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Humbert Humbert in 2008 
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Post zing
The girls will have to say how much zing they got from early teenage sexual experimentation but Elizabeth Taylor's character in Butterfield 8 said she loved it. Any opinion us fellas might express about Lolita's attitude would be pure guess.



Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:58 pm
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I think that Lolita saw him as a god.


Oops, I meant to say here that she did NOT see him as a god.

As for early teenage experimentation...this was not the case. Having a 40 years old man have sex with you for 3 hours when you are in his charge is not really experimentation. As for the rest of the book, it was very clear that Lolita did not enjoy the sex with him.

If she had loved it, and I guess there could be situations like this where that would happen, after all an older man would know more about seduction and unducing pleasure for woman than a young teen, this book would still be about the exploitation of a young girl.



Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:34 pm
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This seems like a great book with lots of food for thought. I'm disappointed with not participating in this discussion because i'm still waiting for my book, a price you pay for living a long way from anywhere. However, I have read many of the posts on Lolita and I'm intrigued and sickened by how depraved Humbert is. The victimization of Lolita is so cruel that I feel nauseated contemplating it.

Some of us parents, whether of boys or girls, have had some kind of scare that one of our kids may have fallen victim to a predator and I think this would personalize and bring close to home the story of Humbert. Just look at the panicked face of a parent who has lost a child in a shopping mall or a theme park .. this is not just about the kid wandering off but about what can happen to the child, the threats that he or she may face and high up on the threat list is "predator".

One question I will think about as I read Lolita is whether or not it is possible for the reader to set aside emotions and be objective, almost clinical .. or is the emotional pull of the story simply too strong. And would the experience of reading the story be different from an "objective" point of view?



Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:49 pm
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giselle,
I hope you get your copy soon, so that you can join in the discussion. We need more opinions here. I think setting aside emotions in this story and looking at it 'clinically' would cause an even lower opinion of Humbert.



Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:21 pm
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i think they sent my book by dog sled. but i will read it when it arrives. i have started reading The Things They Carried in hopes of participating in the next fiction discussion.



Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:29 pm
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That is the book I am waiting for right now. I think I made a mistake of ordering too many books in one order and asking for bulk shipping.



Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:34 pm
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Giselle wrote:

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I'm disappointed with not participating in this discussion because I'm still waiting for my book, a price you pay for living a long way from anywhere.


Where do you live, Giselle?
Anyway, I sympathize, I can get books in French quickly (though I don't order many) but books in English are sometimes a problem.
Have you tried the link I gave to read Lolita on the net? I don't like doing that, but this is how Raving Lunatic and I started before our copies arrived.

www.booktalk.org/read-lolita-on-the-web-t5603.html


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Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:21 pm
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Giselle wrote:
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The victimization of Lolita is so cruel that I feel nauseated contemplating it.

Some of us parents, whether of boys or girls, have had some kind of scare that one of our kids may have fallen victim to a predator and I think this would personalize and bring close to home the story of Humbert. Just look at the panicked face of a parent who has lost a child in a shopping mall or a theme park .. this is not just about the kid wandering off but about what can happen to the child, the threats that he or she may face and high up on the threat list is "predator".

One question I will think about as I read Lolita is whether or not it is possible for the reader to set aside emotions and be objective, almost clinical .. or is the emotional pull of the story simply too strong. And would the experience of reading the story be different from an "objective" point of view?



My view is that Nabokov is not writing a book about a child who becomes the victim of a predator. Other writers have done that, for example a book by Jodi Picoult I didn't finish (she isn't that great a writer, that's all).
I understand what you mean about parents panicking at the supermarket, and I think if I were a parent I would be more likely to concentrate on that aspect of things. But I don't think that's why Nabokov wrote his his book, I still can't put it in words but it's more complex than that.

Of course I can't be only analytical with Mr Humbert -- I read his prose a few pages at a time, but I feel sure that Nabokov (who was a father) was not a parent writing for other parents in Lolita, or to denounce the exploitation of children by predators. Also in the 50's kids were safe from outsiders (not that H was one) so this climate of fear did not exist.

Another problem with Nabokov is that he probably gave lectures about Lolita but I have a feeling that they would be no help in getting us to understand what the main point was for him.


