"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-tah: 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."
Nabokov's Lolita did not do much for me the first time I read it. I was focused on the plot --middle-aged man! prepubescent girl!-- but I don't know how I could have been so wrapped up in the details of pedophilic seduction that I could have missed the extreme beauty of the writing. Unfortunately, I bet a lot of people start, if not finish, this book because they are titillated by the plot; I can only hope some of those readers come to see the beauty as well.
The plot is, at this point in history, old news. Humbert Humbert, a European gentleman with a taste for eroticizing certain young girls (who he refers to as "nymphets," magical creatures half-human half-other that are out to drive him mad with desire) that was supposedly imbedded in him by a thwarted romance with a girl of twelve or thirteen when he was the same age, comes into custodianship of twelve-year-old Lolita (Dolores, Dolly, et al.) and makes her his mistress (or slave, or abused child). Which is obviously deplorable, of course. The disconnect comes between the sordid plot and the absolute fragile feverish beauty of Nabakov's writing. I literally felt like I was hallucinating while I was reading; even though Humbert thinks (and does) the most awful things, things I would never in my worst nightmares actually think or believe, I did in fact almost believe them when he wrote. It was one of those reading experiences where reality simply ceased to function normally for me while I was in the book. (This was exceedingly disturbing, needless to say, but quite the feat on Nabokov's part.) Oddly, I'm having a hard time finding a quote that in any way shows what I mean. But for me, this book was so lovely as a whole that that's okay; I'm fine with leaving it as is. I don't think I could capture what I felt anyway.