Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
Page 5: God, I forgot how brilliant this foreword is, as if it’s a real medical foreword but it’s actually Nabokov’s creation too.
Page 6: “The caretakers of the various cemeteries involved report that no ghosts walk.” —> I love this. Let them all rest peacefully.
Page 7: “that had our demented diarist gone, in the fatal summer of 1947, to a competent psychopathologist, there would have been no disaster; but then, neither would there have been this book.” —> But get men into therapy, though. I love this book, but in real life, fuck the book.
Page 7: “A desperate honesty that throbs through his confession does not absolve him from sins of diabolical cunning. He is abnormal. He is not a gentleman. But how magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!” —> Yes exactly.
Page 7: “and still more important to us than scientific significance and literary worth, is the ethical impact the book should have on the serious reader; for in this poignant personal study there lurks a general lesson; the wayward child, the egotistic mother, the panting maniac—these are not only vivid characters in a unique story; they warn us of dangerous trends; they point out potent evils.” —> Nabokov knew. He knew what he was doing and how his book would be received. Of course he had to set it up this way in the beginning.
Page 11: “Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” —> I think this is so clever too.
Page 11: “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” —> It occurs to me that people reading this book for the first time might think that Humber killed Lolita, and that’s where the murderer reference comes from. I don’t remember what my first impression was upon hearing that Humbert was a murderer or that he was on trial, but it’s definitely a reasonable suspicion to come to.
Page 12: “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning)” —> I love the succinctness of this too.
Page 13-14: “There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: ‘honey-colored skin,’ ‘thin arms,’ ‘brown bobbed hair,’ ‘long lashes,’ ‘big bright mouth’); and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita).” —> This is interesting. How you can recall general details about some person or event, but others are imprinted on you fully whenever you close your eyes.
Page 15: “I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.” —> Lol Jesus.
Page 15-16: “When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past.” —> This also describes anxiety and other mental illnesses.
Page 16-17: “while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.” —> Welp.
Page 17: Uranist: a homosexual. This explains a lot about Humbert, that he says he sat with uranists while at college.
Page 18: “It will be marked that I substitute time terms for spatial ones.” —> Here he goes, on that obsession with time.
Page 19: “You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate—the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.” —> This is so fucked up.
Page 19: “Furthermore, since the idea of time plays such a magic part in the matter, the student should not be surprised to learn that there must be a gap of several years, never less than ten I should say, generally thirty or forty, and as many as ninety in a few known cases, between maiden and man to enable the latter to come under a nymphet’s spell.” —> Ew.
Page 19: “When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel was no nymphet to me” —> I’m living for these Edgar Allan Poe references, though. I knew Annabel was one, and Nabokov was originally going to call this book The Kingdom by the Sea. But there have been a lot more Annabel Lee references than I remembered.
Page 20: “This is all very interesting, and I daresay you see me already frothing at the mouth in a fit; but no, I am not; I am just winking happy thoughts into a little tiddle cup.” —> Uhhh.
Page 21: “Humbert Humbert tried hard to be good. Really and truly, he did. He had the utmost respect for ordinary children, with their purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances would have interfered with the innocence of a child, if there was the least risk of a row. But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng, he espied a demon child, ‘enfant charmante et fourbe,’ dim eyes, bright lips, ten years in jail if you only show her you are looking at her. So life went.” —> This is the part that gets misinterpreted constantly about this book. They are all still children. There are no demons, no seductresses. It’s still all Humbert. But people are like, well she seduced him! He says he’d never interfere with ordinary children, but he did. Dolores was an ordinary child, it was YOU who saw her differently. It’s not her fault.
Page 22: “Ah, leave me alone in my pubescent park, in my mossy garden. Let them play around me forever. Never grow up.” —> This is such a beautiful section but it’s also so grotesque.
Page 23: “that among the eighty or so grues I had had operate upon me, she was the only one that gave me a pang of genuine pleasure.” —> Grues is French for hooker, so that’s a lot of hookers he’s been with.
Page 25: What the fuck just happened here.
