NABOKV-L post 0027717, Wed, 18 Apr 2018 07:17:09 -0700

Subject
Lolita
Date
Body
Greetings. I was a member of this listserv 12 years ago, but a new job took over. Now I'm back. I recently finished reading Lolita for the fourth time and have two observations that I'd appreciate some reaction to.

1. That Lolita dies giving birth to a stillborn child has always struck me as overly ironic. Supreme ironist that he is, VN seems to be reaching here. The book, especially the heart-rending and indelible ending, would be far more poignant if Lolita ended up as a struggling mother with 3 kids, living in the frigid north with a dim but honest, hardworking husband.

2. This one has always bothered me. Near the end, HH, in lamentation mode, regrets that all he had to offer Lolita was his "foot of engorged brawn." Wow! I have to assume VN is really smacking the reader around here. First, the anatomical improbability is laughable and tasteless. The context is offensive. The physical implications for Lolita are unthinkable. And there's nothing else in the book to prepare us for this. It doesn't seem sufficient to explain it as one more, rather extreme, demonstration of HH's madness. Yes, he's a supremely unreliable narrator, but this phrase undercuts the tenderness and regret of the last 20 pages of the book to the point that we suspect his remorse is perfectly insincere, being undercut by the prideful boast of his physical endowment.

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