Writer’s Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“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 down the palate to tap, at three on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta”

That’s probably the best first sentence of a novel i’ve ever read. I can understand why Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was recommended by Francine Prose in the ‘Narration’ chapter of Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. I think it should be top on the list of books to learn from (read: read like a writer) for any self-taught writer.

It showcases Nabokov’s amazing way with the English language as well as the German and French surprises you will find at the tips of some of his thoughts. His ability to handle a subject that most would view as seedy and unforgivable with such elegance is probably why he is one of the greatest writers of all time. His charms are so good that by half of the first part you’ll find yourself hoping he does bag the fine young ‘nymphette‘ of his dreams. By the end of the book you will forget that you ever had the ability to be shocked, so great is he at absorbing the reader into his protagonist’s unsurprisingly unstable mind.

His sentences read as very well thought out. Every word seems to have only landed on a page you’re reading after very long moments of careful deliberation. For the lover of English and the perfectionist writer this is a great treat. At the same time Nabaokov’s presence is hard to ignore.

If you are reading this book while working on literature of your own prepare for his voice to float into your mind and seep out into your work. But don’t worry! This is a good thing. Besides his awe-inspiring manner of paragraph-construction you will be pleased to see his manner of character development and story-layering add depth to your work where it is needed.

Every writer should read Lolita.


Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. His private nickname for Dolores is Lolita.-Wikipedia

BONUS: A link to an interview with Nabakov: http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2012/01/17/nabokovs-interview-with-alvin-toffler-playboy-1964/


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