My encounter with the book Lolita, and what the 56 pages have already brought me.
On my sketchy “blog agenda”, I have scheduled to write a book review after I finish the book, but merely starting to read Lolita has already brought me so much conversation, that I decided to write a little bit, cursorily, about my encounter with Lolita.
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” Reading the opening line for the first time startled me. Did he just say “loins”? Whoa. Or… have I always been getting the meaning of the word “loins” wrong? I actually went on Google and checked. I’d rather distrust my English than trust what this sentence is telling me. That should tell you how little I knew about the book,- i knew none.
“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” That’s Humbert Humbert and his Lolita. Me and Lolita the book? Our encounter is far from romantic. In fact it was more of an accident, more of the book just rolling into my life like a little ball of daisies, looking like a shiny mess of white from afar. Ha, I could be the only person who started reading Lolita without the slightest idea of what it’s about.
Of course, I’ve heard of the name “Lolita” before. In fact, in Mandarin internet lingo, the term “Luo li” means an innocent cute girl, and I knew that the term came from a certain “Lolita” book. Hmm. Probably some beautiful love story like The Notebook. That is why last December, shopping at Indigo for my friends back in China, I totally went for Lolita. I wanted to give it to my best friend whom I’ve known for 10 years. So Lolita could have just taken the flight with me back to China, and flitted away from me, out of my life. However, my best friend had already read it, so Lolita was stuck with me.
Thus occurred the aforementioned confusion, when I started reading the book for the first time, after a normal school day, expecting nothing like some confession of a prisoner. And the first sentence just struck all my 10pm sleepiness away.
After that, Google told me everything,- how this is the story of a man falling in love with a girl in Grade 7, how the prose that Vladimir Nabokov wrote is beautiful and full of life… but it would not tell me “Should teenagers read Lolita?” On Yahoo!, there are people who say YES YOU CAN READ ANYTHING IF YOU’RE READY, and people who say NO GO TRY SOME OTHER ROMANTIC BOOKS.
So I tried reading 30 pages that night. The prose was sometimes light and silky (but not obnoxious) , and at other times thick, ecstatic and painful (but never repulsive). I kept turning the page, all fascinated, but meanwhile kept wondering, am I supposed to be this fascinated about a man falling in love with a teenage girl?
Therefore I began my quest to find out if I should read this controversial book. Lolita brought me a lot of interesting conversations, so please indulge me in listing them like how Humbert Humbert furtively recorded some of his days with Lolita in his tiny black notebook, always acronymizing his Lolita to an “L.”, like a lovely face with a mole.
STAIRCASE. ENTER MY ENGLISH TEACHER MS. P AND ME.
I: Hi Ms P.!
Ms P: Hi Mia, how are you?
I: I’m good but I’ve a burning question.
Ms P: Oh-oh, is it going to burn me?
I: No but… it’s just that should I read Lolita?
Ms P: Hmmm… It’s a good book, but the topic is creepy. Like, the writing is amazing, but you know it’s about a man and a young girl, right? UM, I’d say totally go for it if you’re ready.
I: Yeah, the thing is, I tried reading a few pages last night, and actually it didn’t gross me out or anything, and I really like the prose style. It’s just like, when I closed the book, I thought, whoa, was I just reading about a man and a “nymphet”? Ewwwww.
Ms P: Yeah, it’s very well written. And it’s really interesting to see, like you said, where he [Vladimir Nabokov] can take you, what he can make you think, and how he convinces you. That’s the fun part too, eh?
I: Haha that’s giving me chills… Anyways, so it’s worth reading?
Ms P: Yeah, go for it!
[I happily bounce upstairs.]
HALLWAY. ENTER MR F AND ME.
Mr F: Hey Mia, what’s up?
I: Oh I’ve a question.
Mr F: Sure.
I: Do you know the book Lolita? (stupid of me to ask)
Mr F: Yeah, yeah, it’s a great book.
I: Have you read it? (again, stupid of me to ask)
Mr F: Of course. The prose is soops good.
I: Yeah. Do you think I should read it?
Mr F: If you’re ready for it. Like, as long as you know it’s about this man and this nymphet. I’d say that in terms of prose and vocabulary, there wouldn’t be a book better than Lolita.
ENTER MR P.
Mr P: What book are we talking about?
Mr F: Lolita.
Mr P: Isn’t it written in Russian?
Mr F: No, no. It’s written in really beautiful English.
Mr F: Hi A., Mia was just asking me about Lolita.
A.: Oh my tutor made me read a little exert from it when I was eleven, and it was so hard I could hardly get through it.
Mr F: Yeah, it has great vocabulary.
A: Oh, Mr F, I just wanted to ask you about […]
I: Thank you!
[I float away happily.]
III (my favourite)
ENGLISH CLASSROOM. MS P, MY FRIENDS J. AND G. ARE TALKING ABOUT LOLITA AGAIN.
G: What is Lolita about?
J: Oh Mia told me! it’s, it’s, it’s a man, and his landlord’s daughter, and they fall in love and they have WOOPWOOPWOOP… (squeaky voice)
G: What the heck is WOOPWOOPWOOP J.?
J: Well, you get it right?
G: Yeah I get it.
TEXT MESSAGES BETWEEN G AND ME.
G: I’m reading this analyzed thingy about Lolita.
I: How is it?
G: Now I want to read the book.
G: But I dont.
G: At the same time.
I: That was me!
G: Oh wow.
I: That’s why I asked the teachers.
G: Do you have the book
G: Can I borrow it. Some point. In life.
I: If you read it you should be ready for perverted things tho.
G: Yeah I know. LOLOLOLOL.
I: And then K. also wants to read it.
G: OH K.! She’s the slowest reader in the world.
I: Haha I’m not that fast either.
G: What. On. Earth.
G: How long does it take for you.
G: With not that many pages.
I: Idk. I’ma sip thru it. ;P
DORM. ENTER L FROM NEXT DOOR AND ME.
L takes up my Lolita on my desk.
L: Can I borrow this after?
I: Sure… You know what it is right? Errr.
L: Yeah it’s Lolita, so that means it’a a lot of sex.
I: Haha I haven’t got to that part yet. Oh you just have to wait a bit, cuz other people are asking to read it too. I wonder why so many people are interested.
So… this is it. At the end it was no longer my quest to find out if I should read Lolita, but instead veered off to fun ride that allows me what other people think of this controversial book. It is about “WOPWOPWOP”[squeaky voice] or, to put it bluntly, sex, and great writing, and a romance that is “the only convincing love story of our century” according to Vanity Fair.
Still, I do not quite know what I think of the story, but I’m glad to have Lolita in my life, be it a beautiful catastrophe, or a seemingly-gross-and-disastrous pilgrimage.
“I need you, the reader, to imagine us, for we don’t really exist if you don’t.” Vladimir Nabokov wrote. Well, I would like to give that a chance.