Thursday, August 13, 2009


Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Rating: 4 Stars

Lolita is the classic of classics when it comes to modern contemporary tragicomedies. It is crazy, cynical, ironic, funny, lyrical, poised, witty, original, and ultimately (yes you guessed it) tragic. Lolita, written by Humbert Humbert in his jail cell, tells the story of tragic Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged (self-proclaimed handsome) professor who is flawed as any ancient Greek hero. The immaculate European man is, lyrics aside, a pedophile. His secret love and obsession for young girls, which he terms nymphets, is both passionate and obsolete. Because of this singular flaw in his immaculate being, Humbert Humbert falls madly in love at first sight with a beautiful and fickle creature of the prepubescent kind named Dolores Haze, or Lolita. Humbert Humbert's love for the youth leads him to take the only possible action he can think of of attaining the girl of his dreams: to marry her middle-aged mother. At once comedic and tragic, Humbert Humbert throws himself into a mad-cap of troubles and manages by his mere flights of fancy to become the apple of both mother and daughter's eyes. Maddened by his self-brought irony, H.H. can think of nothing better than to murder Lolita's mother in order to attain Lolita. As he conceives of murder, fate flies in to save mad-cap H.H., and Mrs. H.H. (Charlotte Haze) whom moments before had realized H.H.'s pedophilic intentions dies in a car accident. These mere acts of fate throw passionate H.H. and his lovely 12-year-old Lolita together, and they love as they never could have loved. (H.H. at this point proclaims that it was Lolita who seduced moral him in their first night together.) What follows is a year of travels with stepfather and stepdaughter consummating each night their paradoxical incest. Fickle Lolita, of the wild kind, quickly falls out of love with the sexual Humbert Humbert, and H.H. cannot help but continue to love his Lolita. The two finally settle down after a year of travels and rumpled nights where Humbert Humbert, posing as Lo's biological father, enrolls his darling sweet in school. Lust, it seems, comes to a standstill. H.H. is aware that Lo grows older and older and is slowly shedding her youthful nymphetness, yet still, he cannot help but love her. It is this back and forth yearning that tugs H.H. and Lolita once more to set away on their travels. This time, however, things are amiss. H.H. is almost sure that they are being followed, yet he cannot differ in his monstrous and genius mind whether or not it is reality or a figment of his mad-cap hallucinations. But surely enough, a change takes place in his pretty Lolita, and halfway through their journey, Lolita escapes. H.H. loses all trace of the girl he loves for many years until a letter arrives asking for money. Once again, the protagonist sets out to find his Lolita to make her his once more. But upon meeting her, and discovering that she no longer wishes to return with him, H.H. sets out to hunt down the man who had contrived to take her away. He succeeds, finds the man, and kills him. Thus pretty much ends H.H.'s endeavors towards love. Humbert gives in to the law and it is the end of H.H.'s freedom. It is noted that Lolita dies soon after in childbirth.

The sad, mad, crazy tale is twisted. Diabolically twisted. Beautiful. Nabokov writes with an eloquence unmatched, and even as one closes the book, one wonders, who was Humbert Humbert? Mad genius? Superfluous villain? A lonely man in love? A psychotic monster?

Or maybe, just maybe, was he all of that and more?

Friday, July 10, 2009


Sat through a week of reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and I've got to say that it's actually quite a good read.

Synopsis: A man driven by the ambition of scholarly knowledge discovers, upon years of research and study, the secret of life. With this knowledge, he (Victor Frankenstein whom the book is named after and not the monster) sets out to take on a role that only has been ascribed to God. Victor Frankenstein sets out to create life. In so doing, he ends up bringing to life a creature so hideous that humans flee from him in fright. The monster, shunned by his creator, seeks his fortune in the world and sets out to assimilate into humankind, only to discover that the rest of society cannot bear his hideous countenance and look deeper into his soul. The kind-hearted monster, miserable beyond mention because of his loneliness, slowly becomes a monster in the sense of the word. If he cannot receive the love that he longs for, he will thus destroy it for all humanity. On his path to vengeance, he sets as his ultimate goal the destruction of his creator, and that is the tragedy of Frankenstein.

Gothic in content, Shelley's novel opened up a whole new genre of fiction that we now know today as science fiction. The novel raises questions of human nature that are left strikingly unanswered. If vengeance is so satisfying, then how possibly does it end up destroying both protagonist and his degenerate creation? Is tragedy still tragedy if it is, as in the case of Frankenstein, self-inflicted? If the creator of such a monster is left with nothing but misery, what does that say about God?

Raising a great deal of questions, this required summer reading of my AP lit class, I've got to say, is an epic. All 200 pages of it. On a lesser note, it was an easy read, not as difficult to comprehend as the Victorian works of its time. After all, it must be mentioned that Shelley was all of 18 when she wrote it.