Page 25: “but soon after, for my own safety, I decided to marry. It occurred to me that regular hours, home-cooked meals, all the conventions of marriage, the prophylactic routine of its bedroom activities and, who knows, the eventual flowering of certain moral values, of certain spiritual substitutes, might help me, if not to purge myself of my degrading and dangerous desires, at least to keep them under pacific control.” —> Lol yeah, good solution, just get hitched fast.
Page 26: “Well did I know, alas, that I could obtain at the snap of my fingers any adult female I chose; in fact, it had become quite a habit with me of not being too attentive to women lest they come toppling, bloodripe, into my cold lap.” —> Lol for fuck’s sake, Humbert.
Page 26: Merkin: a pubic wig, especially women. So when Humbert says he’s looking merely for “an animated merkin”…yikes.
Page 27: “the mobile moist mouth, no matter how I stuffed it with love” —> Ew.
Page 28: “Years of secret sufferings had taught me superhuman self-control.” —> Yeah geez, I can only imagine.
Page 30: Moll: a gangster’s female companion, a prostitute.
Page 30: “but I noticed with a spasm of fierce disgust that the former Counselor of the Tsar, after thoroughly easing his bladder, had not flushed the toilet. That solemn pool of alien urine with a soggy, tawny cigarette disintegrating in it struck me as a crowning insult, and I wildly looked around for a weapon.” —> This is fair actually.
Page 30: “(Maximovich! his name suddenly taxies back to me)” —> I will never not find this hilarious and brilliant, hahaha.
Page 30-31: “the couple had somehow got over to California and had been used there, for an excellent salary, in a year-long experiment conducted by a distinguished American ethnologist. The experiment dealt with human and racial reactions to a diet of bananas and dates in a constant position on all fours.” —> What the fuck.
Page 33: “the big men on our team, the real leaders we never saw, were mainly engaged in checking the influence of climatic amelioration on the coats of the arctic fox.” —> This is interesting. Were people aware of “climatic amelioration” in those days, in the 40s and 50s as he’s describing?
Page 33: Drumlin: elongated, teardrop-shaped hills of rock, sand and gravel that formed under moving glacier ice.
Page 40: I didn’t remember Humbert having a photographic memory either, but I guess that fits perfectly with this book he can write full of details.
Page 44: “Last night we sat on the piazza, the Haze woman, Lolita and I.” —> The Haze woman. What a nice man he is. /s
Page 46: “Lo came in and after pottering around, became interested in the nightmare curlicues I had penned on a sheet of paper. Oh no: they were not the outcome of a belle-lettrist’s inspired pause between two paragraphs; they were the hideous hieroglyphics (which she could not decipher) of my fatal lust.” —> Fuck.
Page 47: “excruciatingly desirable from head to foot (all New England for a lady-writer’s pen!)” —> Just so he can see her naked.
Page 50: “my dolorous and hazy darling” —> I like this.
Page 51: “I long for some terrific disaster. Earthquake. Spectacular explosion. Her mother is messily but instantly and permanently eliminated, along with everybody else for miles around. Lolita whimpers in my arms. A free man, I enjoy her among the ruins.” —> Interesting idea you’ve got there, Humbert.
Page 56: “Sitting there, on the sofa, I managed to attune, by a series of stealthy movements, my masked lust to her guileless limbs. It was no easy matter to divert the little maiden’s attention while I performed the obscure adjustments necessary for the success of the trick. Talking fast, lagging behind my own breath, catching up with it, mimicking a sudden toothache to explain the breaks in my patter—and all the while keeping a maniac’s inner eye on my distant golden goal, I cautiously increased the magic friction that was doing away, in an illusional, if not factual sense, with the physically irremovable, but psychologically very friable texture of the material divide (pajamas and robe) between the weight of two sunburnt legs, resting athwart my lap, and the hidden tumor of an unspeakable passion.” —> What a fucking way to describe having to hide your erection.
Page 59: “I felt proud of myself. I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor. Absolutely no harm done.” —> I guesssss. But you still violated her with your sick will. She just didn’t know your motives.
Page 59: “The elation with which the vision of new delights filled me was not horrible but pathetic. I qualify it as pathetic. Pathetic—because despite the insatiable fire of my venereal appetite, I intended, with the most fervent force and foresight, to protect the purity of that twelve-year-old child.” —> Loool yeah how long is this nobleness going to last.
