Friday, October 7, 2011

my fictional boyfriend

[this post is basically a footnote to the previous blog post, put here so the other one wouldn't be so long]

Humbert Humbert is what made me first fall head-over-heels for Nabokov. And yes, you might find my language strong when I say that at 22, when I first read him, (tho ten years later this is still mostly true) I was deeply and passionately in love with Humbert and all his admitted faults and foibles, all his laid-bare insecurities and treacheries, all his secret longings and confessions of fearful captivation. The moment I first finished that book I would have defended him unto death if someone had walked up to me and called him a felonious pedophilic pervert. (which someone did *) Which he is. But that's the genius of my dear Nabokov. He got so far inside Humbert's skin and brain and heart, so deeply into the core of his desire, that he was able to make H.H. perfectly human in each of his atrocities. Now, I haven't read a lot about VN's life, but what I have has absolutely no correlation to HH's, not a shred of a shadow of similarity. Not even of the same ilk as Lewis Carroll's girl photographs or J. M. Barrie's overzealous love for 'his' boys.

The real skill here is getting so far into the places where you are exactly like your character that putting him into a certain frame of mind far from your own is just as easy as having him act just like you. It's possible (ask any actor you know). And I obviously did it while reading Lolita. I liked Humbert enough to go along with his story until I was in too deep to be able to stop trusting his goodness even when what he did was bad enough that he had to justify it to me over and over. And yet, I was so taken by him I believed his justifications. Because otherwise I had to stop loving him as much as I did.

In a lot of ways I, the reader, was just as captive as his little nymphet. In fact, I actually dropped off the face of the earth for the 3 days it took me to read that book the first time. I didn't do anything but sleep, eat, and read. I was so enslaved to the story that I might as well have been trapped in a cheap motel eating junk food. And it wasn't until I finally finished reading and resurfaced enough to tell a friend about my love, Mr. H. Humbert, that she made me realize what a monster he was. (*yet still I couldn't let go.) And thus, as a form-following-function type of novel, as many of his are, (or more specifically, an experience-of-reading-mirrors-action-in-book type, is that the same thing?) it's an utter masterpiece.

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