LITERATURE: The Meanings of Literature
…and Nabokov on Lolita

Rarely do you get the author’s thoughts on his novel included within the book, and having read this addition, I am struck by Nabokov’s matter-of-fact attitude in the controversy of both subject matter and meaning.

There are gentle souls who would pronounce Lolita meaningless because it does not teach them anything.  I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and, despite John Ray’s assertion, Lolita has no moral in tow.  For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.  There are not many such books.  All the rest is either topical trash or what some call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash coming in huge blocks of plaster that are carefully transmitted from age to age until somebody comes along with a hammer and takes a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann.  (p. 314)

While I prefer to seek deeper meaning into reading now than I have ever before, it is with a purpose of discovering connections, relationships, subtleties that even (as I have found can very often be the case) the author may not be aware of having inserted.  Most authors do not, while plotting story, consider every single aspect of it in view of laying a path that is hidden within the layers of the structure.  What I may conclude to be a significant discovery, when proposed to the author may surprise him; delightfully or not.

I read as a writer, therefore also noticing technique and skill with language and plot.  One that comes with skill is the unawareness of it being applied.  As it becomes natural, the more accomplished author becomes less likely to notice his own exquisite nuances. 

This then, regardless of what Nabokov or any author intends, is up to the desire and curiousity of the reader to seek, or choose to remain oblivious and find satisfaction complete in the story alone.  This is the nature of the reader:  the freedom of expression grants the freedom of interpretation.

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