“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue making a trip of three steps to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Delores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita… Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.” (Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita)
What a line. What a magnificent, palpitation inducing, mind engrossing first few sentences. How can you read these and not want to see this tangle of thorns?
One publisher described it as: ‘the classic where something Humbert Humbert something insipid about nimphets’.
Sure, Lolita is a classic, but do we have to describe it as such? It makes it seem so tame, so… able to be read around children. But no, this is not a book you could bring to school, even buried at the bottom of a very deep and bulky purse. This over-used word is like a stamp of approval, glossing over and pre-approving Lolita like a LEED certificate. Yet, Nabokov is very clear from the beginning, that we, the ladies and gentlemen of the reading public, are our own judges in this matter. It is exceedingly possible that, even though someone has branded Lolita with the innocuous ‘classic’ sticker, you may find it rather shocking, and even, when you stop reading the gorgeous prose long enough to think about it, a little horrifying. But, no matter how your conscience might rebel, you will shed your noble wings, just like everyone else who has read Lolita.
Beverage recommendation: Even though written in English, Lolita still smacks of the Author’s Russian roots – I’d enjoy a dark, smokey Lapsang Souchong