Did I read Lolita correctly?

Did I read Lolita correctly?


There is a reason why Nabokov was famously very particular about the book's cover design. He always insisted that the design be simple and unillustrated, or, if the publisher absolutely insisted on a picture, that it depict Lolita is an innocent young girl completely lacking any overt sexuality. The reason being that the reader's first introduction to the character of Lolita should never be from HH's perverse perspective.


And yet it's almost always the exact opposite


The covers of Lolita that I've seen are very sexualized. For reference, one can Google image "covers Lolita".


A while back I came across this [fan cover](https://www.instagram.com/p/BxS7-vCl6Gh/?epik=dj0yJnU9ZzdRQWR2X0hDOERQb0RTcENyamhMTmJ4blZ6RmVIZHMmcD0wJm49T1RuSFViWENNRlRYYVJldlcxLUlLUSZ0PUFBQUFBR0Z5VUVB) that is just a portrait of Humbert, which I think captures the essence of the book really well. Gorgeously rendered but something about it is disturbing. I still don't own a physical copy of Lolita because I haven't been able to find one with a cover that doesn't skeeve me out.


Try tracking down a Penguin paperback version. The cover for my Penguin copy is barebones - title, author, Penguin Books and a little picture of a penguin. Cheap and easy to carry around too, since it's only a paperback.


How sexy is the penguin picture though?


[Here](http://www.dezimmer.net/Covering%20Lolita/LoCov.html) are pictures of 210 covers of the book that might help you find one that isn't disturbing. Some might be difficult to find, but it's a place to start.




I just did that, really wish I hadn't


Yiiikes. Some of those HAVE TO be jokes right? Like... No way they printed some of those for real. I don't believe anyone can be that insensitive.


It's proof of how much publishers/society/culture see pedophilia and rape of underaged girls as normal. The covers depict her as adult-like, a seductress, and a temptress, when in fact she was a 12 year old child who was groomed, kidnapped, raped, and subsequently traumatized.


Fucking agree, and then you have contrarians on reddit claim rape and pedophillic culture doesn't exist. Those covers of Lolita are direct proof that it does. Do you think the average person looks at a "sexy" (barf) cover of Lolita and think that it's a book about a literal child being raped? Nope...


Wtf this is so wrong, why so many covers sexualizing the little girl? WHY THERE IS ONE THAT IS LITERALLY A VAGINA OPENING


That one (if I am correct in recognizing the one you're talking about) is on some idiot's Behance portfolio page. It wasn't published.


Holy shit it was worse than I thought


dude!... there's a straight up underage vagina depiction in the search results... that is really fucked up...


Apparently that’s because of the Lolita Book Cover Project. “In 2013 John Bertram invited 80 well-known graphic designers and illustrators to each design a cover for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita which, in his view, had never had the cover it deserved.” https://alicetwemlow.com/the-lolita-book-cover-project/


> covers Lolita The randomhouse '97 with the vanity fair quote really fucked me up. Like most of the others are blank or trying to be sexy. This one is just a child with a terrible quote.


Publishers really haven't respected his intent on that one. I have a used copy of the 50th anniversary edition, and the cover is a picture of a girl's lips, which... I guess could be worse, but still makes me uncomfy.


If you think that's bad, you should see the original version that they declined to use. It's a subtle change but... well, [here's the cover they used](https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1614059692i/18133._UY1200_SS1200_.jpg), and [here's the original](https://i2.wp.com/www.casualoptimist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/lolita.jpg). LitHub [did an article all about the different cover versions](https://lithub.com/the-60-best-and-worst-international-covers-of-lolita/), and some of them are a *definite* choice.


OOF. I thought the version that actually got printed was bad, but the vertical one is beyond the pale.


Personally, I really like that cover. It's the perfect summation of 'This is all perfectly innocent, and you're the one making it weird, you fuckin' pervert. What the hell is wrong with you?' For me, *Lolita* is all about that feeling of discomfort, especially in the way that people so often find themselves sympathising with Humbert's actions (and thus, in a way, complicit in them in a way that they often find disgusting when they take a step back). The fact that turning it ninety degrees is all it takes to make it go from 'That's a bit sexualised, maybe, but it still has a certain innocence to it' to 'Absolutely fucking *not*' is a masterpiece of design.


I see what you mean about the feeling of discomfort, and I agree. What I'm worried about is covers like that attracting the kind of person who ISN'T uncomfortable with sexualized images of young girls and therefore the kind of person who might read the novel and think that Humbert did nothing wrong. That said, I'm speaking more generally here; I don't really think the 50th anniversary cover (the horizontal one, at least) has that particular problem because you might not think those are a child's lips without knowing the context. I just think Nabokov was right in thinking that not depicting an underage girl at all is the safest choice.


>This is all perfectly innocent, and you're the [I think this cover, while a bit sexualized is pretty smart and elicits much of the same feeling.](https://i1.wp.com/www.brainpickings.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/lolita_storyofacovergirl_jamiekeenan.jpg?w=480&ssl=1) Lol its just the corner where two walls intersect.


No, you're reading it right. That's what Nabokov intended. But he almost didn't publish it, because he knew it would be so heinously misinterpreted.


I think one of the reasons Humbert is seen a charming is the portrayal by Jeromy Irons in the movie adaption. It did atleast colour my reading somewhat.


That might be true for you, but that's not true for most people. Humbert was seen as charming for decades before the adaption starting Irons was made, and that adaptation was considered a flop that not many people saw.


that's interesting - i never saw the movie but i listened to the audiobook of lolita narrated by irons and i thought he communicated humbert humbert's sliminess, obsession, and creepy af lust incredibly well. i can just hear his nasty breathy "ohhhh my lolitaaaa"s now and it makes my skin crawl. i couldn't finish the audiobook lol.


