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I always feel bad when I review a classic with a “meh” attitude, like I’m that idiot kid in class who just doesn’t “get it”; the one who’s always missing the bigger picture to focus on stupid, unnecessary incidentals.
See, this is a gorgeous book as far as the writing goes. It’s incredible, vivid and lyrical. He writes the scenes the way memories feel, not the way reality is. They’re dreamy and off-center, leaving you with a funny taste in your mouth and a slightly upset stomach. But it’s brilliantly done, and beautiful in the way that an oil spill shimmers in a rain puddle. It’s just so wrong, but written so right.
The plot itself, the whole warped pedophiliac relationship — well it’s odd, and when you think you’ve got a grasp on things, you haven’t. It’s weird and disturbing and it definitely causes a reaction. The writing is so well done that there are moments where even though Humbert is entirely pathetic and unlikeable, you almost feel like he’s this sorry little scrap of a man who was taken advantage of by Lolita’s manipulative cunning . . . and then you’re like, wait. This is a prepubescent girl and a grown man here. I understand why this book is such a cultural phenomenon, and why it has sparked so many discussions on every level of discourse — I’m just not sure if this is in any way a good thing, culturally speaking. His writing is gorgeous and layered . . . but his approach to the plot is so completely repellent and disturbing that I don’t particularly want to read anything he’s written ever again.