NABOKV-L post 0004557, Wed, 10 Nov 1999 12:09:26 -0800

Subject
Re: [Hairy Hermpahrodite redeemed] (fwd)
Date
Body
All right, mea culpa on my chronology - the hairy hemaphrodite DID appear
pre-nuptial re Lo. That STILL, however, overlooks the point that, in a novel
as rich and playful and allusive as "Lolita," there is a tendency to view
EVERYTHING as a complex piece in an even more complex puzzle. Some things
probably aren't, that's all - and the "hairy hemaphrodite" may have been one.
Not even Nabokov could be CONSTANTLY inventive for every sentence of a novel.
For instance, VN himself said that Humbert's loss of his mother due to
"picnic, lightning" was NOT related to Quilty's later play "The Lady Who Loved
Lightning" - although, had he not said that, many readers would have insisted
that it was tied in. We may as well try to find some hidden meaning in the
list of gifts HH buys Lo at the end of Part One, or some diabolical dialogue
shimmering beneath the surface of the juvenile grunts with which Lo greets Hum
in the car on the way back from Camp Q. Perhpas the hairy hermaphrodite is a
joke VN plays on us, a private laugh-up-the-sleeve throwaway he knew that some
would chase, a butterfly escaping the net. We'll never know for sure, which
is probably part of the fun.

Thomas E. Braun
cawriter@hotmail.com

Donald Barton Johnson <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu> wrote:
> Thomas Braun argues for a more relaxed reading of Nabokov's novel. Well,
> perhaps an escalator should be installed on the side of the mountain the
> reader is supposed to climb. But such interpretive laxity has its dangers.
> (For example, the hairy hermpahrodite passage occurs before Humbert begins
> "availing himself of Dolores several times a day.") In my opinion, a
> list-server is a perfectly suitable vehicle for over-active minds.
> Passages which strike many of us as opaque are often the ones which, when
> mulled over (transformed into an object of vitural obsession, etc), offer
> productive insights into the text as a whole. (And if they don't, the
> academic world is none the poorer).
>
>
>
> >EDITOR's NOTE. Thomas Braun has a point. While a-/be-musement has its
> >place on NABOKV-L, let's declare a moratorium on hairy handed sons (&
> >daughters) of toil--barring new information.
> >----------------------
> >
> >
> >From: "Thomas E.Braun" <cawriter@usa.net>
> >
> >I have been reading, with increasing bemusement, the various responses to
this
> >issue. In my view, far too much is being made of this. Not everything in
> >"Lolita" is some sort of overly complex riddle. Just as Nabokov, to make
> >Humbert appear as an aesthete and not a pervert, had his "hero" refer to
> >Lolita's act of fellatio as something done "the hard and nauseous way"
> >(instead of using more direct language), so VN here has his creature use
> >flowery language (which Humbert may be using to help in his legal defense!)
to
> >mask the simple act of masturbation - something he apparently had to do so
> >seldom while he was availing himself of Dolores several times per day, it
> >seemed like a congress with a total stranger.
> >
> >Thomas E. Braun
> >cawriter@hotmail.com
> >
> >NABOKV-L <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu> wrote:
> >> "Finally, I did achieve an hour's slumber--from which I was aroused
by
> >> gratuitous and horribly exhausting congress with a small hairy
> >> hermaphrodite, a total stranger." (LOLITA, Part One, Chapter 27)
> >>
> >> I've been focussing on this passage in conjunction with a chapter
I'm
> >> writing on envisioning Humbert as a perverted version of "real" artists
> >> like Godunov-Cherdyntsev. The reader's eyes tend to gravitate towards
that
> >> hairy hermaphrodite, but lets expand our scope outwards in both
directions
> >> first. We can read this sentence as a metapoetic nightmare. Gratuitous
> >> and stranger both have metapoetic resonance. Etymologically, we can
link
> >> "gratuitous" (parodically, antonymically) to the theme of gratitude
> >> (blagodarnost') that is so central to The Gift. (Dollinin's recent
zametki
> >> is a good place to start). (Whom should Humbert thank for this dream?)
The
> >> stranger can be placed in the line of estrangement that is, again, so
> >> central to The Gift. (The word strange is often used in The Gift to
refer
> >> to the working of fate. It is often translated as queer, which is
> >> completely appropriate and should eventually earn Nabokov a place as a
> >> paradoxical forerunner not only of postmodernism but also of queer
> >> studies.) Congress is a sexual reference operating on an obvious and
> >> punning level (as do many words beginning with these three letters in
all
> >> of Nabokov's English fiction -- the clue is dropped in his diatribe
against
> >> Rowe (to whom, in my opinion, many apologies are owed)). The hairy
> >> hermpaphrodite is Humbert's version of his muse, Aphrodite's flowing
hair
> >> here reduced to a crude, exclusively physical sexual organ (of ambiguous
> >> gender, as befits Humbert's character). In other words, a metapoetic
> >> primal scene.
> >>
> >> E. Naiman
> >
> >
> >____________________________________________________________________
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