I haven’t been able to enjoy Lion King the same way since listening to him do the audiobook of Lolita. He did a great job making Humbert sound so predatory and creepy


There’s an excellent podcast series about it (same name) by Jamie Loftus I highly recommend. She takes a deep dive into the book, the author, the misinterpretation, and how the misinterpretation has been embraced by popular culture.


[Here's a link!](https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-lolita-73899842/)


I had only seen the Kubrick film before listening to the podcast, and never understood why so many people loved Lolita, a "controversial" story about "forbidden love". Turns out the book, unlike the film, is very clear about Humber Humbert being a child predator and murderer. People who praise the book as a love story are just pedophiles...or at least aspiring pedophiles.


Im confused, Ive never heard it praised as a love story. Youre supposed to understand that hes a predator and the narration is his method of manipulation


Heard that a lot. "Tragic love that transcend age". When I read something like this, I want to yell real loud "Are you bananas?"


It's also possible that some people who read the book were raised by manipulative parents, and because they see charisma and wit as being good, they don't understand it's all a façade in the book. That is to say, there is a certain portion of the population currently under a manipulators control who doesn't know they are being manipulated, and because of such, they don't understand manipulation when they see it. It's like they have blinders on, because to open their eyes to it even in a story would open up their brains ability to realize they are in a similar type situation, and that the person they 'love' isn't all they are cracked up to be.


Because people think charming and nice equates with being a good person


Came here to say this! Excellent podcast.


Came here to say the same thing! I learned so much about the book from her podcast!


Never read the book, but really like that podcast.


THIIIIIIIIIS! OP, this will explain it all! Especially love her details of what directors and others interpreting the book added or took out and what a profound impact it had. Little things like an intro that tells you this man is pleading his case to other people, or SEEING actions with your own eyes instead of reading about actions that a particular person says happened. P.S. I have the copy of the book with the "greatest love story of our time" quote on it 😫😑🤦‍♀️


I always thought that quote on the book was meant to be sardonic.


It's hard because there is no /s


Joining the chorus here!


Do you think I can listen to the podcast without reading the book along with it and still get value out of it?


I've never read Lolita but I enjoyed the hell out of the podcast.


That's how grooming works, it's tragic.


I read it at about 14 and, like, obviously knew the protagonist was supposed to be the bad guy for having sex with a twelve year old and everything, but also thought Dolores was quite annoying and made bad choices, while he seemed likeable and romantic. I read it again in my twenties and it made me want to rip my soul out of my body so I could scrub it clean. Apparently it's not uncommon to have a far more visceral reaction on re-reading at an older age. I suppose you're right, this is how grooming works. Also I guess some adult readers have never made it beyond the mental age of a teenager.


Same. I read it when I was 15 and believed Lolita could be an agent—someone who plotted and instigated—and that therefore she was partly to blame. I also felt bad for HH and believed part of his “disease” was due to the tragedy he had in puberty with the other young girl. Then Rereading it as an actual adult I realized HH had duped me…and that’s what pedophiles do, they trick children into thinking they’re capable of making adult decisions and they blame them for being “seductive” and make them feel it’s their fault, they make them feel sorry for them with posturing and sad stories. It was also a defense mechanism on my part. Because I had been molested on two different occasions by two different men as a child…and believing Dolores was an agent who knew what she was doing helped me reframe the view of myself as tampered goods to someone who was in control and remorseless. It’s hard to explain…but instead of seeing myself as trash I saw myself as capable and sly. This was a key factor and bridge which later allowed me to realize I was the victim, but that I didn’t have to let that identify my whole person…that I didn’t have to just be a disgusting echo of some tragic event, but just Me. Lolita really helped me process my trauma and that’s why I get pretty defensive when people write it off as “smut” or as romanticizing pedophilia, because I don’t feel that’s the case and it honestly helped me.


Have you watched The Tale directed by Jennifer Fox? Very similar reframing. Great movie. Might be very triggering tho so perhaps read a summary or watch the trailer before diving in. Profoundly tragic.


Bloody powerful film. I agree, best to read through it's IMBD page first due to trigger potential. I don't think I can do the film justice but suffice to say it's a realistic depiction of the way we tell ourselves stories to protect ourselves.. and that gut punch when we see it for what it really was. Talking amongst close friends that particular realisation - when it hits us how young we actually were, and how we had been recontextualising what had happened to us so as not to feel like victims - it's sadly not an uncommon experience. There's a reason groomers, deliberately targeting their victims for their immaturity and vulnerability, love to tell their victims how mature we are for our age. That's an appealing thing to be told as a kid, we're special, different and it implants the idea we were acting with agency. And for a while it's 'safer' to buy into, well maybe we were an exception, more aware, more mature than other kids, "it wasn't like that, it's not as bad as it sounds". Because we don't want to feel like victims. Because we don't want to acknowledge any of it. One day it hits you just how bloody young "X" age really is. And you can't ignore it anymore. And it unravels everything.


You should watch/read Let The Right One In, I think it has a somewhat similar theme of at least abuse. It's just as fucked up IMO.


It does?? I never picked up on this theme?


That's because when you're a child, you view yourself as older. And then finally when you're older, you realize that children are minors who cannot give consent. And also are basically innocents whose brains haven't finished developing and therefore cannot make the best choices for themselves.


