Lolita is a book about language, foremost and above all. I mean, come on, ““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.” He was in love with the sound of her name.
I love Lolita because of the sexual tension Nabokov creates: He never goes far enough for any of us to be satisfied, except perhaps those on a hunt for pedophiles. His language and technique are so controlled, it’s like being in bed with a complete “withholder,” all whisper and no stroke. You are dying for the guy to just lose it; know you would eventually around this girl-woman, and wait for it with the turn of ever page.
In fact, in his last line, he confirms what the book is about: “I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”
No sex, just the muse. All of that and Nabokov didn’t want to get laid, he wanted to write. (Oh, to hell with the difference between Humbert Humbert and Nabokov. All main characters in fiction share the author’s soul and I’ll argue anyone on that.)
There a whole bunch of writers – mostly men – all white – who mistook words for sex. Or they chose one over the other. Updike. Cheever. Words were probably the closest they could ever get to that soaring satisfaction of an orgasm with a beloved partner, the one they craved, not the one they had. The longing is hinted at and sad, often fumbling sex makes you want to throw the book down and go find Our Bodies, Ourselves.
Would I trade literary fame for visiting the top of the mountain between the sheets? Absolutely not, never, ever. To be a fully functioning human is the goal here.
But my goodness, it’s time for some men to write great sex scenes. No throbbing tips or heaving bosoms: Real sex scenes with real power. A black hand on a white breast. Rough hands in soft yellow hair. Young men curled together and sleeping. The beauty of the human body, satiated and at rest.
Keeping sex in little genre books and out of “great” literature feels strange because – at least for this reader – sex is a part of the greatness of life.
And I ain’t talking 50 Shades of No Sex Life. Those books are a spoof. I mean, really, have you ever been inside an S&M “chateau? It’s a split-level ranch with fat hairy people in harnesses. LUDICROUS.
Click on the title to buy and walk the razor’s edge of longing, sex and and fear: