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Thread: Nabokov

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    Nabokov

    I have just started reading Lolita and really need a guide to Nabokov the stylist. I've always enjoyed a good story (like, say, Sherlock Holmes) and a novel of ideas (like 1984 or Brave New World), but I'm woefully ignorant of the great prose stylists, like Joyce, Nabokov and Woolf. I want to make an effort to understand why the prose of a writer like Nabokov is so admired. Can anyone help (examples would be appreciated). What is it about Nabokov's use of language that so enthralls the critics that a novel about a paedophile is held to be one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature?

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    If you're reading it and can't see the genius of his style then I'm not sure anyone can really help you.

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    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    What is it about Nabokov's use of language that so enthralls the critics that a novel about a paedophile is held to be one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature?
    Well, it's exactly that, isn't it? Critics and fans go crazy about him precisely because he writes in such a beautiful manner as to make a horrifyingly despicable man entirely sympathetic.

    He forces you to root for and relate with a pedophile, and then forces you to be aware that you just rooted for a ****ing pedophile.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    To be fair to Humbert Humbert, he is not quite a pedophile because Deloras Haze is not pre-pubescent. Humbert Humbert likes them between 12 and 16, which makes him more of a hebephile.

    I have to say I struggled with Lolita, especially the last third.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    I have heard of plenty of people claim they didn't like Lolita, whether it be because of the pace or content, but never have I heard anyone claim that Nabokov isn't a brilliant stylist.

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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Well he's insanely clever and very funny. I don't know what to say about his style, except that I love it.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

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    “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”

    It's just magnificent. The rhythm, the cadence of the words, it's just so well crafted.

    I'm still a believer that Nabokov is slightly underrated. He's so highly regarded for his style but critics have called him 'clinical' and 'with no emotional core'. Personally, I disagree, though maybe I find his style so ecstatic and beautiful at times that it creates a core within me. I've personally found his short stories in particular and 'Speak, Memory' to be beautifully human and full of feeling. There's never any sentimentality though, which I feel is a good thing.
    Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    Well he's insanely clever and very funny. I don't know what to say about his style, except that I love it.
    Insaine??
    Only joking.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    To be fair to Humbert Humbert, he is not quite a pedophile because Deloras Haze is not pre-pubescent. Humbert Humbert likes them between 12 and 16, which makes him more of a hebephile.

    I have to say I struggled with Lolita, especially the last third.
    What difference is there between pedophile and hebephile?
    The act in itself is still regarded as undecent.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandis View Post
    If you're reading it and can't see the genius of his style then I'm not sure anyone can really help you.
    What a nasty, petty, spiteful little reply. If that's what you think then don't bother to post anything at all. What you mean is "if you can't see the genius of his style like I can because I'm smart and have great taste"...do you always get your self-esteem from putting other people down?

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pierre Menard View Post
    “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”

    It's just magnificent. The rhythm, the cadence of the words, it's just so well crafted.

    I'm still a believer that Nabokov is slightly underrated. He's so highly regarded for his style but critics have called him 'clinical' and 'with no emotional core'. Personally, I disagree, though maybe I find his style so ecstatic and beautiful at times that it creates a core within me. I've personally found his short stories in particular and 'Speak, Memory' to be beautifully human and full of feeling. There's never any sentimentality though, which I feel is a good thing.
    You know sometimes I just feel the topic and the choice ideas overshadow quality no matter how splendid style is.
    There is beauty of meaning over statement and I feel in this case Lolita fails to impress my genuine regard for literature especially when the topic is as contreversial as this.
    Just by looking at that paragraph it actually churns my stomach and makes fell sick.
    That is my humble opinion and I cannot help but feel this way in the same way that you cannot help but feel subdued by this writer.
    Each to their own.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    Insaine??
    Only joking.



    What difference is there between pedophile and hebephile?
    The act in itself is still regarded as undecent.
    "Paed-" refers to children, while 'hebe-' refers to someone who is young. There is a huge difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    What a nasty, petty, spiteful little reply. If that's what you think then don't bother to post anything at all. What you mean is "if you can't see the genius of his style like I can because I'm smart and have great taste"...do you always get your self-esteem from putting other people down?
    That's why he's on my 'ignore' list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    I have just started reading Lolita and really need a guide to Nabokov the stylist. I've always enjoyed a good story (like, say, Sherlock Holmes) and a novel of ideas (like 1984 or Brave New World), but I'm woefully ignorant of the great prose stylists, like Joyce, Nabokov and Woolf. I want to make an effort to understand why the prose of a writer like Nabokov is so admired. Can anyone help (examples would be appreciated). What is it about Nabokov's use of language that so enthralls the critics that a novel about a paedophile is held to be one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature?
    It is more than just the language that made Lolita a classic immediately after it was published. Nabokov also turned a loathsome character into someone who is merely pities by most people. He also evaded the matter of sexual content even though the sexual behavior was central to the novel. And he took an unreliable narrator to such a level that it is uncertain whether Humbert ever did anything to anyone, which is why I am considering writing the memoirs of the female lead.

    One thing that you should keep in mind is that Nabokov was a professor of literature, and he was an expert on James Joyce, especially Ulysses, There are some interesting parallels between Ulysses and Lolita. They both involve moving from place to place, are written largely as personal narratives, and both have many references to other literature.

    The Introduction that Nabokov put on Lolita is very interesting, and it becomes more interesting the more that one considers it. In part it puts a cap on the rest of the book, but does it?

    If you like unreliable narrators, then you might also want to read Palefire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Desolation View Post
    Well, it's exactly that, isn't it? Critics and fans go crazy about him precisely because he writes in such a beautiful manner as to make a horrifyingly despicable man entirely sympathetic.

    He forces you to root for and relate with a pedophile, and then forces you to be aware that you just rooted for a ****ing pedophile.
    This was not my experience. I thought him a repulsive, despicable, self-serving weasel from beginning to end. Overall, I wasn't particularly impressed with the novel. One can appreciate the beauty of Nabokov's prose, as I do, and yet find him not a very interesting or compelling novelist, which is pretty much what I think after reading five or six of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    What a nasty, petty, spiteful little reply. If that's what you think then don't bother to post anything at all. What you mean is "if you can't see the genius of his style like I can because I'm smart and have great taste"...do you always get your self-esteem from putting other people down?


    You got me pegged, Wickes! Better put my on the ol' ignore list like Peter (what I did to get on his list I have no idea--and I bet I'm not even on there, either) to avoid such snafus!

    Like I said, I've never heard anyone complain about, or "not get," Nabokov's style. From the many people I've discussed Nabokov with, not one. I've heard people complain about the plot, the pace, etc. (see Wyatt's comment above). But never the style. That's where Nabokov is amazing. So, if you want to take me remark as "if you can't see the genius of his style like I can because I'm smart and have great taste," that's fine, but you better apply that to a ton of other people, too.

    I made my flippant response because I suspected you were yet another reader who just wanted to point fingers at Nabokov and say he's a pervert, and probably later go on to intimate the same things about his readers. Surely, you saying, "What is it about Nabokov's use of language that so enthralls the critics that a novel about a paedophile is held to be one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature?" isn't a leading question and all, and surely you have no preconceived notions or conclusions you've come to about the book. I don't feel the need, nor see the point, to try and convince someone a book is good when it's pretty obvious from the start they've already decided it's bad.

    Anyways, you've gotten plenty of good responses from nicer members here who've chosen to indulge you. Why you don't respond to them, I don't know.

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