NaNoReMo 2008: Lolita Syllabus

Here we go, the 2008 NaNoReMo reading syllabus:

Post Date Chapters to be Discussed
Fri, Nov. 7 Part I, Chapters 1-13
Mon, Nov. 10 Part I, Chapters 14-22
Fri, Nov. 14 Part I, Chapters 23-33
Mon, Nov. 17 Part II, Chapters 1-5
Fri, Nov. 21 Part II, Chapters 6-19
Mon, Nov. 24 Part II, Chapters 20-26
Fri, Nov. 28 Part II, Chapters 27-36

I’ll be reading the The Annotated Lolita. I encourage you to just read the normal book, though. That way I can pawn off the annotators insights and observations as my own and appear smarter than you.

As always, there are absolutely no rules whatsoever regarding NaNoReMo participation. Read the novel, listen to the audiobook, see the movie (or the movie–rated R for “aberrant sexuality”!), or just go to Youtube and watch the seven extant episodes of the short-lived 80’s-era Saturday morning “Lolita” cartoon (too bad it got canceled–it was a great lead-in to Rainbow Brite). However you choose to partake, check-in here on the above dates and join us in the discussion.

Or, if you have a blog and intend to comment on the novel there, let me know the name and URL of your site in the comments and I will add you to the “Reading Along” list. Maybe I’ll even make a snazzy link-back graphic! That’s exactly the sort of thing I would seriously consider but never actually get around to doing

Update: Whoa, what got into me?


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25 thoughts on “NaNoReMo 2008: Lolita Syllabus

  1. Matthew,

    So I mentioned NaNoReMo in passing to my girlfriend. She bought me a copy of the novel THAT DAY. And, I’ve already spilled water on it, and read the first 15 chapters, in that order.

    I shall blog about this. Partly to discuss the book, but mostly to review the idea of NaNoReMo and the joy that is DefectiveYeti.

    Thank you for encouraging me to read a book.

    – Jessie Birks

  2. I almost picked up the annotated version but went with just the original book and figured if i wanted commentary i could pick through the web. My goal is to blog about the book, probably over the weekends when i have more time to make it thoughtful.

  3. I’m down, if re-readers can also participate….I feel a wee bit of trepidation, as Lolita’s probably my favorite novel, and this could turn out a bit like casually asking an acquaintance if they want to see the new Star Trek movie and finding they’ve turned their rec room into the bridge of the Enterprise, where they like to chill out in their full dress red shirt uni with mock-phaser TV clicker….but I shall try and repress my inner SuperFan and just chug along companionably. Will tempt me not to finish Arrowsmith, though, which I’m supposed to be finishing for my blog (

  4. I’m in, although with a great deal of trepidation. I’ve not managed to finish a book in months, much less keep up with a schedule and/or do it in a month. Lolita’s been on the list for a long time — I’m glad of the kick in the pants.

    Long, long time lurker here (like pre-Squiggle!) Love the Yeti!

  5. I’m in. I didn’t make it through Catch 22 last year, but I have a good feeling about this year. My kids are older, and I’ve already completed the first assignment. Thanks for allowing me to feel I achieved something this week!

    Also – great pick, I had a hard time putting it down the first night…

  6. The problem with Lolita is you cannot trust anybody who likes that book on anything more than a literary level. Yes, it’s beautifully written, Nabakov had a great love for the English language. But anybody who loves this book is sick, sick, sick. Seriously.

    A Confederacy of Dunces, FWIW, is IMO the ideal novel. One Hundred Years of Solitude is even more beautiful than Lolita. But as long as the blogger has chosen Lolita, I can’t wait to see your list of good vocab words. When I read it back in college, I remember being forced to look up two words per paragraph, and after learning almost every word, I thought, ‘what a beautiful word, I need to learn this to use in everyday speech.’

  7. I’m in. Going to the library right now. I hope I like it better than Catch-22 last year. Not so hopeful based on Ninjalectual’s comment above.

    Also, do you have instructions for how we receive our free beer from commenting on your post of 12-05-07? Great job on the prediction; I’m still pinching myself. YAY OBAMA!

  8. I’m in! Stopped by the library last night and picked up the book on tape. Something of a cop out? Indeed. But the only free time I’ve got left is on my 90 minute drive to work, and books on tape work oh so much better than reading while I drive. Trust me, I’ve tried both. I’m only half a chapter in, but I’ll catch up!

  9. How odd, to have run across my complete inverse in the Defective Yeti comments section. Tell me, Ninjalectual, do things fall up in your world? Criminals try and bust into jail? Cats chase dogs, cows eat peopleburgers? Do you love ugliness and hate beauty?

  10. I’ve started the book and although I’ve barely cracked the surface, I’ll definitely be blogging about it. Maybe not all literary critique kinda blogging, but something will appear.

  11. I found the book at a local college library after striking out at two other local libraries. I’m a few chapters into it. It’s got a creepy vibe that I didn’t quite expect, but I suppose I should have given the subject matter. Most of the passages in French are lost on me and I wonder if I’m missing out.

  12. No blog, exactly, but I’ll tweet about the novel. (I quit blogging due to excessive laziness, but Twitter is perfect for my five-minute attention span.) Oh, wait, what was I saying?

