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Juin 25, 2007, 10:13pm

I had to read Reading Lolita in Tehran for a graduate class I took last year. When I gave it to my mother to read, she found it hard to read a book without having actually read what the girls in the book were reading, so I bought Lolita for her.

What a rip! I had heard so much about this book, but it is just about a perv that falls in lust/love with a little girl. You never know the real story because you don't know how truthful the narrator is. I admire some of its literary merits, but overall, I would have been better off reading something else.

Juin 26, 2007, 7:38am

I'm always amazed at the readers of this book more than the work itself. It is just incredible to me how many people take the pedophile's position and condemn the girl for being a "vixen." I think it's quite a statement on how people view girls and women actually.

Juin 26, 2007, 7:58am

I've never heard anyone outright defend Humbert, or what he does (comments on Utah aside). What happens is that Nabokov, because he was a gifted writer (imo), was able to make Humbert *sympathetic*. And that makes him much more compelling than a generic "villain".

Juin 26, 2007, 8:02am

I think the book was above average, and the writing, of course, excellent ... and while I didn't think a lot of people actually "condemned" Lolita (the character), perlle makes an excellent point about how people DO somehow positively identify w/Humbert, at the least romanticizing a very ugly situation ... Regarding how people (men and women) view girls/women: when I think about my three daughters growing up today in a world where casual misogyny still runs rampant, I want to gag ... at least, though, we're not living in Saudi Arabia or some place like that.

Juin 26, 2007, 9:24am

Case in point...check out this link and look in the Best Minx category.,,5-2006350715,00.html

When I pointed this out in another website's forum someone responded with "Oh, she definitely was a minx. She exploited his weaknesses."

Juin 26, 2007, 9:27am

KromesTomes - I heard something the other day that made me feel like Saudi Arabia and the U.S. might not be that far apart.

I heard that the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder, and if population size is taken into consideration the U.S. is number one in deaths per pregnant women per capita. Crazy.

Juin 26, 2007, 10:46am


That's a myth that's been floating around for a long time (an alternate version being the number one cause of birth defects being domestic violence against pregnant women). It's blantantly untrue, and was first introduced by the director of some prominent feminist organization (I can't remember which, I think it's NOW). It's sad that this myth still persists. **

I believe the leading cause of death for pregnant women is preenclampsia in the US, and malaria worldwide.

**Although I think there is a state in the US where the leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder. But it's not a nationwide statistic. Muder is the number one cause of *injury related* deaths.

Juin 26, 2007, 10:50am

Sorry, I was (partly) wrong. I had to look it up.

The leading cause of death in pregnant women is hemorrhage (usually induced by preenclampsia).

Juin 26, 2007, 11:44am

What's being discussed, though, is leading causes of death among pregnant women OUTSIDE OF things related to the pregnancy ... in that case we have this:

"2005 study by the American Journal of Public Health reported that 31 percent of all pregnancy deaths between 1991 and 1999 were the result of homicide. Only pregnancy-related complications ranked higher as a cause of death."

The full story is found at :

Of course, as with any statistics, different sides of the story look at the numbers differently ...

Juin 26, 2007, 11:59am


I was responding to the statement-

the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder

Which is highly misleading, of course. As I even said in my post, murder is certainly the number one cause of *injury related* deaths.

However, even that is misleading if you don't have all the facts. One of the facts being that between 30-40% of pregnant women murdered are less than a month into pregnancy, when it's unlikely that they were even aware they were pregnant yet (which leads to the conclusion that the murder was unrelated to the pregnancy). Another thing to take into consideration is the ratio of male to female murderers. Honestly, how often do we hear about some whackjob woman trying to cut a baby out of a woman?

It's the twisting of facts that irritates me, as it takes attention away from the real issues, and perpetrates some militant feminist agenda (male=bad).

Juin 26, 2007, 2:05pm

Sorry I wasn't trying to be misleading. I'm sure there will need to be more long range studies rather than just the JAMA one and the one mentioned above.

Juin 26, 2007, 2:44pm

... and for my part, while I recognize how statistics can mislead, I thought the real issue here was violence against women.

Juin 26, 2007, 2:56pm

I thought we were talking about Lolita, which just involves your average perv. At the very least, I don't remember him killing any pregnant women ;)

On the plus side, he did kill a pervert that was a thousand times worse than himself.

