Is there a classic novel in the world that has a naughtier reputation than Lolita? I mean, you go into it knowing you're about to read a book written from the perspective of a pedophile, but at the same time, you're thinking you're a mature reader and you're immune to whatever mild smut there is and you're looking for the genuine literary merit, so the reputation is only worth a self-aware chuckle.
Which is to say, I wasn't prepared. The actual sensation of being inside the pervert's mind throughout the whole ride is excruciating, especially since the voice is so convincing and the book is so damn good. It was actually more emotionally taxing for me than We Need to Talk About Kevin. Neither of them struck any of my personal sensitivities; the biggest difference I can find is that it's hard to keep reading when you hate the narrator. It's also hard to stop.
Humbert Humbert didn't surprise me as much as the character of Lolita, though. Part of the book's naughty reputation seemed to come from the question of whether she was a helpless victim or a manipulative temptress, but neither of those options actually cover the reality of her being a twelve-year-old girl who acts like a twelve-year-old girl. Humbert doesn't withhold the story of any of his crimes, but he's constantly excusing himself and asking for pity, as if he was always in Lolita's thrall and couldn't help himself. It made me feel like the book should be restricted - first prove that you can see through his schtick, then you can read it.
My first thought after finishing was that I had to read more Nabokov, because his language is drop-dead gorgeous and I wanted to love it without associating it with Humbert. Fortunately we had Bend Sinister on the shelf, so that's up next.
Well hallo, other Russian writer! Just coincidence, I'm afraid, and if there's any cultural similarity between Dostoevsky's style and Nabokov's, I missed it. I finished them around the same time - I always have one book from the shelf going as well as one on the Kindle, but the Kindle ones tend to take me much longer due to the Kindle living in my purse and most of my reading time being at home. So I started Brothers Karamazov ages before I started Lolita.
It was good. The plot keeps shifting focus to various subplots that may or may not affect any other characters in the book, which can be frustrating, but it mostly all came together in the end. I think my favorite parts were actually the monologues, especially the ones where Alyosha was involved. It's basically philosophy wrapped up in novel format, isn't it? Some of it's very thought-provoking, which I guess is an obvious thing to say, but some of it is surprisingly feel-good, too. Spoiler alert, there's a dog in one part.
This one was up right after Karamazov and it's much shorter than any of my other Kindle classics so far, so I've already finished a good third of it. I had forgotten how early the era of H.G. Wells is - the aliens are blowing up horses and carriages, for crying out loud. I think my favorite thing about it is that, although I know Earth will prevail in the end, I have no clue from what I've read so far how they're going to do it. Oh, and when I'm done I'm looking forward to listening to the radio show. From what I've heard of it already the music is awesome. "The chances of anything coming from Mars, are a million to one, he said! The chances of anything coming from Mars, are a million to one...YET STILL...THEYYYY COME!"
I've posted before about my starry-eyed adoration of Barbara Kingsolver, particularly my excitement when I realized Pigs in Heaven was a sequel to The Bean Trees. Throughout most of Animal Dreams, I kept holding out hope that it would end up surprising me in the same way, since it was set near Tuscon, where we'd left the main characters in the last book. It never made the connection, so that ended up being a disappointment with nothing to do with the quality of the writing.
And the quality held up. Everything she writes is riveting and inspiring and unique. But those aren't the only patterns. It's starting to seem like everything she writes is about a headstrong nonconformist woman or women who explore an unfamiliar land and learn about an indigenous people. They always have extraordinarily deep bonds with family members, and always form a new bond with someone from the said indigenous people. In a way it's fine that the books are predictable, because they're not the kind of thing you read for the thrilling plot twist, but next time I'm probably going to feel a little like I've seen behind the curtain.
Right, so that's all the books since last time I talked about the books. YAY BOOKS. Hey, did anyone else take that "How Well Read Are You" quiz on BuzzFeed? Can we talk about how the scoring is kind of unfair? Exactly how many classics are we supposed to consume every year by their standards?