22 February 2010

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up

Unofficial CR II, Book 5: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Where to start, where to start? There are certain authors I've always wanted to read but somehow not gotten around to - Nabokov was one. So when I read that Lolita was the first selection of the Pajiba Book Club, I figured what better time? And I suppose, in a way, my terrible book streak has ended - but I'd hardly put this down as a great success either.

I'm not sure there is any need to rehash the premise; even the slightest of readers hears a certain connotation to the name Lolita. We all know at least that this is the story of an adult male attracted to a prepubescent girl. As the mother of young girls, this was a terribly difficult read at times. I thought about abandoning the book more than once, disgusted by Humbert's detailed desires and haunted by confirmation of my own ideas about such a man. I kept reading for a couple of reasons. First, the prose was gorgeous and funny and flowing and tense, at its very best during a pivotal point in the story that caused my chest to pound (not coincidentally) as hard as Poe's telltale heart. But that same prose at times dragged and seemed to go on and on unnecessarily, as if the author just loved to see his words spill forth. And in the end, the points of climax (so to speak) all seemed to be unsatisfying, a letdown not only to the reader, but to the protagonist and even Lolita herself.

I understand there are those who come away with the idea (not unlike Humbert at times) that Lolita seduced and took advantage of a weak-minded man, but I am not one of them. I fall firmly on the side of Humbert's guilty conscience; he is a man who purposefully, willfully and sick-mindedly took away the childhood of a young girl. He changed her life forever, in every important way.

While I did enjoy the rampant humor, Humbert's mind games with himself and the moments when Lolita clearly confounded her "consort", my overall feeling at the end of this book was that of relief and sadness. I wished that Nabokov had written this exact book, but with a different tale (Dear reader, does that make any sense?). If this were a story of murder; a suspect being chased and his descent into madness, unrequited love between only adults or only children; anything but this tale of incomprehensible desire - it would have been nearer to perfection. If nothing else, I'm glad to have discovered Nabokov, and I hope to find another of his novels more to my liking.

23 January 2010

Killed for Naught: Too Many Trees

Unofficial CR II, Book 4: Under the Dome by Stephen King

"...what if you spent all that time, wrote a thousand-pager, and it sucked?"

That's a character quote from this 1072 page continuation of my 2009-2010 Tour-of-Books-I-Don't-Like. And I'll tell you what will happen if you're Stephen King: a bunch of people hoping you've finally gotten your mojo back will buy it - adding to your bank account and their disgust. King was quoted as having said about this book that he'd be "killing a lot of trees", and in reading, I truly think that was his main goal. For about half the book, I thought maybe there was a good story hidden in there somewhere, a decent idea that just got padded to death. But now that I'm done, I'll flat out say it's terrible.

The gist of the story is that one day, yet another sleepy Maine town, becomes mysteriously trapped under a large, transparent dome. There's some fun action in the beginning, what with animals being chopped in half and people being killed in various ways...either slamming into the dome, or their pacemakers being zapped when in close proximity to the dome. But the narrative quickly gets bogged down by too many characters (very few of whom are interesting) and too much background (on minor characters). There were so many times my eyes literally rolled back in my head from boredom. The trapped town turns into an adult spin-off of Lord of the Flies with order quickly being lost, bad people in positions of power, murder and mayhem.

Almost all the characters are despicable, and I was overwhelmed with disgust by too much vile behavior, with very little motivation. King went way overboard on what at times seemed to be his own glee in perpetrating attacks against women. Gotta throw in a murder or a rape to show the quick deterioration of a society - fine, I get that. But over and over, talking about and treating the female characters with such utter disdain took something away, rather than adding to the tale. By the time I got to the utterly unconvincing explanation of the appearance of the dome, it had all been so depressing and dismal and dreary - I just didn't care. I only wanted it to be over. There was not one character I cared about enough to root for. Not one person - well wait, I did feel sympathy for one character but she was removed before the second half - was sympathetic enough to make me care what happened at the end. Frankly, if the whole damned town was wiped off the earth in a nuclear explosion I couldn't have cared less.

Stephen King has clearly entered the stage of his life where those around him simply indulge him, because I cannot imagine any editor giving this thing the go-ahead. The amount of extraneous and uninteresting information contained in this novel could have filled a whole other book. I can't say that there weren't a few small sections that hinted at vintage King, but certainly not enough to draw me to ever pick up another of his books again.

19 January 2010

I Swear I'm Still Reading!

This one is just killing me though, so it's dragging on forever. SK is making people dig for the story.