Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm on Fire for Lolita

Remember my wallow of self-piteous agony a few days ago?  The "gee-I-wish-I-had-more-time-to-read-the-classics" boo-hoo fest?

Well, I'm still boo-hoo'ing a little bit (sorry, Thomas Hardy--you'll have to wait), but I pulled myself up by my time-management bootstraps and said, "Okay, today really is the day."  After I posted about my Unreads on Facebook, the comments started flowing in:

"You cannot die without reading Lolita, one of the saddest most heartbreakingly funny books in the English language."

"Definitely Nabokov, David.  Start today."

"Lolita is one of the great books of the 20th century, but I recommend that you read Alfred Appel’s annotated edition.  The emotional impact will be same, but the experience will be far less intellectually frustrating."

Okay, I hear you, America!  The time is now.  As Jonathan Swift once said, "May you live all the days of your life."  This calls to mind another quote, allegedly from actor Zachary Scott: "As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do." Or there's the ancient Chinese proverb: "Enjoy yourself.  It's later than you think."

All of which leads to this:

Lolita now lives on my new Kindle Fire.

Brief, Slightly-Defensive Interlude:
I like to support independent bookstores as much as the next writer-who-knows-which-side-his-bread-is-buttered-on (for instance, last week, in the space of two hours, I spent $89 at two of my favorite Montana bookstores: Elk River Books in Livingston and The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman), but I got a jolt of joy the other day when UPS delivered a new Kindle Fire HD to my front door.  This makes the fourth Kindle I've owned, and it joins my beloved Kobo mini (especially beloved because when I purchase books on Kobo, I support another local bookstore: Fact and Fiction Books in Missoula).  I bought the Kindle Fire because my previous model (a Kindle with keyboard) was starting to get sluggish under the weight of all the books which I'd loaded onto it.  One of the things I like about the Fire is the crisp, brightly-lit display--which will come in especially handy when I read graphic novels and comics--to say nothing of its blazing page-turning speed and the X-Ray book search feature.   I've vowed to not let myself get too distracted by the non-book whistles....though I must confess that one of the first things I did--in a fit of nostalgia--was to download and watch the first few minutes of Flashdance (the first movie my wife and I saw as a dating couple).  My only complaint with the Fire is how heavy it feels compared to my previous e-readers.   Gee, it wouldn't have anything to do with the 800-plus books obesely crowding my digital library, would it?

So....two days ago, based on Facebook friend Gregory's suggestion, I downloaded the Annotated Lolita (edited with a gazillion footnotes by Alfred Appel) and began reading.

A few notes at the embarkation of my journey through these pages:

1.  I am skipping over the introduction.  Though I've seen the movie version of Lolita and have already been spoilered for the book, I'd still rather get right to the text.

2.  An Amazon reviewer states: "As the name implies, The Annotated Lolita is superbly annotated, translating foreign phrases, explaining literary references, and pointing out connections between characters in different parts of the story.  Unfortunately, this has the effect of sacrificing some of the surprise in the surface story, not to mention giving you neck pain from constantly flipping back and forth while you read."

2a.  My plan is to read the book without clicking the hyperlinked notes, only going back to read the annotations once I've completed the whole enchi-lita.

2b.  Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.

2c.  No, I mean it.  That really is my plan.

3.  As the son of a preacher man, I realize publicly bragging about my Lolita read could potentially come off as a little unseemly, particularly to some of the more conservatively buttoned-up members of my father's past congregations.  Though I find the central subject matter of the novel a little squicky, it's the sentence music I'm most interested in here.  So, have no fear, ladies of the Deaconess Council, I'll try not to get too much squick on me.

3a.  My father, the Baptist minister, is also the man who once kept a paperback copy of Baby Doll, a novelization of the movie from a Tennessee Williams play, on a bookcase tucked away on the third floor of my childhood home.  As a boy, at the impressionable age of six, I used to go up to that room in the heat of an afternoon, pull down that book and stare at the cover of Baby Doll--which featured a skimpily-dressed actress named Carroll Baker curled up in an adult-sized crib sucking her thumb in the most seductive of ways--and wonder what the heck my father was doing with a book like that in our house.  So there's that.

4.  Unfortunately, Lolita will be occasionally back-burnered for the next couple of weeks as I continue to (happily) plow through books which I need to read for upcoming panels at literary festivals this Fall.  This list includes novels by Jamie Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Andrew Sean Greer, Lea Carpenter and J. Robert Lennon.

The important thing here is, though, that I've at last embarked on Lolita.  Confetti shower!!

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