Page 63: “The next instant I heard her—alive, unraped—clatter downstairs.” —> Uhhh….
Page 65: “I have left out a lyrical passage which I more or less skipped at the time, concerning Lolita’s brother who died at 2 when she was 4, and how much I would have liked him.” —> I do not remember this little detail at all. There’s a big what-if scenario that comes along with that here.
Page 67: “Why limit myself to the modest masked caress I had tried already? Other versions of venery presented themselves to me swaying and smiling. I saw myself administering a powerful sleeping potion to both mother and daughter so as to fondle the latter through the night with perfect impunity.” —> Welp. Here we go.
Page 68: “I also bought some good liquor and two or three kinds of vitamins. I was pretty sure that with the aid of these stimulants and my natural resources, I would avert any embarrassment that my indifference might incur when called upon the display a strong and impatient flame.” —> Lol okay Humbert.
Page 70: “despite the stimulants, her ‘nervous, eager cheri’—a heroic cheri—had some initial trouble, for which, however, he amply compensated her by a fantastic display of old-world endearments” —> What does this even mean.
Page 72-73: “My small income added to her even smaller one impressed her as a brilliant fortune, not because the resulting sum now sufficed for most middle-class needs, but because even my money shone in her eyes with the magic of my manliness, and she saw our joint account as one of those southern boulevards at midday that have solid shade on one side and smooth sunshine on the other, all the way to the end of a prospect, where pink mountains loom.” —> I feel like this is an important detail, the fact that they have a joint bank account now.
Page 78: Duenna: an older woman acting as a governess and companion in charge of girls, especially in a Spanish family. I’m pretty sure I looked this word up the last time I read this book too.
Page 81: “and as I watched, with the stark lucidity of a future recollection (you know—trying to see things as you will remember having seen them” —> This! This is the line I always think of!
Page 82: “Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer. No, no, I was neither.” —> Interesting.
Page 83: I’m also having a hazy memory of Humbert’s waterproof watch being important later in the story. But I could also be wrong about that.
Page 90: “‘Leslie speaking. Leslie Tomson,’ said Leslie Tomson who favored a dip at dawn. ‘Mrs. Humbert, sir, has been run over and you’d better come quick.’” —> I just love how quickly this whole series of events happens.
Page 92: “a dead woman, the top of her head a porridge of bone, brains, bronze hair and blood” —> Lovely.
Page 93-94: “‘Look,’ he continued, ‘why don’ I drive there right now, and you may sleep with Jean’— (he did not really add that but Jean supported his offer so passionately that it might be implied).” —> Looool I forgot about this part.
Page 100: “and feeling as I did her warm weight in my lap (so that, in a sense, I was always ‘with Lolita’ as a woman is ‘with child’)” —> Lol yeah no.
Page 104-105: “not daring really kiss her, I touched her hot, opening lips with the utmost piety, tiny sips, nothing salacious; but she, with an impatient wriggle, pressed her mouth to mine so hard that I felt her big front teeth and shared in the peppermint taste of her saliva.” —> Time to start taking everything he says with a grain of salt. I already was, but especially now.
Page 108: “or else they went into such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues (…and then bear south after you hit the courthouse…) that I could not help losing my way in the maze of their well-meaning gibberish.” —> Lol I feel this way about landmark directions too, Humbert.
Page 108: “Ah, gentle drivers gliding through summer’s black nights, what frolics, what twists of lusts, you might see from your impeccable highways if Kumfy Kabins were suddenly drained of their pigments and became as transparent as boxes of glass!” —> Ew. No thank you.
Page 109: “’I believe one of the ladies was a disguised man [my static].” —> I don’t get what the brackets are supposed to mean here.
Page 110: “‘Are we to sleep in one room?’ said Lo, her features working in that dynamic way they did—not cross or disgusted (though plain on the brink of it) but just dynamic—when she wanted to load a question with violent significance.” —> I like that last part, loading a question with violent significance.