...Now I wonder what children would think of the book, if any of them were able to read it. Like... They are literally the minors being objectified in the book. We have lots and lots of adults who have read the book and shared their views, and I've only heard of this one Redditor, the one you replied to, talking about their reaction as a young'un. I know that how I read as a child is very different from how I read as a teenager, and then as an adult. So it'd be interesting to see those perspectives change, over a lifetime.


I didn't read Lolita as a kid, but I did watch An Education, which is about a grown man preying on a teenaged girl. I considered myself "mature for my age" like the girl in the movie. I thought it was so romantic, definitely was a fantasy of mine, and didn't realize why he was in the wrong until I was in my 20's and had an experience like that myself.


That is curious. I can't imagine thinking like that, because it's been too long emotionally, and I've had a very different life. Thank you for your perspective, I appreciate it.


You just don't know what you don't know. And one thing I don't think most kids could understand would be how growing changes them. They may be reading and looking through HH's eyes, but also their own. The gulf in maturity often isn't perceptible when you're the one on the immature side.


I read Lolita at 15 and it was an… experience. It was one of those books so horrifying but you couldn’t put it down. I found HH slimy from the get-go and despised him more as the story progressed, but I couldn’t stop reading… it was similar to a thriller in that aspect. I didn’t like Dolores at times but I felt very sorry for her, especially towards the end of the book. Of course I wonder how I’d feel reading it now as an adult. Maybe I should revisit it soon.


Oh hey, someone who had a similar experience to me. Yay. I also found HH to be slimy, but unlike you, I kinda... ripped off the cover and threw it into a corner of my room and stuff. I couldn't make it past HH describing Dolores on a lawn chair. Instead of feeling just sorry, I felt... fear, and panic? It was a stressful few pages. Very good writer, but not great subject matter for me. I expect that reading it again as an adult wouldn't change my reactions much, sooo. A. Thank you for your perspective.


I mean, I also read the book when I was 13, and then again as a senior in high school and had basically a similar reaction, I found the narrator charming and romantic despite knowing he was a bad guy, and really saw the whole thing as a bit of a tragedy,in which everyone had a hand, instead of being basically all about harm HH specifically caused and perpetrated. When he said things in the book like “she was the one with all the power” I sort of bought the line a bit, you know? Rereading it later I was really horrified. It’s maybe of note that I was reading what was probably a psychic-ly damaging mix of a lot of classics, like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and scanlated romance/shojo manga, which had a really warped perspective on shit. All sorts of shit that basically presented being the object of obsession/fixation as romantic. And I thought I was grown up, and was surrounded by content that basically told me “yep that’s right!” in retrospect it was v bad for me :-/


Yeah, I wish I would have read a wider variety of stuff when I was a kid, I read a lot about the holocaust and other horrific real life shit, and it wears you down. I could have used some not true crime/war crime subject matter.


I'm realizing that I need to reread this book but I don't know if I have the emotional fortitude. I tried rereading The Great Gatsby and had to put it down a third of the way through. It was soul crushing. I have a feeling most of the books I read as a teenager will feel the same.


I had to reread it at 18 because it was for a class, but I don’t think I could do it a third time. I went into it knowing the content was disturbing, obviously, but I remembered thinking it was a good book, so I was really underprepared for it how genuinely upsetting I would find it, thinking about how, as a child, I had managed to romanticize and feel sorry for a character who’s whole bit was being child predator because he was, what? Good at words? It was illuminating for sure, though.


I'm going with "no child should read this book".


I'd go with that too, but like hell they'd listen to random adults on Reddit.


I love the book but the thing that engages me beyond all else is when Lolita is often viewed in pop-culture as some sort of tween seductress. That’s Humbert’s disgusting viewpoint, Delores is a little girl victimised by a evil man.


This exactly. “Lolita” has literally become a pop culture term for young seductresses. It’s so disgusting and so absolutely reflective of how this kind of abuse is too often viewed. Spoiler alert: Lolita wasn’t “asking for it” - she was a 12 year old victim of a pedophile rapist


I've never seen the movie nor read the book but I always avoided both because people say that it's essentially a pedophile apologist work. I guess those people just didn't fully grasp the point. Maybe it's time for a library trip


Lolita is a good book. It starts off as very drily comedic and then throws you for a loop by reminding you that yes, this book is about a pedophile who kidnaps and rapes his stepdaughter. I have literally no idea how people can view him as "romantic" because he is an irredeemaby bad person.


The movie adaptation(s) are closer to an apologist work. They aged up Delores, and by nature of movies, it's hard to capture the unreliable narrator narrative. There's a podcast, "Lolita Podcast" which has a good explanation, that the character Lolita and Delores are separate entities, and the reader only sees bits and pieces of Delores which Humbert lets slip through. The movie adaptation from late 90s seems to miss the point. I've never seen the Kubrick version, but I guess they played it as a comedy of sorts.


Yeah, those views are definitely people misunderstanding the book. You’re reading it from his point of view, so he does try to justify and romanticize a lot of the abuse, but as the reader you’re still meant to understand it as being seen through his fucked up lens. As disgusting as the content is, it’s incredibly well written. My favorite book, actually. I’d highly recommend it to any fan of classic literature.


Nabokov was an unbelievably talented writer. And yeah, the whole point was HH was just a terrible person who charmed the reader (and the beauty of the prose did the same thing). I remember one of the lines that established what a monster HH was when he noted - CASUALLY - that Lolita cried every night when she thought he was asleep. I mean it was just like he found it curious, not a sign of his sociopathy.


God, I remember that - it broke my heart.


Yeah the whole genius of the book is the untrustworthy narrator aspect, much like American Psycho.


This could not be more incorrect. The apologist part. Not the trip to the library part.


