Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Reading. Nabokov.

It cannot be a coincidence that two of my favorite first sentences come from Nabokov, that above all others they have become permanently etched in my memory. One comes from Speak, Memory, which I have mentioned before, and the other...

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 steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.*

Ten years have passed since I first read those words, ten years have passed since I last read those words, and I find they still burn as brightly in my memory as they did all those years before. I, who can never remember anything, find that I can close my eyes and feel those first sentences rush into my brain, feel my soul catch fire, my heart split apart, as I slide into the words and fall headlong into the depths of the story, tangled in the threads of Humbert Humbert's obsession with the young Lolita.

I realized recently that after reading Lolita as a teenager I had never read it again, that I had gradually acquired many of Nabokov's books, but not this one. I was circling the shelves at the bookstore, and it caught my gaze, held it, the curvy, seductive script of the title on the spine, black on white. Lolita. It was time to go back again. Bought it, drove home with the opening lines circling around and around in my mind. I am not the same person I was ten years ago, and it will not be the same story for me. How will I read it this time around? How will it hold me in its thrall, tear me apart, burn me up again?

Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. Vintage International, 1997. p 9.

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