Page 111: “‘The word is incest,’ said Lo—and walked into the closet” —> I do have to wonder why these little bits of dialogue are in here. Either they really happened, and they’re not flattering to Humbert, and also does Lo really know what’s going on. Or did Humbert completely invent these conversations in his memoir later as he writes it from prison, and he’s only inserting it to make her look like the seductress and he’s trying to downplay her constant “bad” talk.
Page 111: “Seva ascendes, pulsata, brulans, kitzelans, dementissma. Elevator clatterans, pausa, clatterans, populus in corridoro. Hanc nisi mors mihi admiet nemo! Juncea puellula, jo pensavo fondissime, nobserva nihil quidquam” —> I tried to Google translate this but it’s still incomprehensible.
Page 114: “And my only regret today is that I did not quietly deposit key ‘342’ at the office, and leave the town, the country, the continent, the hemisphere,—indeed, the globe—that same night.” I don’t think this is sincere, Humbert; you’re only doing it for the jury. But I think it is a regret that the reader feels once you say it.
Page 114: “I was still firmly resolved to pursue my policy of sparing her purity by operating only in the stealth of night, only upon a completely anesthetized little nude.” —> Cue that gif of Chidi in The Good Place saying “You do get how that’s worse.”
Page 114: “and we do not, as dignified Orientals did in still more luxurious times, use tiny entertainers fore and aft between the mutton and the rose sherbet.” —> Is he saying that we don’t have girls entertain rich people between courses of meals?
Page 115: “Despite my having dabbled in psychiatry and social work, I really knew very little about children.” —> Loooool. “Dabbled.” Okay.
Page 115: “The child therapist in me (fake, as most of them are—but no matter) regurgitated neo-Freudian hash and conjured up a dreaming and exaggerating Dolly in the ‘latency’ period of girlhood.” —> This sums it up perfectly.
Page 116: “In and out of my heart flowed my rainbow blood.” —> I like this sentence.
Page 119: “Please, reader: no matter your exasperation with the tenderhearted, morbidly sensitive, infinitely circumspect hero of my book, do not skip these essential pages!” —> Lol sure Humbert, that’s what we think you are.
Page 119: “Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me” —> Exactly. And that’s what’s even more horrifying, that Nabokov can put Humbert in our heads so that we are the ones right there with him.
Page 122: “Her kiss, to my delirious embarrassment, had some rather comical refinements of flutter and probe which made me conclude she had been coached at an early age by a little Lesbian. No Charlie boy could have taught her that.” —> Projecting, Humbert.
Page 124: “There would have been a fire opal dissolving within a ripple-ringed pool, a last throb, a last dab of color, stinging red, smarting pink, a sign, a wincing child.” —> Okay.
Page 129: “This was a lone child, an absolute waif, with whom a heavy-limbed, foul-smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times that very morning.” —> Jesus christ.
Page 130: “At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.” —> Fucking hell, man. I hate this.
Page 134: “Some motels had instructions pasted above the toilets (on whose tank the towels were unhygienically heaped) asking guests not to throw into its bowl garbage, beer cans, cartons, stillborn babies” —> Lol Jesus.
Page 136: “all of them as similar to my ears as her various candies were to my palate” —> Ew.
Page 136: “In those days, neither she nor I had thought up yet the system of monetary bribes which was to work such havoc with my nerves and her morals somewhat later.” —> Ahh I just had this thought: I know how she eventually leaves Humbert, but I assume the money he bribed her with also helped her escape from all the adult men in her life. That’s how she finally managed to escape, or at least a help in it.
Page 138: “’Only the other day we read in the newspapers some bunkum about a middle-aged morals offender who pleaded guilty to the violation of the Mann act and to transporting a nine-year-old girl across state lines for immoral purposes, whatever those are.’” —> Is this the one short reference to Sally Horner that that one author was so hell-bent on proving was critical to the origin of Lolita?
Page 140: Inutile: useless, pointless.
Page 143: “A forest in Arkansas and, on her brown shoulder, a raised purple-pink swelling (the work of some gnat) which I eased of its beautiful transparent poison between my long thumbnails and then sucked till I was gorged on her spicy blood.” —> Gross.