[/quote]The victimization of Lolita is so cruel that I feel nauseated contemplating it.

Some of us parents, whether of boys or girls, have had some kind of scare that one of our kids may have fallen victim to a predator and I think this would personalize and bring close to home the story of Humbert. Just look at the panicked face of a parent who has lost a child in a shopping mall or a theme park .. this is not just about the kid wandering off but about what can happen to the child, the threats that he or she may face and high up on the threat list is "predator".

One question I will think about as I read Lolita is whether or not it is possible for the reader to set aside emotions and be objective, almost clinical .. or is the emotional pull of the story simply too strong. And would the experience of reading the story be different from an "objective" point of view?

Charles Mc grath wrote in the New York Times:

Quote:
But "Lolita" is more than just a dirty book; it's an upsetting one. And it disturbs us more than ever because pedophilia has moved from the murky, seldom-visited basement of our collective consciousness to the forefront of our moral awareness. We know now that it happens more often than anyone imagined, and with far worse consequences.


I'm trying to push aside all this knowledge we now have about pedophiles and kidnappers, because too much of that knowledge is an obstacle to my reading of thre book. I'm not saying that knowledge is irrelevant, but we are 21st century readers and this is not a 21st century story.


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Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:38 pm
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Post thank you
thank you ophelia, i'll be able to read Lolita now before the discussion is over. i have already bought and paid for my copy so i don't feel bad about downloading.

a general thought on your comment re interpretation of Lolita and how we as readers find meaning in our reading ... does it matter whether we approach interp. from the author's point of view or the reader's point of view? since i know nothing about Nabokov i default to the latter ... so does this mean i have missed the point of the book? does it mean that i take my own meaning and that is sufficient and who cares what the author meant? or does it enrich the reading experience to find out more by research into the author's intentions?

a related thought i have is about emotionalism and meaning ... Nabokov may not have been writing about predator/victim but from what i can glean from the posts, the book generates substantial emotional reaction ... so does this reaction bring us closer to understanding the authors meaning or does it muddy the waters?



Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:35 pm
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Post reading a book
giselle
The question you ask is answered to my satisfaction by the following quotation:
In a treatise written by Bart D. Ehrman, entitled, Misquoting Jesus, we find, after 216 pages of a very careful explanation of how the Bible we read today got to be the way it is, he concludes:

The more I studied, the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text 'speak for itself,' to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says. But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean. This is obviously true of the texts of scripture: simply look at the hundreds, or even thousands, of ways people interpret the book of Revelation, or consider all the different Christian denominations, filled with intelligent and well-meaning people who base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible, yet all of them coming to radically different conclusions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Appalachian snake-handlers, Greek Orthodox, and on and on.)
Or think back on the last time you were involved in a heated debate in which the Bible was invoked, and someone volunteered an interpretation of a scripture verse that left you wondering, how did he (or she) come up with that? We hear this all around us in discussions of homosexuality, women in the church, abortion, divorce, and even American foreign policy, with both sides quoting the same Bible



Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:42 pm
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Texts are interpreted, and they are interpreted (just as they were written) by living, breathing human beings, who can make sense of the texts only by explaining them in light of their other knowledge, explicating their meaning, putting the words of the texts 'in other words.'


Yes, and the is what we are all doing on here, seeking the interpretation of others, with other experiences, beliefs, persepectives, etc. that can expand and challenge our own.



Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:57 pm
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Quote:
a related thought i have is about emotionalism and meaning ... Nabokov may not have been writing about predator/victim but from what i can glean from the posts, the book generates substantial emotional reaction ... so does this reaction bring us closer to understanding the authors meaning or does it muddy the waters?


Yes, the book has generated mostly emotional reactions in our comments so far, for two reasons I think:
1- It's unavoidable to some extent, because Humbert is so dreadful and the characterization is so well written.
2- There are only few of us in this forum, if there were more people, perhaps someone could express what I am trying to get at, why the victim/predator story may not be the main thing about the book.
If we're lucky perhaps I'll get there myself eventually! :smile:

Next, I'll answer Giselle's post and Lawrence answer.