Modifié : Juin 26, 2007, 4:46pm

KromesTomes- I understand what you are saying.

9days- Do you mean Quilty? It's been a while...was he worse than Humbolt?

Juin 26, 2007, 4:41pm

When I first read Lolita, I was fairly young and naive and thought things like a professor falling for a young girl were so rare as to strain credulity.

As I got older, I saw it happen a surprising number of times. Not with 14 year olds or whatever (though you can find that in the news too) but college professors who either dated their students or ran off with them after the student graduated (this was considered the more socially acceptable way). This is both male and female teachers. To my disappointment, I learned that Humbert is not an exception. He is a type.

As for the novel, when I read it, I thought it was pretty gross and couldn't recommend it to anyone. I might call it a dark comedy. Humbert is meant to be laughed at and condemned, this foolish old French professor doing ghastly things. I would note also that, in the end, his and Lolita's behavior has caused a great deal of bad consequences in their lives. We see the destruction of innocence, for example, along with selfishness and lust.

I might argue, therefore, that the novel has a strong moral backbone. It seems obvious, of course: Who would defend Humbert? And yet, as I suggested, he remains a type of person who is very much with us, perhaps even one whose numbers are increasing.

From my own experience: Two music teachers from my grade schools were arrested for child molesting. One high school coach ran off with a student. I can think of at least two college professors who had relations with students while they were students, another who ran off with a student -- and that was at a very small college. Then there was my Shakespeare professor in graduate school, a native born Brit, who asked me delicately in his office whether I would be interested in the fine old English tradition of buggery.

I declined.

At least he asked.

Modifié : Juin 26, 2007, 4:54pm

I don't think we can forget that when Humbert first started his obsession with Lolita she was 12.

And while I'm not condoning it, I think that is different than a college professor being romantically interested in his legally aged students.

Juin 26, 2007, 5:54pm

How old is Lolita at the end of the book?

I believe she has a child. I don't remember.

Juin 26, 2007, 9:55pm

She got married to some dude and has a child. That is why she asks Humbert for money.

Juin 26, 2007, 10:23pm

Perlle- Yeah, he kills Clare Quilty. But not because he was some great pervert, mostly because he was responsible for Lolita leaving him.

#17- She actually dies in childbirth, and I think she's still in her 'teens.

Juin 29, 2007, 11:48pm

She's sixteen at the end. I feel like I'm the only person in the world who didn't focus on the sexual part of this novel when I read it. For me, it's more about some beautiful prose and a whirlwind tour of the United States, by an older, educated, debauched European accompanying a childish, stubborn, and extremely bratty American girl.

Juin 29, 2007, 11:56pm

a bratty american girl he should not have had sex with.

Juin 30, 2007, 1:03am

I didn't think it was beautiful prose. I got so bored with his descriptions of the scenery that I started to just skim mad paragraphs. I was looking more for an internal dialogue or plot.

Juin 30, 2007, 10:37am

nperrin - Not noticing the "sexual part of the novel" seems akin to condoning the abuse of the "bratty American girl."

Juin 30, 2007, 11:12am

I feel like I'm the only person in the world who didn't focus on the sexual part of this novel

You're not alone. I tend to read it more as a novel about obsession than about sexual perversity.

I think that because of the controversy the book causes (and has always caused) people tend to lose sight of the more important and interesting aspects of the story.

For instance, most people ask why someone would do what Humbert does. If people didn't focus on the sexual aspects, they'd notice he gives the answer to that himself (his first love died when she was around Lolita's age).

Juin 30, 2007, 12:26pm

How can you overlook sex with a child? If it were happening in your community would you overlook it and say well he was obsessed?

Juin 30, 2007, 12:56pm


How can I overlook it? I can't. My eyes work, I've read the story. There's a world of difference between 'overlook' and 'not focus on'. There's more than sex in the book.

I'm also able to read Moby Dick without becoming morally outraged about whaling.

Juin 30, 2007, 3:16pm

BoingBoing recently had an interesting link to a conference where they talked about teenagers who have sex with adults, and I think it made some interesting points which may or may not be relevant to this discussion:

In the predominant sex crime scenario, doesn’t involve violence, stranger molesters posing online as other children in order to set up an abduction or assault. Only five percent of these cases actually involved violence. Only three percent involved an abduction. It’s also interesting that deception does not seem to be a major factor. Only five percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were adults from their victims. Eighty percent were quite explicit about their sexual intentions with the youth that they were communicating with.

