Friday, November 20, 2009

Hello Again Friday

How quickly you roll around.

Some thoughts for today:

1. I am reading Lolita for the first time. Believe it or nutt! I am more than half-way through. The language is sumptuous, he wrote it beautifully and I do love the inner monologue of Humbert Humbert. Did you know that he's only about 38 or 39 in the novel? And we all thought he was a dirty old lech. No, he's a young, good-looking lechy bastard. For those people who think that he shows his morals and guilt and many qualms about defiling Lolita in his internal talk, and that he is torn and bedevilled with doubts and often on the cusp of stopping, oh you fools, you are wrong. You cannot in this way possibly find some excuse for his behaviour - also, this troublesome argument some have that she seduced him, etc - you people too are wrong.

Yes, he does make several nods to his worries about having besmirched her (he does make the point that she wasn't virgin when he started on her, without using that word), but these are a handful of times, and could be argued to be just an occasional spasm of conscience, which breaks through what is his usual state of continual, priapic arousal and determination to fuck her every day. And to creepily watch other young "nymphets." HH is coarse when he talks about older women (btw, an older woman can include college co-eds, who to his particular brand of aesthetic are simply former nymphets buried within ugly layers of extra flesh.) He is clearly not physically attracted to any female above the age of about 16? He is revolted by them (us, me) and also makes references several times to periods spent in sanitoria, exchanges with psychiatrists and doctors.

I also don't think anyone can make the argument that he is merely trying to complete some sort of romantic/sexual fixation that was unfinished when he was 13. That he himself is trapped in his own childhood and needs to make a psychological closure. He talks about that suggestion not really being true.

It's clear that in the first instance Lolita did seduce him, and from her innocent viewpoint, initiate him into the ways of intercourse (something she had "learnt" at summer camp - "haven't you ever done this before?" she asks him, as she holds his "life" in her sweet, young hands.) But a little while later, her mood becomes savage; she is cranky, upset, angry. She pushes his hand away, but he persists. He is relentless. He talks of having fucked her (and he never uses such language, oh, it's all prettied up) three times "vigorously" one morning. He talks of her buttocks being bitten by bugs as they do it in nature. He talks of travelling all over the country with her, pretending they are father and daughter, and in the bit where I'm up to, he talks of her passing through her nymphettage, and that one day maybe he can "make her" have their baby, a Lolita Two, who he can then abuse. And even, incredibly, he says that if there is a Lolita Three he can initiate her into the ways of a loving grandfather. This is the proof to me, of how perverse this character is; he is talking full-on incest here. If one could argue that stepfather-stepdaughter is not biological incest, he is moving towards the next stage with these fanciful thoughts; ideas that give him glee.

Now get me here. I'm not especially repulsed by the idea of HH and Lolita. It's fiction, and fiction doesn't repulse me. Not at all. And if he were her biological father, my reaction would be more visceral, but still I'd be able to read it fairly dispassionately, like I do most of my fiction. (Yes, I can cry and sob, but it's usually because something has resonated in me about my life or my inner child or my inner world, not because I am so enthralled with the characters that I am empathising with them. No it's all about me. As it usually is.) But I am disturbed by the viewpoint of Humbert; by his rationalising, his justifications. We know from early on, around the first page, that he becomes incarcerated at some stage, that he has become a murderer (whether literally or metaphorically is unclear at the outset.)

It's interesting the way Nabokov has written this character. He is so vivid and real. We know there are these creeps out there in the world, or maybe not so far away, maybe next door? in our own homes and families? grooming children, watching them, seeing them as prey, seeing their own perverse predilections as natural, normal, love. This is patently so wrong. So creepy and sick. All Humbert is about is his own lust and emotions. But I think he swings without it being made obvious, I think there is a little bit of conscience. Even so, he is unable to resist. He just can't stop. Like an alcoholic, a gambler, an overeater, a liar. All these compulsions cannot be denied. It's a sickness, a disease.

I know the ending but I am interested to see how we get there.

Is Humbert a sympathetic character? I don't know. Nabokov has certainly done well to present him how he is. There is some sympathy for him, trapped in his own self, you could say. And the way Lolita is characterised - she is not a lovely, innocent naif who you immediately feel protective of. But when he writes of her sobbing in Humbert's arms after a coupling, you feel her distress and want to march into the scene and pull her from him. Belittle him, call him a fucking creep and how dare he, and take Lolita away, clean her up, put her into school, psychologise her back to normality. Because no matter how this book has been written, some will see it as material to justify their own sicknesses. Others who aren't that sick will be titillated, still others will see the beauty - but really, what beauty is there in this? Just the words. The deeds are ugly, all of them.

I'm thinking this is going to be one of my favourite books, only because it is so different to everything I've read before, it's so well written, and the characters, ah the fiction of it. Simply marvellous.

Wow, there's nothing like a book review to clear the pipes in the morning.

I really don't know that there can be a worthwhile number 2 after that, but just briefly.

2. The Freddo case. Glad it's been dropped. How ridiculous.

3. Catherine Deveny said something I actually agreed with this week. Not the bit about Melbourne Grammar's principal using his connections to help the egg-ear boy. But the bit where she followed up about the approach by a school for mentors for their students. Good on her for exposing it, and not cowering. She is gusty and you have to like that. I do.

4. Fucking Painters and Dockers don't go on until 11.30 tonight and this old chook is not happy. I don't want to go at all, but I'm meeting friends and blah de blah. Annoying.

5. Not working today. Yay.

6. Hot again today. Boo.

7. WONDERFUL article on Wednesday about the lift drivers in the Nicholas Building in Swanston Street. WONDERFUL.

8. We haven't bought a house yet. Seems impossible. Without going to Lilydale or somewhere like that. Grrr.

9. Have a fab idea for next story. Excitingestnessness. It's a very old idea with a new dimension.

10. The next Twilight movie - New Moon - is out. One daughter saw it yesterday, the other tonight, and the first daughter will see it again tomorrow. She is all aquiver and squealing and I swear I saw the shadow of Beatlemania on her face last night.

"Can a child have a heart attack?" is what she said to me safely back home from Forks, sitting on the couch.

11. So I've got my period and I'm crampy but not so crabby which is good. I always associate the word "crabby" with Lucy out of Peanuts. Funny that.

12. I really don't want to go out tonight. Bloody hell.

13. Samson and Delilah is on ABC1 on Sunday night. I am looking forward to it. Want to tape it, watch it, and offer it to the older girls. Princess is into stuff like that, but it might be a bit heavy.

14. Limoncello is going well I guess. I am stirring every week or so. It's now only Day 15 though. Far out. Long way to go. I have it in the cool, in the shade, and with a chop stick to stir occasionally.

15. That's it. Back to bed and book. Happy Friday everyone.


I'm not Craig said...

I think you know my views on whwich suburb you should move to. It's (slightly) closer to the city than Lilydale.

I hope the hunt ends suddenly and happily.

Melba said...

Thanks INC. It's really quite discouraging and depressing. I remember when you were looking; seems ages ago now.

Who knows what will happen. Another one tomorrow we are trying for, we shall see.