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From: Travis Bickle
MartinAmis: Amis's Works
Date: 2/1/99
Time: 6:15:53 PM
Remote Name:

    I just read Lolita for the first time this past weekend. Despite being aware of its inescapable way-beyond-sterling rep, I was fairly blown away. It just bowled me over. What a shattering, beautiful work. At least a million different meanings on a zillion different levels. Reading it, you laugh, you cry, you shave your dog and phone the neighbors. You somehow want to treat the ones you love a little better. It is not some softcore kiddie porn, not some racy piffle that Nabokov dashed off, but rather a sternly moral, albeit hilarious, fable that can't fail to move and haunt anybody with a brain at least the size of a LeSeur pea.

    There are many dimensions to be gleaned from the book that are just not available from the brilliant, but not very faithful, Kubrick movie (reportedly Nabokov liked it) or the decent, more representative Lyne version. I'm posting to make a couple of recommendations concerning the book. I don't know how many of you realize this, but Lolita is available in a lovely cloth-bound version that has the added lagniappe of a Martin Amis introduction [click here to buy this edition of Lolita from]. The introduction, as you might guess, is nearly worth the price of admission alone (about 11 bucks from Amazon). Amis' lengthy piece is chock full o' great insights and tasty Nabokovian lore. If you want to buy it, this might be the ticket.

    My other recommendation concerns the text of the novel itself: all of you bigtime Amis fans out there who've yet not read Lolita yet, do so PDQ. Although I was aware of Amis' admiration for Nabokov, I wasn't aware of how much his style really owes to Nabokov's. You could make the argument that without Lolita, there would be no Money (hold on flamers, I'm not in the least detracting from Money. I think it's shit-hot brilliant and pretty much Marty's finest hour. Yet. Night Train doesn't even come close, doesn't even hold a candle. It's decent, sure. But, it is essentially, and will remain, minor Amis. It's an experiment, a diversion.) The affinities are so strong, the voices are so similar, and all the hallmarks are there: the technically reliable, but slightly off narrator (it doesn't take an MSW to realize there's something not quite right about both of these boys, Hum and Self, and that we really can't trust a damn thing they say), the chattiness, the sparkly jazz of the prose. The subtle manipulation of reader sympathy. (Let's not even get into here all the word games, linguistic tomfoolery, the literary allusions, the portmonteau words. Whole careers could and have been made of interpreting Nabokov's works.) I could go on (and how I do go on!), but don't take my word for it. Please check it out, if you haven't already. You won't be sorry.

[NOTE: for more on Nabokov, go to Zembla: The Nabokov Buterfly Net, by clicking the butterfly below]:


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