This was my first time reading Lolita, but I understand that there are some people here who, having already read this classic before, have decided to look into an annotated version to see how those extra appendages might contribute to the overall experience of a second read...
This was my first time reading Lolita, but I understand that there are some people here who, having already read this classic before, have decided to look into an annotated version to see how those extra appendages might contribute to the overall experience of a second read through. With this in mind, I''ll try to first review the novel itself for those who are unfamiliar, and perhaps undecided, and then I will add my own thoughts on the Introduction and annotations that have been provided by Alfred Appel, Jr.
On the surface, you might imagine it uncomfortable to read a story in which our narrator and protagonist is a middle aged man with an obsessive fetish for "nymphets," who forms a sexual relationship with a 12 year old girl, traveling around the country while cunningly passing himself off as her father. But readers might find it reassuring(or disappointing) to know that there''s actually very little obscenity in this novel, that sex is never actually described in detail, that the closest it comes to erotica would be when Lo reclines and naively rests her legs on the narrator''s lap for the first time, that this book is actually a highbrow comedy. Humbert Humbert(or H.H.), as he calls himself, is a handsome, wealthy, and intelligent man, who, seemingly bored and callous to the world, constantly injects his uniquely blithe and sardonic humor into the text. Every character he meets is mocked with a jolly contempt. Every scenario in this book is turned into a parody. Consciously aware of his own creepiness and mental fragility, "lucidly insane," H.H. even parodies himself.
Here you will find a writing style that will make you feel more sophisticated just for having understood it. There are literary allusions to please the English buffs, along with an expansive vocabulary including, but not limited to, some rare and exotic words which do not even appear in the standard Kindle dictionary. But most of the humor, I think, is really in the tone and the way characters are portrayed, and even if you don''t quite understand every remark H.H. makes, none of this is really necessary to appreciate the story.
In Part Two, the focus starts to shift a bit to some of the more subtle features of their relationship: the places they visited, Dolly growing up, Dolly bringing friends over, Dolly playing tennis, etc. I found it impressive to see how the characters changed and developed throughout this part, and Humbert Humbert''s reflections on their relationship were even somewhat profound sometimes. Some people who aren''t interested in the aesthetics here might find this area to be a little slow, but I promise you''ll be rewarded soon after. The second to last chapter is hilarious.
As for the annotations, they were ok. They provide some extra background information, they translate the French for you, but they were nothing special. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of in-text hyperlinks, but I honestly don''t think these would have been beneficial. The numerical chapter headings already have hyperlinks, my kindle app lets me jump back and forth with just a couple finger taps, and in-text hyperlinks would have been distracting. However, A.A. does seem to give away some spoilers in his annotations, so for those who would prefer a full immersion experience and who would like to try to predict some mysteries on their own, I might suggest actually ignoring the annotations the first time they read Lolita, or at least the ones that don''t translate French.
The introduction seemed to start off well until Appel started talking about literary involution. There is a lot of involution in Lolita, realism is deliberately thrown out the window sometimes, but I saw this as contributing to the comical effect and nothing more. Appel seems to interpret some kind of subjectivist philosophical meaning in it which I thought just went too far. His anecdote about the Puppet Show, and how his 5 and 3 year old children began laughing to steel themselves against the terror of questioning the reality of reality(whatever that means) was so stupid, I immediately skipped the rest of the Introduction and continued onto the Foreword. Nabokov''s commentary on Lolita at the end, however, was pleasant.