Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lolita is not for wusses. I am a wuss. Ergo, ...

I read.
I fought.
I quit.

I parted ways with Lolita.
Call me a wimp.
But I don't care.

Death I can handle, and I engage in a whole lot of reading and thinking about it.  Because death happens. It is only a matter of time.  We are mortals who can't figure out our expiration dates.

The complex and tragic story of H.H. and Lolita, on the other hand ...

Of course, those are characters that Nabokov imagined.  But, keep in mind that great literature is nothing but a mirror of who we are.  As I was reading Lolita, I read the following the other day in the "Dear Prudence" column in Slate, which I have been regularly reading for years:
Dear Prudence, I live in a close-knit community, and my husband and I are, or were, close friends with a couple who live in our apartment building. We are all in our late 50s. In our community there is a single mother with an 11-year-old daughter, and many of us are friends with the mother. The husband of the couple who lives in our building offered to be a father figure for the 11-year-old because her father is not in the girl’s life. He tutored the girl in school subjects with which she was having trouble. One day the girl came to me and told me that while she was being tutored in “Mark’s” apartment, his wife had to go out. He then offered to read a book to her. He chose a book about teenagers’ changing bodies. He told her to sit on his lap, which she did, and they leafed through the book until they came to the parts about boys’ changing bodies, and there were drawings of boys’ erect penises and “Mark” asked her if she had ever seen an erect penis. After she told me this, I arranged for her to talk with an experienced social worker. The social worker is convinced that Mark did not molest her, and while what he did was clearly inappropriate, it is not reportable or prosecutable. I can’t get this scenario out of my head.
Even if you have not read Lolita, you know enough about it to immediately see the parallel here with Nabokov's imaginary H.H. scheming to get his nymphet.  When literature portrays a Raskolnikov or a H.H., the characters and the situations that the authors create are not different from the real world people and happenings.  As we often find out to be the case, the real world is stranger than fiction.

Meanwhile, the local newspaper reported this:
A Thurston High School English teacher is under investigation for allegedly sending nude photographs of herself to a male student.
Sgt. Rich Charboneau confirmed that police are investigating an alleged incident involving a Thurston High School teacher but would not confirm her name.
However, Springfield School District spokeswoman Deb Jolda confirmed that the high school teacher under investigation is Stephanie Rodakowski, and said that Rodakowski is no longer employed by the school district.
The real world has more male and female H.H. than we would ever find out.  I suspect that only a few of the real H.H. ever get reported and prosecuted.

When Nabokov writes in his marvelous ways words and sentences about H.H. and Lolita, it is almost as if things are happening right in the next room in the hotel with flimsy walls, and I want to yell at H.H. and punch him in his face.  Like how the Bradley Cooper character in Silver Linings Playbook threw out of the window his copy of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, I too want to toss the damn book away.  The difference is that Cooper's character finished the book before he did.  I too read A Farewell to Arms all the way to the end and felt what he felt, which is all the more why I enjoyed watching that scene in the movie.  But, my spirit is too weak to continue on with Lolita.  Especially when I know fully well that it gets worse after where I have stopped, with the end of Part I.

I need a break after all these heavy stuff.  I deserve a break.  From blogging itself.  Maybe I will spend some time with the friend to marvel at the cloud shapes while having a few Fudgsicles ;)

Soon I shall return, and start with the third and final book of this summer's deep-reads, which I hope will be infinitely lighter than what Tolstoy and Nabokov gave me; as Boney M, a favorite during my high school years, wrapped up in one of their hits, "oh, those Russians ...!" ;)


Anne in Salem said...

You chose Lolita for the thoughts it would generate, for its depiction of the human condition. You found both even in just reading the first part. Sounds like a successful read.

Steinbeck "infinitely lighter"? That is not a descriptor used frequently for him, but in comparison, it sounds apt.

RIP E.L. Doctorow, one of my favorites, who passed this week nine years after your intended demise.

Sriram Khé said...

Exactly. The older me has a different and vastly richer understanding of the human condition than the younger me who apparently speed-read through Lolita without pausing to think and reflect. Abandoning it after Part I is no failure.

Everybody has been tweeting and writing about Doctorow. Now that I am older, I will confidently and loudly admit to this: not only have I never read anything by Doctorow, I hadn't even heard of that name until it became news! I tell ya, it is not without reason that I refer to myself as an idiot who is a poseur professor!!!

Ramesh said...

You have to go spend time with "the friend to marvel at the cloud shapes while having a few Fudgsicles ;)". She has bravely made sensible comments on these posts of yours when I can't even get to read them.

Recharge your batteries my friend and get back to the sunnier and breezier sized of life, reading and posting. They deserve your attention in equal measure. There was an epic battle yesterday on the Alps at the Tour de France. You could write a whole book on that one.

Sriram Khé said...

Whaaaat? A battle in France? Are the Germans and the French at it again? Did the French quickly give up as they always do? I thought they had fought the last of the battles back in 1945!!!
Muahahahaha ;)

I have my own tour: tour de cuisine, mon ami ;) With fudgesickle too! When that is done, as our own general, MacArthur famously said, I shall return!

Narayanaswamy S. said...

Oh those Russians .. is just about right :-)

Anne in Salem said...

I have three Doctorow in hardback - Ragtime, The Waterworks, and Billy Bathgate. I don't have three hardback of any other author, even Jane Austen. You are welcome to them any time.

Sriram Khé said...

Hmmm ... that's a tempting offer, Anne. Lemme see first how I do with the Steinbeck at hand.

Good to see you after a long time, Nasy

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