Page 143: “Distant mountains. Near mountains. More mountains; bluish beauties never attainable, or ever turning into inhabited hill after hill; south-eastern ranges, altitudinal failures as alps go; heart and sky-piercing snow-veined gray colossi of stone, relentless peaks appearing from nowhere at a turn of the highway; timbered enormities, with a system of nearly overlapping dark firs, interrupted in places by pale puffs of aspen; pink and lilac formations.” —> I still love this description.
Page 144: “Shakespeare, a ghost town in New Mexico, where bad man Russian Bill was colorfully hanged seventy years ago.” —> Look this up. This sounds interesting.
Page 144: “Obvious Arizona, pueblo dwellings, aboriginal pictographs, a dinosaur track in a desert canyon, printed there thirty million years ago, when I was a child.” —> Lol.
Page 144: “Mission Dolores: good title for book.” —> He’s not wrong.
Page 146: Priapically: (priapic) relating to or resembling a phallus; relating to male sexuality and sexual activity. Of course.
Page 148: He keeps saying he has to be wary of “the danger of those dazzling romps” when he lets Lolita go swimming, because boys will come up next to her and they’ll both talk to each other. But Lo is just trying to be a regular pre-teen girl here. She’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing, and Humbert is the one blocking it.
Page 149: “I itemize these sunny nothings mainly to prove to my judges that I did everything in my power to give my Lolita a really good time.” —> Oh what the fuck is this shit, Humbert.
Page 150: “This was one of the reasons why I tried to keep as far away from people as possible, while Lo, on the other hand, would do her utmost to draw as many potential witnesses into her orbit as she could.” —> Exactly! This is in reference to some woman at a hotel asking Lo “whose cat has scratched poor you,” when you know that’s not a cat scratch at all.
Page 151: “How sweet it was to bring that coffee to her, and then deny it until she had done her morning duty.” —> Goddamnit.
Page 152: Leporine: of or resembling a hare or hares.
Page 152: “The able psychiatrist who studies my case—and whom by now Dr. Humbert has plunged, I trust, into a state of leporine fascination—is no doubt anxious to have me take my Lolita to the seaside and have me find there, at last, the ‘gratification’ of a lifetime urge, and release from the ‘subconscious’ obsession of an incomplete childhood romance with the initial little Miss Lee.” —> I mean, yeah, I guess this would be a slightly happier ending, not for Lolita still, but at least here there would be hope that Humbert would stop.
Page 154: “I remember the operation was over, all over, and she was weeping in my arms;—a salutory storm of sobs after one of the fits of moodiness that had become so frequent with her in the course of that otherwise admirable year!” —> Gee, I wonder fuckin’ why, Humbert!
Page 158-159: “for I must confess that depending on the condition of my glands and ganglia, I could switch in the course of the same day from one pole of insanity to the other—from the thought that around 1950 I would have to get rid somehow of a difficult adolescent whose magic nymphage had evaporated—to the thought that with patience and luck I might have her produce eventually a nymphet with my blood in her exquisite veins, a Lolita the Second, who would be eight or nine around 1960, when I would still be dans la force de l’age; indeed, the telescopy of my mind, or un-mind, was strong enough to distinguish in the remoteness of time a vieillard encore vert—or was it green rot?—bizarre, tender, salivating Dr. Humbert, practicing on supremely lovely Lolita the Third the art of being a granddad.” —> Jesus fucking Christ. This is so disgusting.
Page 160: “In one of our strip maps that has happened to survive among the papers which the authorities have so kindly allowed me to use for the purpose of writing my statement, I find some jottings that help me compute the following.” —> Lol his statement is a literal novel.
Page 160: “And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night—every night, every night—the moment I feigned sleep.” —> Ughhhhh.
Page 163: “unfortunately, on the very first day of school, workmen arrived and put up a fence some way down the gap, and in no time a construction of tawny wood maliciously arose beyond that fence utterly blocking my magic vista; and as soon as they had erected a sufficient amount of material to spoil everything, those absurd builders suspended their work and never appeared again.” —> Lol, good.
Page 168: “and she proved to be a cruel negotiator whenever it was in her power to deny me certain life-wrecking, strange, slow paradisal philters without which I could not live more than a few days in a row, and which, because of the very nature of love’s languor, I could not obtain by force.” —> Why can’t he obtain by force, if that’s all he’s been doing so far? Force or manipulation?