Quote:
a general thought on your comment re interpretation of Lolita and how we as readers find meaning in our reading ... does it matter whether we approach interp. from the author's point of view or the reader's point of view? since i know nothing about Nabokov i default to the latter ... so does this mean i have missed the point of the book? does it mean that i take my own meaning and that is sufficient and who cares what the author meant? or does it enrich the reading experience to find out more by research into the author's intentions?


There are no rules of course as to whether we favour the reader's point of view or an analysis of the author's intentions and art.
Ideally, in a discussion by several readers, a little of everything will be done, and I particularly love the discussion part, when we answer and build on each other's postings.

However (back to Lawrence), saying that in Lolita there is a predator and a victim is not interpretation, it's a fact. Feeling disgusted by Humbert is unavoidable. Nabokov himself said his character was despicable.

I have read other books on a similar theme written recently, one by Mary Higgins Clark, and they were entirely centered on this predator/child victim theme , the suffering of the child and of the parent. They were heart-rending, and discussing this theme was dealing with the book.

I just think that with Lolita there is more.


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Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:35 pm
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Post With that in mind...
I just finished the first part of the book, I have read the posts and I have to say Humbert is one sick puppy. But I don't think that he realizes that he has given up all control or will to Lolita. It is she who decides not to wear his "presents'. It is she who decides what or when to eat. It is she who decides where they go. However, Humbert tries to regain that control by telling her that her mother is dead. I don't think the outcome will come out they way he planned. So my question is who is the predator and who is the prey? Who is the true victim?

Now, don't get me wrong I am not defending Humbert. I think that he is a despicable character. But I am just playing devil's advocate. I am sure that his defense team would use the "she was asking for it" defense. According to him, she is the one that initiated the sex the first time.They would again say that it was Dolly who was in control. Humbert, having to mourn the lost of his wife, could not think straight and logical. While in mourning and having his stepdaughter remarkably look like her mother, was attracted to her. He lost sight of all logic and "made love to his wife."


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Sun Nov 23, 2008 11:35 am
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Quote:
But I don't think that he realizes that he has given up all control or will to Lolita. It is she who decides not to wear his "presents'. It is she who decides what or when to eat. It is she who decides where they go. However, Humbert tries to regain that control by telling her that her mother is dead. I don't think the outcome will come out they way he planned. So my question is who is the predator and who is the prey? Who is the true victim?


I'd say she is in control of daily life, mostly (she has great difficulties with being allowed to act in the school play for example, and here we go back to the importance of Miss Pratt's intervention) because he doesn't want her to be in too bad a mood and he doesn't want her to withhold sex-- OK, let's be generous, he also fancies himself to be in love with her.
Sex gives her power because Humbert does not seem to want to resort to violence. She chooses to exchange sex for money, so that she can run away.
(What if she'd just said "No"? This is a possibility that is never mentioned.)

He, on the other hand, is in control of the bigger picture. His threat of life in an orphanage is diabolical, and very efficient. He controls her because of that threat, and because he is cleverer than she is-- for example he finds the money she has hidden and takes it back. Also he watches her so closely that it takes something like an illness and hospitalization, plus him being very ill as well, for Dolly and Quilty to elope.

Quote:
I am sure that his defense team would use the "she was asking for it" defense. According to him, she is the one that initiated the sex the first time.They would again say that it was Dolly who was in control. Humbert, having to mourn the lost of his wife, could not think straight and logical. While in mourning and having his stepdaughter remarkably look like her mother, was attracted to her. He lost sight of all logic and "made love to his wife."


Well here you have more imagination than I would... I thought lawyers just pleaded psychiatric illness in such cases, or the defendant's coming from a dysfunctional family, something about his mother of course...
The line of defence you give would be more convincing for a one-day relationship than for one that lasted a year though....

Shall we make it a contest? :P

Here is the paper I'll never be able to give at school:

You are Mr Humbert's lawyer. Your client is charged with raping and kidnapping his stepdaughter, who was 12 at the time.

Write the speech for the Defence.


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Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:54 pm
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I think I can do this. Let me dwell on this and get back to you. This should be interesting.


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Mon Nov 24, 2008 8:15 am
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