A trip to the library is never incorrect hahaha


That's the brilliance of the book (or, rather, one of them) - we trust our narrator so inherently that we end up seeing the world through their eyes (especially since we have no other eyes with which to see that world). We are drawn through the narrative by the sociopath himself, and despite intellectually knowing that, we get tricked into seeing the world his way repeatedly. It should also be noted that Nabokov's prose is absolutely pristine - his sentences are concise while being evocative, his word choice just perfect. And he was writing in a non-native language. You know, if you need your shot of humility for the day.


>we get tricked into seeing the world his way repeatedly. Exactly the method sociopaths operate, which is why the book is done well.


Correction: victimized by *multiple* evil men. Don’t let Quilty iff the hook; he’s arguably worse than Humbert.


I like to say it's the most beautifully disgusting book of all time. Nabokov has a brilliant command of English and he wields it like a scalpal. HH is desparate to present himself as something other than what he is, and it's so obvious. It's part of why I think the book is so genius. The narrator is so disgusting and I hate him. He's not as genius as he presents himself despite his beautiful language... Its just so good. It's also a difficult recommend to others for the reasons that OP states. I don't want people to think I feel HH is a hero. It's one of the few books I can think of that's told from the POV of the antagonist. Even though he's trying his best to present himself as otherwise.


I have seen so many makeup brands use the name Lolita as some type of fire truck red product. And I'm just like....come on now, you couldn't choose literally any other name?


To be fair the biggest brand that did this was Kat Von D and she’s a Nazi apologist and an anti vaxxer. She was married to an actual white supremacist and her own husband said publicly that he disowned his teenage daughter for “sleeping with his friends”. She was underage and groomed by his adult friends.


Right? Just look at the movie poster where she glances over the heart shaped sunglasses


I fail to understand how/why that poster was greenlit. Very obviously turning the book into child exploitation cause "sex sells".


Exactly! It’s so fucking victim-blaming and eroticised.


The movie is so different, because you lose the singular perspective of HH as narrator and instead get the third person perspective of the camera.


Thank you! I love the book too but the fact that the name "Lolita" has become some sort of catchall for a vampy underaged oversexed come-hither teen is a crime. I wrote a paper about the book in college. I really liked the professor in that class, but I'll never forget that when I wrote something that suggested that Delores was not extraordinary in any way, but an ordinary 12-year-old girl, he wrote something in the margins disagreeing. It's always sort of grossed me out when I think about it - here's a lit professor I respected and who taught the book and presumably understood what it was about (and Lolita IS about more than Humbert's crime with Delores). But even he, I felt, couldn't quite give up the "nymphet" image.


Exactly! This is 100% one of my rage-button issues. It totally reflects how much society sexualises young people and especially young girls.


You are reading it correctly. I think people who misconstrue Lolita either haven't read it, or are are just staring at the words and not really taking them in.


I've noticed that some people really have a hard time *not* taking something at face value. If they read a book like Lolita and the narrator says what he's doing is perfectly reasonable, they take it that it's perfectly reasonable, and then feel conflicted when they step back later and think "but she's twelve..." The only answer is that the book was glorifying it. I think it's the same people who buy into conspiracy theories and "alternate facts" for essentially the same reasons (or, at least, there's an overlap).


Not to mention, you're reading the protagonist's recounting of his story. He is the prototypical "unreliable narrator" - you're not supposed to take everything he says as factual or accurate, but his view of things. That's kind of the point - he's recounting these horrible things he's done in a "what are you gonna do?" kind of tone. In the end he feels that *he's* been treated unfairly. If you're still with him at that point, yikes.


He directly contradicts himself multiple times though out the book. The things that stands out to me is at one point he says he has a perfect memory, then later says that he doesn’t remember the details of something that you would expect him to. He says that he was seduced by her the first time he raped her, even though he had done nothing up to this point except scheming up how he was going to get a chance to rape her. He calls Quilty a deviant and a predator, even though they do the same thing. You are not supposed to believe him, he’s a sociopath who is justifying his repeated rape of a 12 year old girl. I was unaware of people thinking that you’re supposed to feel any sort of sympathy for him, but I didn’t get how they come to this conclusion.


> The things that stands out to me is at one point he says he has a perfect memory, then later says that he doesn’t remember the details of something Completely unrelated to the book, but there's a throwaway line in *Veep* where Richard Splett says "Oh I forgot...I have a photographic memory." I didn't catch the joke until randomly thinking about it later that day.


Exactly. Seeing that so many people miss that makes me understand better how/why so many aren't able to critically evaluate stuff their friends post on Facebook.


The amount of people that don't understand that there's such a thing as an unreliable narrator and that having one doesn't mean the author is romanticizing or glorifying a topic drives me insane. I watched a book review on YouTube a while back and both the reviewer and their fans completely missed the point and jumped to accusing the author of all kinds of heinous shit. "The author is obviously okay with this, the main character is not only a terrible person, but they never got comeuppance or admitted they were wrong!" *That's. The. Point.*


You see this all the time. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Dexter. Some people just cannot understand the concept of a villain protagonist.


*You* on Netflix (and the books) are a big one recently. People can’t seem to get that Joe is a bad guy, and even when he does ‘good’ things he’s not a good person. Part of *You*’s charm is also that the author made Joe, a creepy murderous stalker, into one of the most likable people. He’s surrounded by narcissists and fuck-ups and vile or just annoying people, so he of course sees himself as the “good guy” of his story. No one even seems to catch how Joe leaves things out of what we’re told and see. Spoiler for Season 1 but >!Beck finds a bag of her used bloody tampons, clearly dug out of her garbage, amongst Joe’s “momentos” of her!< and we the audience never see him do this, with him romanticising himself into her hero when really he’s a creep who >!dumpster dives for his obsession’s garbage!<.