Page 168: “because what I feared most was not that she might ruin me, but that she might accumulate sufficient cash to run away.” —> Exactly.
Page 171: “Above all—since we are speaking of movement and youth—I liked to see her spinning up and down Thayer Street on her beautiful young bicycle: rising on the pedals to work on them lustily, then sinking back in languid posture while the speed wore itself off; and then she would stop at our mailbox and, still astride, would flip through a magazine she found there, and put it back, and press her tongue to one side of her upperlip and push off with her foot, and again spring through pale shade and sun.” —> Omfg, just let her ride her bike without sexualizing it, please, I am begging you, Humbert.
Page 172: “I saw neighbor what’s his name, I think they are French or Swiss, meditate in his frank-windowed study over a typewriter, rather gaunt-profiled, an almost Hitlerian cowlick on his pale brow.” —> I haven’t said much about this yet, but I am living for all these little hints to this man who will become very important later. I notice it every time now, the person Humbert always observes in passing but sprinkles just enough of through the novel to know he’s going to be important.
Page 174: “The reader knows what importance I attached to having a bevy of page girls, consolation prize nymphets, around my Lolita.” —> Consolation prize nymphets. What the fuck is wrong with you, Humbert.
Page 175: “A sudden odd thought stabbed me: was my Lo playing the pimp? If so, she had found the wrong substitute.” —> Omfg no of course not, you oaf.
Page 177: “‘She is still shuttling,’ said Miss Pratt, showing how with her liver-spotted hands, ‘between the anal and genital zones of development.’” —> Oh for fuck’s sake, Pratt, and Freud.
Page 179: “’You just must allow her to take part in The Hunted Enchanters.’” —> There it is. Interesting that Humbert doesn’t immediately comment on this name, at least recognizing its vague familiarity.
Page 180: “‘Dolly has written a most obscene four-letter word which our Dr. Cutler tells me is low-Mexican for urinal with her lipstick on some health pamphlets’” —> What’s the word?
Page 182: Hoyden: a boisterous girl.
Page 183: “Nothing prevented one, of course, from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel’s name had suggested the play’s title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the whole matter much thought really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I, an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to know.” —> Oh Humbert. Fpr all the times you’re fastidious about details and protecting yourself, this is the worst time not to be.
Page 188: “Before their lighted porch Miss Lester was promenading Miss Fabian’s dropsical dackel.” —> I figured this was a dog, but apparently a dackel is also a dachshund.
Page 188-189: Some ten paces away Lolita, through the glass of a telephone booth (membranous god still with us), cupping the tube, confidentially hunched over it, slit her eyes at me, turned away with her treasure, hurriedly hung up, and walked out with a flourish.” —> I believe this phone call is the important one that will matter later.
Page 192: “the hangers were ingeniously fixed to their bars by coils of wire so as to thwart theft” —> Lol love hotels like that. Like yeah, I want to steal your hangers of all things here.
Page 194: I just looked up Kasbeam and maybe it’s not a real place?
Page 196: “Wildly, I pursued the shadow of her infidelity; but the scent I travelled upon was so slight as to be practically undistinguishable from a madman’s fancy.” —> This is such an incredible sentence.
Page 197: “There it lay, ready for instant service on the person or persons, loaded and fully cocked with the slide lock in safety position, thus preluding any accidental discharge. We must remember that a pistol is the Freudian symbol of the Ur-father’s central forelimb.” —> Uh. Goddamnit, Freud.
Page 201: Kurortish: “kurort” is German for health resort.
Page 203: “If you want to make a movie out of my book, have one of these faces gently melt into my own, while I look.” —> Lol. Did they do this?
Page 205: “‘Careful, Dolly. We can check that, you know.’” —> Jesus, Humbert. Going to go check the restaurant receipts to see if she actually had a coke like she said she did.
Page 206: “As the ass I was I had not memorized it.” —> But he said toward the beginning that he had a photographic memory.
