...just briefly. but i was inspired to pick the thing up again after a recent discussion at Feministe; it'd been a while.
about a fifth of the way through it, a few thoughts in no particular order:
-uncomfortably, I remember identifying with Humbert in that the tortured "these attractions are Wrong, and I can't do anything about them; meanwhile I'll go through the motions with the people I'm supposed to be with" reminded me of, well, the whole coming-to-terms-with-being-gay process.
What I'd managed to block out, I think--perhaps because I wasn't much older than Lolita when I first read this, and thus wasn't as inclined to see her as a little girl as I am now--was the creeptastic molestation angle of the whole thing. The flowery prose was another distraction, of course; a second look reveals his skewed double vision of the whole thing--and how much he's fooling himself, reading between the lines, with convincing himself that she doesn't notice a thing (when he's groping her); that it's all perfectly harmless and delightful; that she really is something other than just another tween-aged kid. It is disturbing as all hell.
-If you look at it from the perspective of Lolita being the protagonist, you realize that it's this dark and awful fairy tale, in a way. You know: the mother, filtered through the double lens of Humbert and Lolita's reactions, is the wicked witch (and what teenage girl doesn't see her mom that way at least to some degree?); the hnadsome prince is living in her house; she longs for mom to die and the prince to carry her off...and this is literally what happens. And, of course, it's a fucking nightmare.
-as I said over there:
I guess what I do like about the book, and one reason why I can see why it’s propelled from “huh, interesting” to “okay, this has lasting value” is the kind of skewed-yet-somehow-accurate impression of America from a jaded European perspective. If you look at Humbert and Lolita as symbolic of their respective places at the time, it makes a certain kind of sense: then it becomes not just about some pervert, but about the longing of the weary and decadent (and war-torn) for something new and fresh and “innocent,” even as the “innocence” is simultaneously viewed as appallingly puerile.
I'm still not totally clear on why this is considered as universal/timeless/Canon a classic as it is, though. I mean, well-written and interesting, but...I dunno. guess I'd better finish it. For damnsure it isn't a "love story," as is commonly trumpeted.