    Ah, yes, Lolita. Great so far. Excellent pick. I’m stretching to remember a little high school French but am mostly doing fine with it. I look forward to reading your — or the annotator’s — thoughts about it.

  13. Well this looks like it will be interesting. I don’t write fast enough to do NaNoWriMo, so I think I’ll take a shot at this. I just checked it out from the library. I’ll post my thoughts on the book as I read through it as public.

  14. Just FYI: some of the notes in the Annotated Lolita are major spoilers. If you don’t want the plot given away, be sure you check the notes only when there’s something that clearly needs explanation, like a passage in French. Then if you *re-read* the book some time, check the rest of the notes for a completely different experience.

    By the way, Ninjalectual, by your definition, I and almost everyone I love am a sick, sick person. I suppose that won’t come as news to anyone who knows me… but last time I checked I still preferred adult men to underage girls. I first read the book when *I* was an underage girl. Now I teach it. Just sayin’.

  15. My understanding is that when Nabakov wrote Lolita, his goal was to take the most vile subject matter possible and turn it into a beautiful love story. I retain respect for what he did as an author and the great work he produced.

    I recall reminding a fellow reader that the subject matter is, in fact, vile, and not to lose sight of this fact in his enthusiasm. The “Little Humbert Humbert” replied by arguing a point along the lines of, “Little girls need love, too. It’s a more beautiful love than you will know, and in fact YOU are the vile one for denying these children of sex!” When pressed, he claims to also believe that eleven years old is old enough to have sex with grown men, it’s actually good for them.

    It turns out that this was not the only time I was to hear someone advocating this viewpoint. It is a very contentious book.

    I’m not even convinced that eighteen is old enough, but eighteen is the best we’ve got, and at least I can live with that.

  16. So, where’s the post for chapters 1-13?

    Good advice from Safiri. I got the annotated version, and while I haven’t hit too many major spoilers yet, some of the annotations can get rather lengthy. I found trying to keep up with all the annotations really hindered enjoying the book. I only check them now on french passages or references that I’m not familiar with.

  17. “My understanding is that when Nabakov wrote Lolita, his goal was to take the most vile subject matter possible and turn it into a beautiful love story.”

    I would disagree with that strenuously. I would say that in Lolita, as in most of his other books, Nabokov is exploring our capacity to treat others as objects, to dehumanize them, and showing, among other things, that even what we call romantic love can be a vehicle for this. Cf. “I felt like I was sitting next to the ghost of someone I had just killed,” and “the greater tragedy was not Lolita’s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord.” (I’m probably a little off with those — that’s off the top of my head.)

    However, are there tons of creepsters who love this book? Yes. Yes, there are. Plenty of people who pick it up are hoping for — and some of them, sick fucks, succeed though the power of imagination in finding—porn. That’s because Humbert’s voice is seductive, and canny, and rich. That’s the real risk Nabokov runs with the book, that people start to like Humbert and forget he’s a monster. He runs it deliberately, it’s part of what he’s trying to do — but it’s true, with an awful lot of people he fails.

    There’s a whole other argument you can have about whether a book means what its author intends it to mean or what the reader takes from it — but without getting into that, I don’t think you can say that Nabokov intends the reader merely to think the book a beautiful love story. It is a story of cruelty, and how beauty can disguise it and obsession blind us to it.

  18. Ninjalectual: But anybody who loves this book is sick, sick, sick. Seriously.

    I love Lolita; it’s one of my favorite novels of all time. Just call me Ms. Sicko.

    I don’t think I argue the point better than Diablevert. But I do have to say something to defend myself and other lovers of this novel. To assume that people can’t love a piece of art that includes some unsavory subject matter, without themselves being unsavory, seems quite naive and shortsighted to me. Loving Lolita does not equal endorsing pedophilia. I mean, the novel itself is a harsh criticism of the selfishness and id of Humbert Humbert. It doesn’t celebrate him or those like him at all. If Lolita‘s message was “wheee, sex with young girls is teh awesome,” you would have a more legitimate claim about the people who love the novel. But that’s not it at all, so your supposition fails.

  19. I would agree that someone who thought that grown men having sex with eleven-year-old girls was a good idea was sick.

    I don’t see how anyone who’s read Lolita with even a superficial understanding of the plot could think that Nabokov thought grown men having sex with eleven-year-old girls was a good idea. Spoilers, aka evidence for my argument: even Humbert, despite all his self-serving accounts and claims that Lo seduced him, figures it out eventually. He tells us that Lo cries “every night.” He repents.

    Certainly there are a lot of bad readers out there. But I don’t think it’s fair to hold a writer responsible for readers who when faced with the statement “rape is bad” willfully replace the word “bad” with “a fun way to spend Saturday nights.”

    But even if authors are responsible for how their work is misread as well as how it’s read, I would still argue that for most readers 1) Lolita is a deeply moral (though not moralizing) book, and 2) it’s explicitly aimed at reasonable, loving people — the people Nabokov himself, in his essay “On a Book Entitled Lolita,” describes as making “curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy… the norm.” So liking the book isn’t automatically indicative that the reader is sick. Liking the book without understanding it may be another story.

  20. Does anyone know of a website that provides translations of the French passages? I’m about halfway through this book and I cannot afford to let the French slip by!

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