So these are not mostly violence sex crimes, but they are criminal seductions that take advantage of teenage, common teenage vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance, adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to encounters that the teams know are sexual in nature with people who are considerably older than themselves.

Go here to read a full transcript of the conference, which has more about the teenager's side of it and what they think we can do to stop kids from getting into these situations.

Juil 2, 2007, 2:04pm

It seems like some people are saying that if you enjoyed Lolita, that means you're condoning pedophilia ... which, of course, I don't think is fair ... it's a standard that very few books are held up to ... do people who like The silence of the lambs condone serial killers?

Actually, in terms of fiction glamorizing criminals, I think there's far far more of it involving violent criminals than sexual ones ... just look at the Sopranos and all those movies and books that glamorize the mafia lifestyle ... I really don't think there was much glamor to Humbert.

Juil 2, 2007, 6:45pm

I don't think anyone is saying that if you enjoy Lolita you are condoning pedophila. My point is the degree to which some readers seem to sympathize with Humbert while condemning Lolita. That just creeps me out.

I also don't think the book is in any way glamorizing pedophila. It might be romantisized, again by some readers, but that hardly could have been the author's intent.

Juil 5, 2007, 10:10pm

I didn't find a single person in the book sympathetic, least of all Humbert. He's a mercenary snob, although charming in his way.

Juil 6, 2007, 5:20am

Lolita is one of my favourite books. I've even gone so far as to buy the annotated version. What I like about it is the writing and the humour. I think that Nabakov has some points to make in the book, but he isn't preachy or obvious about it, which I appreciate.

The main characters are all human beings with good and bad traits. I am amused by Humbert's wit and intelligence but dislike his egoism and immorality. I empathise with his desire for Lolita but I don't think that that condones his actions.

Sometimes a story will have a character who has some contemptible character trait, such as paedophilia or racism or drug addiction, and the author will present that character realistically, that is as a human being with some admirable aspects, rather than as a stereotypical Bad Guy. I've always found that in this case the author will show the unhappy consequences of the character's bad side, and it's clear to me that the author is condemning that aspect of their character. But this is too subtle for some readers, who think that the story is glamourising or condoning something.

I don't think Lolita has ever had any bad effect on anyone who's read it, so it doesn't disturb me at all, but what I do sometimes find disturbing is media aimed at adolescents that present it as normal or desirable for them to be sexy and flirtatious.

There is a novel called Roger Fishbite by Emily Prager which I really enjoyed. It's a re-telling of Lolita, in modern times (late 1990s), from the girl's point of view. Not as good as Lolita, of course, but still funny and enjoyable. Has anyone else read it?

Juil 6, 2007, 5:34am

Regarding Reading Lolita in Tehran, I totally sympathise with roxpie's mother. I started it, but didn't get very far before deciding I first needed to read The Great Gatsby, some Henry James and some more Nabakov. It made me feel really ignorant!

Juil 6, 2007, 7:29am

lampbane #27:

I looked at the pdf you linked to. Really interesting.

Juil 6, 2007, 5:32pm

Lolita is one of my favourite books ever, and strictly on literary grounds. To me, there may be no more contemptible character in fiction than Humbert, and yet, we are let so intimitely into his twisted thought processes that some measure of sympathy is possible, or it was for me. That is an amazing achievement.

It's also damn funny.

Juil 6, 2007, 9:36pm

#34- I agree wholeheartedly littlegeek, and I'm surprised that people find the approach so singular. Surely Iago could be said to be a prototype (for a vile character he certainly has his own twisted appeal).

And it seems a fairly popular approach in more mainstream stories as well, the aforementioned Silence of the Lambs and any of the villainous roles played by Alan Rickman come to mind. The documentary Mr. Death does a good job of drawing out your sympathy and then knocking you down again.

Juil 9, 2007, 11:22pm

I didn't read Lolita, but listened to the unabridged audio ready by Jeremy Irons. Much better, imho, than reading it. Irons does an amazing job of bringing the prose to life.

37MsNikki Premier message
Août 19, 2007, 6:49pm

I love the language and the storytelling style, but I disliked Humbert intensely.

