fully understanding Lolita. This is probably one of the best, if not the best, books I’ve ever read. The writing style immediately reminded me of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which also produced shock and disgust while  generating appreciation for its satirical and gory theme.



Patrick Bateman is the protagonist in American Psycho who embodies all that is superficial and materialistic in society.

“I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don't know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”

Just as in American Psycho, Lolita’s theme is repulsive. And, Humbert Humbert (a name subliminally effective like Dick Diver in Tender Is The Night by Fitzgerald) is the lead in this debauched story. He doesn’t generate any sympathy; albeit, his sociopathic, matter of fact style is married to a morose dark cynical humor that is irresistible to the reader. In discussing Lolita, it’s a feeling akin to when someone says “my wallet is missing” and even though you didn’t take it you feel guilty and must establish your innocence. Just as now, I feel the compulsion of stressing my disapproval of the subject matter of Lolita and was squeamish many times throughout. I also questioned the nature of the author. It didn’t seem possible that someone could write in this kind of narrative style and present a character so real without sharing some components of that character’s personality. This is why Nobokov’s afterword is necessary for the reader. It answers all those nagging questions that come up.


“Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.”

The additional component that is extraordinarily impressive is the perfection of Nobotov word usage (especially considering English was a second language to his native Russian). I rescanned many passage just for the sheer beauty of the writing; it literally is poetic! This is why on “Kris’ Rating List” (see below) I have placed Lolita as number one. I welcome other impressions.

5 comments:

Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

Wow what an interesting post. Two of all my favorite books compared side by side!! Great great great post. I might link to this in the future. And you are right Lolita is hands down one of the best works of all time.

StephanieD said...

I will have to revisit Lolita. It flummoxed me the first time I read it - because the subject matter was repulsive. I think perhaps I did not pay attention to the prose enough. You have to read Reading Lolita in Tehran, which really delves into Nabokov's mastery.

StephanieD said...

Kris- I just wanted to let you know that I received Vonnegut today! Yipeee!!! Thank you so much ~

NancyO said...

I read Lolita for the first time this year and LOVED it. Thanks for reviewing it, especially for emphasizing Nabokov's incredible writing. I also reviewed it at my reading journal blog for this year.

Mirek Sopek said...

I can't forget one literary radio program where they related Iranian students in Iran telling their impressions about Nabokov's Lolita...

It is on my "Next Listen" list.
It is narrated by ... Jeremy Irons. Was there a better actor to read it? :-)