Page 207: “Three or four miles out of Wace, I turned into the shadow of a picnic ground where the morning had dumped its litter of light on an empty table; Lo looked up with a semi-smile of surprise and without a word I delivered a tremendous backhand cut that caught her smack on her hot hard little cheekbone. And then the remorse, the poignant sweetness of sobbing atonement, groveling love, the hopelessness of sensual reconciliation. In the velvet night, at Mirana Motel (Mirana!) I kissed the yellowish soles of her long-toed feet, I immolated myself…But it was all of no avail. Both doomed were we. And soon I was to enter a new cycle of persecution.” —> Jesus. I feel this so much. This is so typical of Humbert, of abusers, who abuse and then beg for forgiveness. Disgusting. And Dolly’s sheer surprise in this moment.
Page 207: “For a day or two, I enjoyed the mental emphasis with which I told myself that we were not, and never had been followed; and then I became sickeningly conscious that Trapp had changed his tactics and was still with us, in this or that rented car. A veritable Proteus of the highway, with bewildering ease he switched from one vehicle to another.” —> The paranoia is showing.
Page 210: in that Colorado resort between Snow and Elphinstone” —> Where is this location supposed to be based on?
Page 211: So these young women are named Edusa and Electra Gold. What names.
Page 212: I just realized I don’t even know what celluloid is, but this context on this page makes me think it’s like film for photography or videos.
Page 213: “In my chess sessions with Gaston I saw the board as a square pool of limpid water with rare shells and stratagems rosily visible upon the smooth tessellated bottom, which to my confused adversary was all ooze and squid-cloud.” —> I like this description. I am the confused adversary here, hahah.
Page 213: “Did I ever mention that her bare arm bore the 8 of vaccination?” —> What does this mean?
Page 214: “This, to use an American term, in which discovery, retribution, torture, death, eternity appear in the shape of a singularly repulsive nutshell, was it.” —> I still love this sentence too.
Page 218: Alembics: a distilling tool consisting of two vessels connected by a tube.
Page 220: “I made out what looked like the silhouette of gallows on what was probably a school playground” —> Symbolic.
Page 224: Maquette: a sculptor’s small preliminary model or sketch.
Page 225: “To the hospital in general I apologized with a flourish that almost bowled me over, adding however that I was not on particularly good terms with the rest of the Humbert clan. To myself I whispered that I still had my gun, and was still a free man—free to trace the fugitive, free to destroy my brother.” —> This is hilarious at first, but then dark and sinister by the end.
Page 226: Spoor: the track of scent of an animal.
Page 227: “I discovered at once that he had foreseen my investigation and had planted insulting pseudonyms for my special benefit.” —> I love the idea of an insulting pseudonym, but they’re only insulting to the person who understands them, not insulting to to anyone else.
Page 228: Undinist: someone who is sexually aroused by water or urination.
Page 229: “The gruesome ‘Harold Haze, Tombstone, Arizona’ (which at another time would have appealed to my sense of humor)” —> Lol.
Page 229: “But the most penetrating bodkin was the anagramtailed entry in the register of Chestnut Lodge ‘Ted Hunter, Cane, NH.’.” —> Wow I love this. Amazing.
Page 234: “’And I shall be dumped where the weed decays / And the rest is rust and stardust.’” —> I didn’t remember that this was the context for that perhaps most famous quote in this book. I didn’t know it was a poem Humbert wrote while at the sanatorium in Quebec.
Page 235: “Solitude was corrupting me. I needed company and care. My heart was as hysterical unreliable organ.” —> Still love this quote too. I just didn’t remember the context.
Page 235: “She was twice Lolita’s age and three quarters of mine” —> So that means now Lolita is 14, Rita is 28 and Humbert is 42.
Page 236: Ancilla: an aid to achieving or mastering something difficult.
Page 244: Bonhommie: cheerful friendliness, geniality.
Page 244: Nacreous: a milky opalescent; consisting of or resembling mother-of-pearl.
Page 246: “I could not kill her, of course, as some have thought. You see, I loved her. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” —> Some being the readers here, probably. Again, with all the talk on revenge, yes, Humbert wants to kill the man who took her away, but Nabokov also builds up a little element of hatred toward Lolita, only to stop it here.