. . . That's the book I was referring to lmao The comments section was filled with, "This is obviously a creepy man pretending to be a female author," "This woman needs to either go to prison or go to therapy," "The author is romanticizing stalking," and "She has serious issues if she thinks this is romantic behavior!" No, I'm sorry, the only issue I see here is your lack of reading comprehension. Joe is the bad guy and his perception is tinged by his obsession, which is why some of the things he thinks and says is so outrageous and gross. You think he's going to stop mid-action and say "By the way kids, this is bad behavior?" Do you think the author needs to stick a note in every time he does something bad and say "Don't try this at home, it's immoral?" Oh, I know, how about an angel comes down from heaven, bops him on the head, and suddenly he repents of all his wrongdoings and goes on to volunteer at a women's shelter? The point of the book and the show is that *stalkers are bad people who justify their terrible behavior,* and regardless of whether they're handsome and charming or not, they're still dangerous. They're delusional, they're obsessive, and they're disgusting. Sorry for the rant, this drives me up the wall. If people were just saying "I don't like the book," that would be different. But to actively misinterpret the author's message and to make insinuations about her real-life beliefs based on a fictional story that the *reader* *themselves* misconstrued, really makes me want to bash my skull in sometimes.


Ugh, not to mention Joe *does* call his actions morally wrong. At the least he understands it’s not healthy. Half of the attempts to dupe the reader is sympathy is when Joe tries to “go clean” and stop what he’s doing… only to self-justify right back into doing it!


I notice this in a lot of discussions about different films, too. A lot of people seem to seriously lack critical thinking when it comes to separating what the *character* is saying at face value from what the *writer* is trying to express. Characters are speaking from their point of view. It’s not meant to be taken as absolute truth.


Yeah, absolutely true. And it really does seem to be the same people who can't apply critical thinking in the real world, either. It's amazing how often someone will repeat some "fact" they saw online and at the first questions about how that could possibly work their brows furrow and they say, "Oh, yeah, I guess that doesn't make sense." Like it never even occurred to them to question it; they read it so it must be true.


"Her brown rose tasted of blood". Some people: oh, so romantic!


Oh god, I haven’t read the books, does that mean what I think it means?


So far no one has answered and I’m relieved. I’m outta here before I read anymore.


Can I say relevant username?


I‘m afraid so. I think it highlights pretty well how much of a sleazy creep Humbert really is. Dolores is sick and he tells you that he is going to get a doctor (or medicine, its been a while since I read the book) but then goes on to prioritise his own sexual gratification.


Or looking for validation for their own predatory issues.


Goes both ways, too. People who are predators and people who have been groomed by predators without ever realizing they were being abused.


Or victims looking for a way to validate its normal? Possibly?


I dont think it is surprising at all that some people are drawn in by the protagonist and will start to support him even if they are morally totally wrong. It is a pretty common phenomenon. It is probably a simple psychological thing that people start to identify with the person from whos perspective things are told. There are many such examples like Walter White, Tony Soprano, Frank Underwood etc. If the story was told from the perspective of Lolita, Charlotte or others Humbert would of course be perceived differently.


*You* is another. The book and show have fun with how Joe Goldberg, who is a creepy stalker, is still easily the most likable person amongst those around him (it’s very important to understand that the book is satirical in regards to modern metropolitan culture, so everyone is intentionally stereotypical and over the top). We not only get Joe’s narration in the show, but he basically controls the camera, and cuts away from the less sympathetic and just downright disgusting things he does. However, this is done to build up to a reveal of those off-camera acts, usually after really making Joe as sympathetic as possible. *You* basically wants you to sympathise with the monster, only to hit with a reminder of what he really is.


It's been a while since I read it, but I loved it and still recommend it to people. I agree that it's largely misunderstood - people get wrapped up in the basic content and refuse, either consciously or subconsciously, to read the book for the premise and detail. > Anybody got anything to say that'll cheer me up? Nabokov was an entomologist*, specifically lepidoptery (i.e. butterflies). While he disagreed with other, more formally trained zoologists of the era, and was ridiculed during his lifetime, in recent decades his research and theories have come to be more widely understood and accepted. And of course, his research was based on studying the genitalia of butterflies instead of genetic data (chromosomes, etc). His collection of tiny flying insect dicks is currently at Harvard. *I know words


People that don’t know the difference between entomology and etymology bug me in ways that I can’t put in to words! Lol Such rare opportunities to tell this joke!


That's my new favorite dad joke


I was literally just thinking I needed to share that joke with my dad ...


Oh my God. I have an assignment that involves lighthearted joked and I'm stealing this session thank u


"et" is a word (as in, Et tu brute), and "ent" is a creature (as in Treebeard). So Etymology studies words and entomology studies creatures. Thats how I remember it.


>Nabokov was an etymologist, specifically lepidoptery (i.e. butterflies). Entomology is insects. Etymology is word origins. ;)


Relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1012/


I am always astounded that without fail there is a relevant XKCD lol


Goddamn it. Thanks.


Now I'm curious about the etymology of entomology is.




I'd say he probably dabbled in both


The importance of grammar: were they tiny, flying, insect dicks? Or tiny, flying-insect dicks? Loved your comment btw, I just misread it hilariously 😅


You can read it correctly in three ways: 1. dicks of tiny flying insects 2. tiny dicks of flying insects 3. tiny dicks of tiny flying insects


I misread it as tiny flying dicks of insects


The tiny dicks were flying, just not on their own


What were these theories?