Whether it be good or not, you be the judge.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Harry Potter

Much has happened since the day J.K. Rowling sat down in that obscure little coffee shop somewhere in Britain, beginning (on a piece of napkin) the epic saga (7 fat volumes in all) that would vault her from an unknown poor single mother to one of the richest and most respected persons/authors/women in the world.

Since then, Harry Potter has become a household name, as is the epithet J.K. Rowling. Movies have been made, and are continually being made (the 6th one comes out July 15 of this year), and an entire industry has been created in honor of the boy who fictionally lived.

I decide to write about Harry Potter and his freakishly long seven books as my first really real post here because without Harry Potter there would be no blog.

At one point in her life (speaking in the third person), likkle Alice hated books and everything that related to turning words on dusty pages into coherent thought. She hated it even before her stupid sixth grade teacher gave her a D on the first test of her middle school career because she unlike her classmates read her summer reading books at the beginning of summer and totally forgot about it. She hated reading because, she thought, she loved math. It was indirectly proportional, after all.

Until, that is, Alice got into the third grade-ish. And her friend forced her to read the second book of this long Harry Potter series that her parents thought would be nice to get her for her likkle birthday. Her friend shoved the book down her throat despite the fact that she did not want to read the bijilliion pages it contained.

And then she met Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. The old sport was so epically evil that she decided Harry Potter was her favorite hero in the world. And thus, Alice began to read, albeit out of order. The 2nd book first, then the 4th (she believes), then the 1st and 3rd. (Something like that.)

Thus, without Harry Potter, Alice would not be posting on about books. So in fact, all gratitude is due to the boy who fictionally lived and You-No-Poo. :)

Back to my lurvely books. Having read all the books 3.5 times (and rereading as of now (on the 4th book)), I'd like to think I'm somewhat familiar with them.

Book 1: Sorcerer's Stone (aka Philosopher's Stone). Without it, there would be no Harry Potter. The introduction to these characters was very simple, but effective. Right away, we get into the story, although we don't know what we're getting into or where we're headed. And that is the magic of JKR.

Book 2: This was also a mind boggler. We are made aware of a series of happening in Hogwarts but don't know who is behind it. Of course we're not afraid that the school is going to close down because if it did there would be no books after it about Harry's adventures at Hogwarts, but nevertheless, we are worried. At one point, I was kind of certain that it was indeed Harry behind it all. And the introduction of Fawkes at the end with her healing tears was a pretty epic spin on the entire thing. It was definitely one of JKR's classic writing devices. Throughout the rest of her novels, you can see that she implants many obscure pieces of information that you are aware of but not really aware of and in the end it all ties together with the pieces of details that you end up brushing aside as unimportant.

Book 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban. This book, among the first 4, ranks at 2nd place. The plot is so well-developed that every twist and turn drives you further away from the possibility of a solid conclusion. Half way through it I was wondering how in the world JKR was going to tie this thing altogether. I was sad that Lupin left at the end.

My favorite of the first four books (before numbers 5, 6, & 7 came out) was without a doubt the fourth one: HP & the Goblet of Fire. The longest of the first four books, it is definitely the most intricate in terms of plot. You can clearly tell that Rowling put a lot of planning into the 4th one. She sprinkled all over the first 3 books hints that appeared in the 4th one. Her writing also improves much over the course of her novels, although I believe that of the chapters, the first chapter of the Goblet of Fire was better than the first chapter of the entire series even though you can tell that she put more effort into perfecting the first chapter of the entire series which all authors typically do.

The 5th book (Order of Phoenix) was by far my greatest disappoint. After hyping #5 up to be something more than amazing, it turned out to be nothing more than a 700 some odd page filler. There was no climax and Sirius died. Nothing happened in book number 5. You could have skipped the entire 700ish pages and went on reading. Simply enough, it was unimportant.

Book number 6 (Half-Blood Prince) was a definite comback, although it came as an odd shock when we discover that Snape was in fact the 1/2 Blood Prince. That was my only disappointment. The fact that Ron and Hermione's relationship troubles culminate in book 6 makes up for it. Rowling shows that not only are these young wizards dealing with the problems of the wizard world; they are in fact human and have their social issues as well. (That sounded so robotic.)

Book 7 (Deathly Hollows) was epic. There is no other word for it. The dramatic end to the entire series I think was on level with book number 4, Rowling at her best. Although not as carefully planned as the first 4 books, it is clear that Rowling knew where she was headed. (I would have liked it better if she had, like the first 4 books, tied the idea of the Deathly Hollows together better, maybe sprinkle a few lead-ins throughout the series as before and some info about the DH's before sticking everything in that one voluminous volume.) But nevertheless, I loved it, and still do.

So there you go, a summation of all the HP books. :)


Template by:
Free Blog Templates