Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sometimes Pretty Words Aren't Enough

I remember reading the very end of “Lolita”. When Humbert finally tracked her down, she was 17 years old, living with her husband, and pregnant. She had sent a letter with no return address asking him for $400 so she and her husband could move to Alaska. Now, aside from the fact that she refers to him as “Dad”, the letter was actually quite sweet. The end of the book, though it was my favorite, was the saddest thing about it. I cried every time I ever read it. The letter Lolita writes to Humbert is his first hint of her whereabouts in almost 3 years. By now, he’s already living with another woman, but when he receives the letter, he immediately leaves her and tracks down Lolita. The letter is as follows, and only because I rather like the idea of letters:

Dear Dad:

How's everything? I'm married. I'm going to have a baby.  I guess

            he's going to be a big one. I guess he'll come right for Christmas.

This is a hard letter to write. I'm going nuts because we don't have

enough to pay our debts and get out of here. Dick is promised a big

job in Alaska in his very specialized corner of the mechanical field,

that's all I know about it but it's really grand.  Pardon me for

withholding our home address but you may still be mad at me, and Dick

must not know. This town is something.  You can't see the morons for

the smog. Please do send us a check, dad. We could manage with three

or four hundred or even less, anything is welcome, you might sell my

old things, because once we get there the dough will just start

rolling in. Write, please. I have gone through much sadness and


Yours expecting,

DOLLY (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller)

            So, moving on with the story, and I assure you, this is crucial to the story you’re currently reading because this was a moment when I learned a great lesson that I still carry with me today and that even inspired a poem I later wrote that I very well may post on here.

            Humbert finds Lolita; she lives in a small home with her husband and dog, a giant belly filled to the brim with baby. Before now seeing her, Humbert had believed that he would be done with her by the time she was 15, and he would impregnate her in order to provide himself with another young nymphet to entertain him. But seeing her now, Humbert comes to the realization that he will always love Lolita. To quote the book actually:

                        “I looked and looked at her, and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth. She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago - but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man's child. She could fade and wither - I didn't care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face.” 

            This is one of my favorite quotes from the book, and really, there’s no possible way to properly tell the story of Lolita without simply handing you the entire book and telling you to have a go at it. Because of this, you’ll have to excuse the excessive amount of quotes that I shall put into this particular post. It was horrifyingly sad, yet so very hopeful toward the end when he found her yet I still knew that somehow, he would be unable to take her except by force.

            Of course, I ended up being entirely wrong. He gave her $4,000, made her tell him who it was that she ran off with (oddly, enough, it was a playwright who ended up throwing her out after her refusal to take part in an orgy), and wished her all the best. Well, that is, after he begged and pleaded with her to come back with him and leave her inconsequential Richard. It was sad, very pathetic, and it still makes me tear up a little bit just to simply read the quote, and think deeply about it.

                        "One last word," I said in my horrible careful English, "are you quite, quite sure that—well, not tomorrow, of course, and not after tomorrow, but—well—some day, any day, you will not come to live with me? I will create a brand new God and thank him with piercing cries, if you give me that microscopic hope" (to that effect).

            And when she said no, I cried horribly. I recall texting Ruben while I did this, asking him how Lolita could possibly tell Humbert no after hearing such things. I don’t believe I could have (at this point in my life) turned down the meanest, ugliest man in the world after hearing such a speech (if one would call it that). I went on to say many other things about this particular situation as well. Humbert had used such beautiful words, and Nabokov had to have been one the most talented writers of his time to come up with these kinds of words.

             Ruben’s response was as follows:

                        “But baby sometimes pretty words aren’t enough.”

            Now, these few words didn’t mean much to me at the time that they were sent to me via text message. But they sunk in a while later.  What blew me away about this was the fact that Ruben was one of many writers who basically made his living off of pretty words. Pretty words were a part of what made Ruben special to me. Granted, I know that many of you reading will probably tell yourselves that you already knew that, but did you? I mean, most people aren’t quite as good at word play as someone else like Vladimir Nabokov. Of course, that’s not to say that most people aren’t as smart as him, that’s more or less just to say that he was an absolute literary genius and the words he uses in his literature are very well planned and thought out. Ruben was a master at word play. I would know. I had heard him speak and had read his poetry as well as the messages e had sent me on a not so regular basis. Anything that wasn’t sexual was often beautiful.

            So when Ruben had said that sometimes pretty words simply weren’t enough, I guess it hit me after a while that maybe that was all I had been getting from him. I started to rethink my relationship with Ruben some time after this conversation.

            I read “Lolita” several times after this, and came to different determinations each time I read it. Maybe Lolita wasn’t as much to blame for all these things as I had first thought. It sounds stupid now to think this, but it took me a while to realize that she probably wasn’t supposed to be the one to dislike when reading the book. She was just a young immature girl in a situation that she didn’t really have a way of getting out of without getting hurt.

            So, when Lolita told him no, Humbert accepted this answer from her for possibly the first time since he had ever been with her. Although he claims that it was her who constantly controlled him, it wasn’t so. “Lolita” was a story told from the perspective of a pedophile, one that the reader, after having read the entire book open mindedly, could not hate. I suppose that because I was with Ruben, I sided almost too immediately with Humbert in his story. Anyway, reading “Lolita” changed a lot about how I thought about some things. I had to look at myself and wonder whether or not I was thinking as rationally as I usually thought I was. Then again, are any of us?

            Many of us, when in a relationship, spend so much time trying to justify everything wrong that the other person is doing, we forget just how wrong they’re being. We often get blinded by what we think we have rather than what we actually have. I guess that’s somewhat how I behaved with Ruben. I wanted to tell myself that Ruben was just as in love with me as I thought I was with him, but looking back, can I honestly still tell myself that?

            I’ve read “Lolita” more than once, and have to admit that, with the spring coming back in, and his birthday so close, I’m currently reading it again. It really brings back memories. I remember what made Lolita so captivating. I guess I remember what made Ruben so captivating…

                        I suppose spring is always going to feel like this….


  1. I enjoyed reading your take of the book Lolita as I had finished the book a month or so ago. I have still yet to watch the film properly as I managed to borrow it off my partner. Initially, I disagreed with your interpretation but it seems you too saw how unreliable the narrator was. I think that is the beauty of the book, you want to support the narrator from the description but to put simply, he is just a paedophile.

    You must remember that he had Lolita away from what she knew and to keep her under control, he threatened that she would be taken into care. One of the chapters at the end described how he heard her cry every night. It's a book that you have to read over and over again to really take it for what it is.

    With your comparison to your relationship, it sure does make me reflect my own. I should question how I view my partner and whether I'm being as rational as I think I am. So, thank you for this particular blog post. Maybe I need some thinking to do.

  2. I understand exactly what you mean. Yes, there was much more to the relationship between Humbert and Lolita, and yes i did leave out much of it. And there were a lot more things he did to be sure that she would remain submissive to him.

    I appreciate your feedback and your comment in general. And as for your relationship. I can't tell you how much advice I recieved on my past one, but in the end, what happens is the decision of the one who is actually in the relationshup. I won't discuss my own thoughts on your relationship and what not but i will invite you to discuss it further privately if you wish. My email should be on my profile and i wish you the best of luck with whatever it is you have yet to think out and go through...