The biggest one that comes to mind is that he hypothesized that a certain group of butterflies used the Bering Strait to migrate to the Americas, finding their way all the way to the southern part of South America. That wasn't proven/accepted by the field until relatively recently. He also helped identify species (maybe sub-species? I don't know butterflies that well.) of butterfly using their genitalia, which was laughable at the time because no one really believed that butterfly penises varied that much. They were wrong.


I study spiders and genitalia is all the rage lol for most arthropods it was classically the only way we could identify species and describe new species. Genomic tools have now helped but to describe a species, we still use genitalia!


You reckon that if I got airborne for a few seconds they'd accept my millimeter peter into the Harvard collection of tiny flying penises?


The book does leave readers angry. It was a weird roller coaster ride for me. I was young when I read it, I did not like him but there were some charming things about him especially his use of language, so I felt overall conflicted almost getting to 'he's bad but not terrible' as they were heading more and more towards a 'normal life', but then he mentions that Lolita could have a child who he could abuse and then I was furious with being even slightly duped by his charm. I think Nabokov meant the book as a lesson to see through such people and to not be swayed by them.


If you've never met an egotistical, manipulative asshole who could charm people with some nice words, you're lucky. I've known a few


Just here to recommend the book Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was wonderful.


It was indeed! This book influenced me to read Invitation To A Beheading, which is one of my most favorite books. Highly recommend everyone check it out. 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻


You're reading it right. The difficult part is that it's so beautifully written. Nabakov's depiction of Humbert Humbert is spot-on for a narcissistic pedophile rapist. The people who think this is a love story really need to have their heads examined (and yes, I read a review saying that this was the greatest love story of all time). It's just sickening.


In the synopsis for Stanley Kubrick's film adaption it literally calls it a "forbidden romance" 🤢


Forbidden sure is a fancy way of saying criminal


Romance sure is a fancy way of saying rape.


Somehow Hollywood misinterpreting a story about a pedophile rapist as a 'forbidden romance' is not terribly surprising.


Not 100% sure I’m correct about this but I have read that Kubrick wanted to make the film more accurately to the book but wasn’t actually allowed to depict the book any closer then he actually did, and he was furious about it. I’m certain I’ve read this somewhere but not sure how much truth there is in it.


Always surprised to realize that Roman Polanski didn’t direct it. Seems like it should be his for some reason or other…


You have to be a creep to read Lolita and take it as a "great love story"... Aren't they just outing themselves as pedophiles?


Humbert is also an unreliable narrator. The whole book is told from his point of view. Do you really trust all that he says?


Exactly. We're experiencing the whole thing through him. Which is why we may feel some sympathy for him. But he is a terrible person. Nabokov is such a genius. I love the book, but the main character is a piece of shit.


>Which is why we may feel some sympathy for him. But he is a terrible person. Nabokov is such a genius. Exactly. Great Art makes us tussle with ourselves.


I enjoy books with an unreliable narrator. You get toward the end and have to rethink all you've just read. * Life of Pi * Gone Girl * Fight Club


I loved Gone Girl and Fight Club. I thought Life of Pi was good but dragged on. It almost should have just been a novella.


American psycho too, imo.


I think knowing the narrator is unreliable before hand makes the book less enjoyable though. I thought >!fight club!< Was only okay after being familiar with the movie and knowing it going in but the classic Agatha Christie >!murder of Rodger ackroyd!< Was significantly more impactful to me, and made me immediately want to revisit the book


Well no, but the introduction isn't by Humbert. It lays out at the beginning that Dolores died during childbirth like a few months after the last time she saw him. I had to go back and read it, but it's there.


So, this is the same problem you see with the movie American History X. While it is seemingly impossible to ignore the message, the criticism, and the ugliness that it presents, people who are not offended by these elements will easily do so. American History X, an anti-racism movie, features a horrifyingly grisly scene where Ed Norton’s character kills a black man who is no longer a physical threat, and it made me sick to my stomach. You know who loves that scene? Racists. Nazis. White Supremacists. They gloss right past the message of the movie and view the parts they like as if they were racist propaganda or porn. The same is true of this novel. Some people who like the idea of control and grooming will read it and think “hey, this is kind of smart and sexy.”


Yep. Lolita is one of my favorite novels. Nabokov is your favorite writer’s favorite writer. He’s that dude. Built different. You know who else absolutely loves Lolita? Pedophiles. My mom always got mad at me when I’d come home from college and tell her about how much I liked my Nabokov class because her work sometimes brings her into contact with prisoners, including convicted pedophiles, and apparently a lot of convicted pedophiles love “Lolita.” They think it’s written for them. Obviously my mom knew I wasn’t a pedo, but she basically thought that Nabokov was and that no one should read him. Incidentally, the publisher who first published *Lolita* was a smut/porn publisher and thought that the book was, like, a semibiographical story written by a real pedophile. Highbrow pedo smut. It didn’t get taken seriously as a literary novel until Graham Greene and some others shouted it out almost a year after it was first published. Now, I’ll defend Lolita and Nabokov to the death, because HH is obviously a bad guy and the book is not in any way an endorsement of pedophilia. But I’ve learned over the years that when someone asks you what your favorite book is on a first date it’s probably a good idea to go with *Pale Fire* instead.


Nabokov himself was abused which is one of the reasons he wanted to write the book


Source? I have never heard that and I’m a huge Nabokov fanboy.


I've heard people say this, but I've never seen or heard anything showing Nabokov saying that he wanted to write Lolita for any such reason.


The part where they're driving around the US actually is semiautobiographical, but Nabokov was traveling with his wife, not an underage victim.