Page 249: “’Dick, this is my Dad!’ cried Dolly in a resounding violent voice that struck me as totally strange and new, and cheerful, and old, and sad, because the young fellow, veteran of a remote war, was hard of hearing.” —> So it’s 1952, which means Dick is either young enough to have just come back from Korea, or he’s old enough to have been in World War II.
Page 250: “and then pulled the pistol’s foreskin back, and then enjoyed the orgasm of the crushed trigger: I was always a good little follower of the Viennese medicine man.” —> Lol this is hilarious because in real life Nabokov hated Freud.
Page 251: “Why do these people guess so much and shave so little, and are so disdainful of hearing aids?” —> Lol, he’s such an old person.
Page 253: “No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn” —> Ew. Why are you thinking about that right now.
Page 254: “I covered my face with my hand and broke into the hottest tears I had ever shed. I felt them winding through my fingers and down my chin, and burning me, and my nose got clogged, and I could not stop, and then she touched my wrist. ‘I’ll die if you touch me,’ I said.” —> Ugh, this one still gets me too.
Page 255: “‘Good-by-aye!’ she chanted, my American sweet immortal dead love; for she is dead and immortal if you are reading this. I mean, such is the formal agreement with the so-called authorities.” —> Aw.
Page 257: “I was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past.” —> This is a great sentence too.
Page 258: “Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the foul lust I had inflicted upon her.” —> Exactly.
Page 259: “’You know, what’s so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on your own’; and it struck me, as my automaton knees went up and down, that I simply did not know a thing about my darling’s mind and that quite possibly, behind the awful juvenile cliches, there was in her a garden and a twilight, and a palace gate—dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and absolutely forbidden to me, in my polluted rags and miserable convulsions” —> Yeah, you don’t say. She can at least keep that from you.
Page 259: “I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable, and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimas, je t’aimas! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.” —> No. Fuck this. It’s too late for this. And you will never know how she felt. Never.
Page 261: “But I admit that a man of my power of imagination cannot plead personal ignorance of universal emotions.” —> And yet.
Page 265: I love that “Reveillez-vous, Laqueue, il est temps de mourir!” translates to “Wake up, Laqueue, it’s time to die!”
Page 265: “My mouth was to him a splendid cave full of priceless treasures, but I denied him entrance.” —> Interesting comparison and parallel here, Humbert.
Page 267: Selenian: of the moon; lunar.
Page 272: “I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.” —> Lol okay.
Page 272: “In its published form, this book is being read, I assume in the first years of 2000 A.D. (1935 plus eighty or ninety, live long, my love)” —> Ughhh this is so hard to think about. Seventeen. She was 17. Just imagine if she did live a long life, and this scenario were true. I literally can’t even imagine that.
Page 276: “and every time I got him with those slow, clumsy, blind bullets of mine, he would say under his breath, with a phoney British accent—all the while dreadfully twitching, shivering, smirking, but withal talking in a curiously detached and even amiable manner: ‘Ah, that hurts, sir, enough! Ah, that hurts atrociously, my dear fellow. I pray you, desist. Ah—very painful, very painful, indeed…God! Hah! This is abominable, you should really not—‘” —> Clare Quilty is so weird.
Page 278: “As the music paused for a moment, there was a sudden noise on the stairs. Tony and I stepped out into the hall. Quilty of all people had managed to crawl out onto the landing, and there we could see him, flapping and heaving, then subsiding, forever this time, in a purple heap.” —> Jesus Christ. I don’t remember this part either.
Page 281: But while the blood still throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska.” —> I remember I wrote a poem called “From Here to Alaska” based on Lolita.
Page 281: “I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy.” —> Because we all know why he both wants and doesn’t want it to be a girl.
Page 283: “this time in English—the language of my first governness in St. Petersburg, circa 1903, a Miss Rachel Home.” —> I never knew that was her name.
Page 284: I already know I need to take a Nabokov pilgrimage to Telluride, but now I know I have to go to Afton, Wyoming; Portal, Arizona; and Ashland, Oregon, too.
Page 285: “Publisher X, whose advisers got so bored with Humbert that they never got beyond page 188, had the naïveté to write me that Part Two was too long.” —> Lol.
Page 286: “For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.” —> I like this.
Page 287: So wait, what was the significance of the waterproof watch again, though?
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