May 24, 2004

I’ve been reading Nabokov’s Lolita. In a way, I’m sorry to like it as much as I do. Nabokov has a poet’s laser beam on reality; a way of illuminating words and ideas that I’m used to seeing in poetry, not prose. The problem is that I’m diappointed Nabokov would use his considerable talents to plumb the depths of this particular kind of depraved mind and then, when asked why he chose the subject (by a BBC reporter in 1962), to reply:

“It was an interesting thing to do. Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I've no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions.”

He also said of the book, “Lolita is a special favorite of mine. It was my most difficult book—the book that treated of a theme which was so distant, so remote, from my own emotional life that it gave me a special pleasure to use my combinational talent to make it real.”

I don’t know Nabokov well. That is to say I haven’t read a lot about him, or more interviews than this one.

Perhaps he was being flippant, or was just tired of talking about the book. But I don’t think anyone wants to feel that they’re in the hands of a novelist who is merely out to play a game with his readers.

Perhaps more later. But I'll leave you with this amazing line from the book to show you how conflicted I am: "In the meantime, most of the dandelions had changed from suns to moons..."

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