Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Today was a lovely day (and I'm not the sort of person who often considers her day "lovely"). I went to my writers' workshop where I shared a chapter in my memoir that has been troubling me for a while - the chapter deals with a painful deformity of the spine I suffered as a teenager. The other writers in my workshop were very supportive and encouraging (which came as a great relief, because the chapter is very revealing about my sexual coming-of-age and I was beginning to second guess my decision to include it at all). This is the joy of belonging to a workshop - a respite from the isolation of writing alone and self-doubts whispering in my head.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter, where I'm reading Lolita and identifying all too well with the heroine:
I stared at the cover for a long time: a close-up on a pair of pigeon-toed legs, clad in ankle socks and saddle shoes, slightly grubby around the toes. “The only convincing love story of our century,” reads the endorsement by Vanity Fair. I’d heard this line before, and yet I’d never found anything the least bit romantic or erotic about this novel. Fascinating, yes. Sexy, no. For me, it had always been a story about victimization and survival and a wily, foul-mouthed little girl struggling to hold onto some shred of self throughout her sordid predicament.
Humbert Humbert tries to control Lolita’s body – cataloguing all her measurements, policing her diet, relishing in running his hand along the prepubescent slope of her spine. As she gets a bit older, the signs of her body maturing – plumping out, growing curvaceous – are the ultimate turn-off. He desires to freeze her as his perpetual lover-child, his “nymphet,” forever smelling of grass stains and ice cream sundaes.
As I flipped through the pages, rereading my favourite sections, Humbert Humbert’s hands turned into the probing hands of Dr. Foote, as he bent me and molded me, exploring the possibilities of my young body, testing the flexibility of my wayward bones.
I wanted to stop reading, yet I couldn’t stop. The pain (and pleasure) of watching Lolita being violated was too immediate, too fascinating.
Photo from: here
- Leslie Shimotakahara
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.