Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: Art Imitating Life

A classic, for the rainy days.
There are many reasons to love
Lolita. There are many reasons to hate Lolita.

Some of the most beautiful, enigmatic language ever written in English. It does not hurt that there's plenty to learn in the way of history through his encyclopedic allusions from Proust to 1950s American pop culture. Everyone, I'm sure, will enjoy the puns and the ever-growing list of euphonious adjectives he laces through the book that makes Lo's scent ubiquitous: loll, dolorous, redolent, etc. The literary acrobatics are not bad either. Most notable is the use of foils and doubles. Clare Quilty, a shameless pedophile, is Humbert’s doppelganger. Humbert marries two adult women and falls in love with two nymphets.
In an
allusive kingdom by the sea, Humbert Humbert and Annabel are two children at play –experiencing the first pangs of lust. Their furtive caresses may remind us of other famed kid-couples: Finn and Estella from Great Expectations, Julien and Sophie Kowalsky from Jeux d´enfants.

Kid romances are cute and tickle our most tender spot. I mean the heart! Alas, the azure waters of the Riviera littoral are rough and unsteady as a gale blows in. There is a creeping sense of melancholy, even from the beginning of the book. Before Humbert and Annabel have time to give full blast to their passion, she dies of typhus. All of this makes reference to the epynomous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Here, the narrator presents the reader with a magic ball so beautifully woven that you ache as you gently unwrap it, layer by layer, sentence by setence.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me. And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea

Edgar Allan Poe married Virginia Clemm when she was 13 and he 27. Obviously, this is Humbert’s fantasy, as an adult. Secondly, both men share a nearly pathological adoration for their lovers. In Poe´s defense, his obsession seemed to flourish only after Clemm’s untimely death from TB.
Humbert is keenly aware of the connection and submits Poe's case for comparison against his. He also submits Dante. D. was enthralled with Beatrice, a young woman whom he met when they were both children. After her death, he cultivated an almost religious love for her.

There is a rumor around that Humbert Humbert is an unreliable narrator. I cannot understand why we would not believe him. Even if he has not set down all of his criminal acts, enough of them have been detailed and savored for the audience to discern what Humbert is.
Roman Polanski, famed director of Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, has become our modern-day Humbert this week. They both plied their prey with drugs and lured them into their nets under false pretenses. Have you noticed how Polanski’s supporters avoid the word “innocent?” Like Humbert, he confessed.
Yet, both men seem to elicit
favorable regards. So what if you loved and labored over the arcane allusions in Humbert's ode? So what if you think Chinatown is one of the greatest films ever written? (And it is)
Maybe in the company of extremely open-minded people, you could make a case for pedophilia as a natural sexual relationship. Hisotrical expamples abound to be sure. Socartes may have foistred himself upon pubescent Olympic athletes. But, in ancient Greece, these relationships had a completely different meaning and so may not have caused any psychological damage. And, even if your mind were as open as as the Grand Canyon's widest chasm and could accept pedophilia, it could not admit rape. And that's precisely what these men did. Regardless of his colossal love for Lolita, in the end, Humbert deceived her and ruined her childhood. Regardless of how
little Geimer protested or how she was dressed that day for the shoot, Polanski deceived her and continues to make her life a nightmare.

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