What I liked was that Nabrakov was able to make him sympathetic, but never excuse his behaviour.

I am surprised people blamed Lolita, but I guess out views of women and sexuality haven't changed much. We must always find a why to blame the victim.

Sep 4, 2007, 2:34pm

To me it's one of the few books that doesn't have a single likeable character, but is great nonetheless. I loved it and I despised both Humbert and Lolita. And for that this book is a masterpiece in my humble opinion.

Sep 4, 2007, 4:40pm

Nabakov is an amazing writer, with every word and phrase carefully constructed and applied then re-applied. If you’ve never read the opening lines of the text (not the author’s note although that is where the text starts) I highly suggest you do so. Listen to the eloquence in Nabakov’s words (“from the back of the palet to the tip of the tongue”) and remember the English was his second language!!

The fact that its narrator is so deplorable is indeed his crowning achievement. Here we have a character that is committing these heinous crimes and yet the only way we can see the story is through his eyes, as he retells and recalls the details of his story years later.

The story isn't really about Lolita. It's about a man's obsession and what he will do to justify it. Lolita doesn't function so much as a character (or person) in the story as much as an object of Humbert's desire. The fact that they have sex should be taken more as a side note rather then the central point of contention.

Sep 4, 2007, 4:52pm

>39 prophetandmistress: English was his third language! French was his second.

Sep 4, 2007, 4:53pm

Thanks for fact checking for me!!

Nov 20, 2007, 9:27am

While I applaud anyone attempting to take a stand against classics that should not be (mine is The Jungle) I disagree completely with the case against Lolita. Repugnance in literature is its own reward to those interested in human nature. And I would argue that the world is better off with repugnance exposed. I don't think anyone would disagree.

Also, to say that Lolita is just about a pervert who falls in love with a young girl is like saying that Crime and Punishment is just about a guy who killed some people. It's the agony of the flaw and the redemption or death.

In summation: some people are scum, and life is hard. Don't impugn literature that knows it!

43hyacinthine Premier message
Modifié : Déc 10, 2007, 2:23am

I was thirteen when I first attempted to read Lolita - and was so disappointed when there were no hot sex scenes. I always had a thing for older guys. ;p

It's fiction. When somebody is taken advantage of in real life, that's bad. But I doubt Lolita inspires people to go out there and molest it up - if anything, it should do the opposite. Humbert ends up miserable, and Quilty ends up dead.

Nov 12, 2008, 10:38am

Perhaps dangerous and inapppropriate to say in a forum community designed to commiserate over shared hatred for certain novels, but I did like Lolita. For me the experience was a lot like reading The Picture of Dorian Gray; the story was so beautifully written that you have no choice but to watch the impending car crash that is the plot. I'm a sucker for pretty writing.

Modifié : Mar 18, 2009, 5:25pm

My impression of Lolita at a first read is that it does not live up to its literary reputation and has had the unfortunate side effect of adding lolita (initial lowercase) to our vocabulary.

Dolores is not a lolita, and that is what I see as unfortunate. She has some innate problem, but that problem is exploited and carried to its extreme by Clare/Humbert (or is it Quilty/Humbert?). We have only fleeting glimpses of the horror that she faces at least once every day, for Humbert chooses not to see that side of his problem. Humbert sees her as a vixen, a nymphet, but she is not. And that is her tragedy and ours.

Just mentioning English as N's second or third language diminishes any assessment of his writing--good writing should not have to be qualified. I find N to be a pale imitation of Dostoevsky, if his intent was to expose the soul of HH. As a travelogue, it fares a bit better, perhaps inspired by the contemporaneous ad campaign, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." A bit harsh, I admit; I'm going to give it a second read when I can.

Mar 21, 2009, 6:51pm

I'm almost done with Lolita...and, yes, being a fourteen year old girl, i only picked it up because i thought it would have, as #43 eloquently put it, 'hot sex scenes'. But then I got caught up in the story, and, quite frankly, i'm addicted to Nabokov!

To say that Lolita is just about a perv who falls in lust/love is just wrong! (no offense) Maybe you could say it's a part of it (a very small part) but it's not the the core of the novel. it seemed to me that it was about fate, (er, i mean, McFate) and how it swings from being in Humbert's favor to being full on against him.