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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez


Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov At times simply tremendous, at other times mind-numbingly self-absorbed and over-indulgent, this is likely at least partially Menippean satire. Not 100% sure of the target of the satire yet, but the markers are present.

The frame is that the narrative is the narrator's confession, with constant asides to the jurors and judge, and commentary about his criminal defense attorney and present state of incarceration. Difficult to discern at times what is real--certain that the persecution mania and paranoia (which gradually accrue and overwhelm the latter sections) are hallucinated.

Some fantasitc bits, such as:

the defense of his "pederosis" in legal and historical terms, citing data from famous literary texts (19);

the faux literary hermeneutics of Lolita's class roster (51-53);

the presentation that "what I had possessed was not she, but my own creation, another, fanciful Lolita--perhaps more real than Lolita" (62), pregnant for postmodernist theory, but also contributing to the reading that the entire narrative is the narrator's dream-vision;

the admission that "the notes you found were fragments of a novel" (96), a metatextualist's playground;

the "anthropometric" specificity of the science of nymphetology (107)--or perhaps "nympholepsy" (129);

the marking of I.29 as "essential pages" (129), which I have dutifully reread and not distilled the purpurted essence--perhaps more of the satire aforesaid;

the rumination regarding "the stipulation of Roman law, according to which a girl may marry at twelve, was adopted by the Church, and is still preserved, rather tacitly, in some of the United States. And fifteen is lawful everywhere" (135)--which, if true at the time, makes the sexual communication between narrator and Lolita expressly not criminal, nullum crimen sine lege;

"She was to whom ads were dedicated: the ideal consumer, the subject and object of every foul poster" (148)--Lolita is a sexualized child because of capitalistic consciousness manufacture--the point could not be more explicit here without becoming tendentious;

the description of education for girls, focusing on "the four D's: Dramatics, Dance, Debating, and Dating," in order to "communicate freely with the live world around them rather than plunge into musty old books" (177), so that young women can manage "the lives of their husbands" (178)--more overt sexualization of children that arises from the setting itself, rather than from a merely perverted narrator;

the moment wherein the narrator merges himself with fugitives listed on a law enforcement most wanted poster (222), contributing to our reading of the events as hallucinatory; and, of course,

the surreal finale, revealing that his criminal case is based not on any sexual offense, but rather upon the vigilante slaying of the man who abducted Lolita.

The great travelogues, sorta picaresque, with much comical commentary on life in the United States, are certainly an attraction here--and, I see cited in some negative reviews, a reason for jingos to dislike the writing, which is a virtue.

One of the great jokes is the narrator's jealousy--appearing every time someone else speaks with Lolita, and described with much wit, e.g., "two gangling golden-haired high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea" (160).

Lolita herself is presented as sexually active prior to meeting the narrator, and then flees him with another man, who takes her to an orgy-porno compound, which she likewise flees, then marrying yet another. To the extent the narrative focuses on the sex offender rather than the victim of the sexual offense, and presents the young woman as simply predisposed to desire abuse, the text may be politically objectionable. It is difficult to suggest, though, that the text attempts to construct an apologia for sexual offenders in general, and might only be suggesting that there is a weirdness where "the beastly and the beautiful merged at one point," "the borderline I would like to fix" (135) between permissible and impremissible sexual relations vis-a-vis age. The text eschews simple answers, as should readers.

Many many many wonderful turns of phrase. Heavily conversant with both the libertine tradition as well as continental literature in general. I read this at university many years ago and didn't get it. Very much revised opinion now.

Recommended for animated merkins, horrible Boschian cripples, and those versed in logodaedaly and logomancy.