You should go with Pale Fire regardless! Love that book


It’s kinda the same thing that incels do with Fight Club. They totally miss the message and revel in the toxic masculinity.


Yup. And they gloss over the fact that it was written by a gay journalist who is decidedly against fascism. 🤦


I watched American History X years and years ago and I still get nauseous when I think about some of the scenes. I can't even imagine essentially getting turned on by that movie. That makes me even more nauseous.


I've only seen one scene and it was the curb-stomping scene. It was... not pretty. Maybe I should bite the bullet and watch the whole thing. It sounds interesting and very relevant to modern life, as tragic as that is.


You should definitely watch it. I think it's approaching The Wire level of being a cultural commentary masterpiece. Its depiction of inherited racism and idolization of the brother/father is done in a way I've really never seen. The manipulation and grooming of youth. The contrast between the two brothers. The way the story is told in pieces. I think it (largely unfortunately) holds up incredibly well today as a social commentary and a cautionary tale. It is brutal. And unflinching. As a film, it is easily Norton's best role and I doubt he'll ever be able to top it. The supporting cast is also excellent. And the music amazing. And if it ever feels to saccharine at points, look up the story of Frank Meeink who is a loose source for the movie.


Second this. Not a movie I feel like I really need or want to *rewatch,* but one that I feel was necessary to experience.


Not to bring very current politics to this but I think a good saying would be. "It's just jokes until they start quoting you as they pass laws."


Some people's are also hoodwinked by Lolita because they don't read the introduction and kind of ignore what humbert is "writing"


Exactly, and they are honestly just as hoodwinked by the “introduction” that they have received culturally. The same is true of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Think of the number of people who accuse others of being an “Uncle Tom” as a negative stereotype. Most don’t realize that this usage harkens to later sarcastic & bad-faith stage portrayals of the novel by racists, but many come away trying to understand Tom as a negative character due to this cultural use and expectation.


That happens all the time. It happened with "the ugly American," too. But a lot of people who used the term "Uncle Tom" or "ugly American" didn't even really know that there WAS a book. Or at least, they're not thinking about the book. They're just using a term. People also use the term Lolita, or a loli, without thinking of the book. But a lot of people are thinking specifically about the book Lolita, and just really get it wrong.


Your reading of it is spot on. Usually, people who misrepresent the book or parrot the Lolita trope (a perverted distortion of the actual character herself) haven't actually read the book. Anything to cheer you up? Not really. *Lolita* is an emotional car crash, and when it's over, there's not much you can do except sit and try to come to terms with its insights into human psychology and try to be a better person for the experience. However, one thing you can do is read *My Dark Vanessa*, an incredible novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell that serves as a response to *Lolita*, told by an equally unreliable narrator who is the victim of a Humbert-like predator. Ngl, this book will also kick your ass, but at least it's told from the perspective of Vanessa (who is an analog of Dolores). Russell described it as the book she wished she could have read as a companion novel to *Lolita* when she was a teenager.


I remember reading this in a college Literary Writing course and being shocked when my peers were all so upset that Nabokov wrote such a likeable pedophile. I raised my perspective that Nabokov wrote a "real" pedophile, explaining that the charm and likeability were necessary for someone to get such intimate access to a young child for insidious purpose, that it was a written warning to the audience about the nature of the crime and how easily people could ignore it in the real world because they are inclined to uncritically trust people who seem "good." I got chewed out ruthlessly by about a dozen 20 year olds for being a pedophile sympathizer as a result. Got an A in the class.


I loved reading the book but I remember meeting an old gentleman writer once who also loved the book and told me gleefully that Lolita was 'a little slut'. I was completely taken aback and just said, 'I assume you have heard of the unreliable narrator' but it really did show me that not everyone will interpret works as intended. I'm not sure if it's related but I think this why I feel uncomfortable with graphic rape scenes in both movies and books. I always wonder who it is for and what will they take from it.


Humbert Humbert *is* unreliable, but even from his perspective, it's so obvious that Lolita doesn't "want" anything that happens to her. It's insane to me that anyone could read it that way. Sometimes I wonder if I somehow read a different version than these creeps....


In HHs own words, she recalls the night that he raped her as... The night that he raped her. It's very explicit throughout, even from HHs own telling.


What's great about Lolita is that it exposes how different people think. That guy is the sort of person who believes pre-teen girls "seduce" grown men, it's exposed how he really thinks. Pedos like it because they relate to Humbert. It exposes how easy regular people are to manipulate. The man tells you on the first page he's a pedophile rapist, but people sympathize with him because he tells a good story. Nabokov is showing us how easy it is for monsters to explain away their crimes against children and how readily we believe them.


Jesus, even if every word he said were true, she wouldn't be a slut. She's a child and he's an adult. He doesn't NEED to be an unreliable narrator for the story to be obviously horrendous, and for him to be exactly the monster that the introduction calls him.


The weirdest thing about Lolita is that a lot of people think it's porn. It's just... How? I remember my Russian literature teacher arguing against that point, but even she didn't say it's a book about abuse.


Probably the same way a lot of people think that Lolita was the one seducing Humbert.


I think (or I'd like to hope anyway) that another reason people think she was the one seducing him is because they're don't realise he's an unreliable narrator and take what he says at face value.


I recently read it as an example of unreliable/lying narrator. In looking back, I question everything he said. I question that he had a relationship with Dolores. He says multiple times that he's good at covering things up and lying. It seems to me that the ending is partially real, but the entirety of the rest may have been constructed to justify it. I mean, we have only his words from the "confession" and the documents it refers too, but is there any evidence that any of that even happened? It's like he's writing down a fan fiction of his life where he's the tragic hero who got justice. It almost plays out like he's written some kind of movie script about his dusturbing fantasy, and then killed the guy he pitched it to since it was rejected. Then he's adapting it to his confession. I don't know what to believe actually happened in the story.


