Not everything on NPR is my cup of tea — does Susan Stamberg ramp up that smug chuckle of hers with every new year? — but I’m still reminded often enough of why I listen. Today: A report, on “Day to Day,” on the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Lolita.”
I guess everyone gets a few treats like this in a life: A chance to encounter a great work of art when you’re still a blank slate, before you’ve heard too much about it, before you’ve absorbed the official opinions of the culture. I can remember almost every one, but the best was “Lolita.”
If an education prepares you for anything, it should prepare you for a life of learning. And I learn something from “Lolita” every time I open it. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read; you can practically sing it. And then I close it, and think: English was Nabokov’s second language. Or maybe his third.
Think I’ll reread it this winter. It’s been a while.
Sorry for the lag these past couple days. I actually have work to do, and it’s interesting enough to keep me busy, and busy enough to feel like I have a real job ‘n’ stuff. So thrilling. So I may be scarce for the next few days, unless there’s another killer hurricane or whatnot.
Listen to that NPR piece, but only if you have already read the book. If not, read the book first.
alex said on September 14, 2005 at 10:51 pm
I didn’t read the book until after I inadvertently came across the movie�the ’50s version, that is�while flipping channels one night. Cut to middle-aged man in a ’57 Ford station wagon with a little girl. At first blush, I figured it was some sort of Ozzie and Harriet kind of show. Maybe they were about to drive up to a picket fence to have a chat with Mr. Ed. But there was something very wrong with the picture, a vibe that didn’t jibe. I was drawn in trying to figure it out. It just didn’t feel like a father/daughter Sunday drive in the country made for TV. It had sexual tension; nothing overt whatsoever and yet it reeked of it. I was hooked and continued watching until the end. That was some powerful acting and directing, to be sure.
By today’s sensibilities, such a book would probably have a hard time being published. Loved it better than the movie, and also was quite taken with Nabokov’s tremendous and artful command of the English language.
deb said on September 15, 2005 at 2:21 pm
it is. this book once came up in an off-handed way in a newsroom conversation, and a co-worker — female — spontaneously recited the whole first paragraph. if i’d had to guess, i wouldn’t have even dreamed she knew who nabokov WAS.
basset said on September 15, 2005 at 5:43 pm
OK… so what IS the whole first paragraph?
JRG said on September 16, 2005 at 1:37 am
There’s an essay in the NYTimes by Stacy Schiff re the 50th anniversary that might interest you. See http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/opinion/15schiff.html
Nance said on September 16, 2005 at 6:34 am
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. 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.
basset said on September 16, 2005 at 12:06 pm
well, it’s certainly distinctive, anyway. not something, based on the excerpts in the NYT article, that I think I’d enjoy reading, though.