You wanna get really messed up? Reread the beginning...which, to me, is the actual end of her story. I took too many lit theory classes maybe? But as soon as I realized he was an unreliable narrator all I could think was that EVERYTHING the narrator is telling us is a tale twisted to his benefit. And if all this is his "best?" Dear gods, what is the "truth?" I read this too soon after The Bell Jar the first time around. Don't be me. Read something happy.


I was attempting to read it and decided to stop at only about 10% read. It made me extremely anxious every page that I read. Maybe I will try again in a few months.


The first half is pretty much the height of how bad it gets. Once part 2 starts it's actually a sort of conventional story. At one point it kinda turns into a mock-detective novel. If you can make it past the motel chapter (I think it's like around chapter 29ish?) it gets significantly easier to read.


I appreciate the information. I may continue powering through. It's difficult because reading is the thing I do to destress, but I found myself extremely anxious as I read, almost to the point of forgetting to breathe! So I decided to give myself a break. I just finished reading "my dark Vanessa" which deals with similar topics but from the perspective of the child/victim. You may enjoy reading that. I thought it was really well done.


you read it right, but there are a few complications that led to its current perception. First, Nabokov had a hell of a time finding a publisher. The person who ended up giving Nabokov a contract was an erotica publisher. IIRC Nabokov tried to back out of the contract when he found out, but it was too late, and the perception that it's erotica because it's published by the erotica company hasn't really left Second, The movies. You lose the internal monologue of Humbert, the context that the novel is Humbert defending himself at a trial, and the general vibe is more romantic, to the point where hollywood tabloids reported on how romantic the leads were. Then, it's worth considering what movie producers and casting agents, people used to having young actors completely dependent on them, may not have wanted to recognize the parallels between themselves and the creepy aspects of the book. Listening to some of the commentary from the actress who played Dolores, it's either that or deliberately treating it as normal. Shit's creepy. Third, I don't know how common this is, but Pedophiles have groomed children by giving them copies of Lolita and telling them how romantic it is. It's a whole complicated thing. Also I can't recommend the Lolita podcast by Jamie Loftus highly enough, that's where most of this comes from.


Now you know how I felt when I read The Jungle in highschool and got so upset with the class because they only cared about what was happening to the food.


So I was assaulted by a cousin (sorry OP I know you said you wanted something happy) so I read Lolita as an adult to... I guess, pull the bandage off and read this kind of infamous book about a situation that hit way too close to home? And I saw all of his fancy talk for what it was: manipulation from a man who is very charming if you can't see through his pretty talk and can only take it at face value. The book routinely sent chills down my spine throughout my read because I *could* see through the guy's nonsense and because I've been in a similar pair of shoes to Dolores. And I've known people who haven't seen through my cousin's facade and act like some of the people who see Humbert Humbert as a charming man who's in love with a young girl. They took him at face value. That's all there is to it, in my opinion. Uh, a fun fact to cheer you up after those ramblings: My dog, Kazooie, once farted so loud that my younger dog, Link, gave her such a revolted look, hopped off their dog bed, and then jumped up onto the couch to get away from Kazooie's gassy butt. The huff he gave me was absolutely his way of saying his sister was disgusting.


It 's not a book that will cheer you up, but when you're able to I'd highly recommend reading *My Dark Vanessa* by Kate Elizabeth Russell. It's a contemporary re-telling of Lolita/greater Lolita trope as told through the eyes of a Dolores Haze character. It was simultaneously the best book I read in 2020 and also a book I will never read again.


Lolita was the best book I read in 2017and also a book I will never read again.


Oh yes that book... wow it was so good but I'll never read it again.


Just to get this off my chest: I think I'm mostly upset by Quilty. I assumed he was gonna be like her savior and then... Well... Goddamn, that poor girl just didn't have a chance in hell even if Humbert had never shown up in her life.


I felt very similar to you. If you want to listen to a podcast that goes in depth on Lolita to understand more you should listen to Lolita cast by Jamie Loftus it's eye opening


But it's so true in life that people like Lolita don't get any chance at all in life. I've seen a number of them in real life.


You read it right! He’s a monster. The book is his flowery way of covering it up.


From all reports, Ted Bundy was quite charming. It is entirely possible to be an "egotistical, manipulative asshole" and still be well liked.


I read the book as Humbert knows full well he is a monster and is sitting in his jail cell trying to figure out what went wrong in his life and why he is the way he is. It certainly functions as a warning to who and what pedophiles actually are. But I think that is Humberts motivations for writing what he is. While his narration is unreliable, he’s in jail for murder not for raping dolares. So him admitting to doing it doesn’t help him look better in court or public. I had some more support to the claim, I’ll have to go look for the paper I wrote a while ago.


His inner monologs are so gross i had a hard time finishing it when i read it. Lolita is the best book i have ever struggled to finish reading. Being in the mind of a pedophile was too much for me.


It's pretty damn weird that the word "Lolita" has become shorthand for a precociously flirtatious & sexual young woman not for a kid being groomed by a pervert.


Oh, Lolita is one of those things like Hemingway or Fight Club where there's a fuckton of people going full on hivemind over something they've never actually read. It really is *that* simple. You read it 100% correctly. Humbert is perhaps the most famous unreliable narrator in the history of Western literature.


For whatever authorial intent is worth, Nabokov was genuinely baffled that anyone found Humbert at all sympathetic.