As of late, I have been stretching my wings. Not my usual wings — they are far too drab and worldly. I am stretching Lepidopteric! The name of the game: aesthetic bliss and nothing besides. Next semester, to my delight, my college is offering an entire course on Nabokov in the Russian department. Nabokov is among those writers whose grasp of language is so divine that it almost demands you rip your wings off in frustration.

In light of the news that has "come down," I will recount my experience with Nabokov so that, when I emerge from the other side of RUSSIAN 5240.05, I can laugh at my undeveloped, unsophisticated opinions about this bespeckled author

I first encountered Nabokov a few years ago in high school. My junior year, I awakened a dormant interest in philosophy thanks to the efforts of an unseeming philosophy course offered by the high school (that a high school offered such a detailed "intro to philosophy" still amazes me). Because of this class, I developed a strong affection for Nietzsche and his perspectivism. I did what any self-respecting nouveau philosophe does and dove headfirst into his immensely complex Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I understood perhaps one-tenth of what I read. The impression it made upon me, in what I understood and, perhaps more importantly, did not understand, ignited such deep passion that it forcibly tore me out of everything which seemed important and yelled at me that it was nothing more than a derivative of something more fundamental. I was someone who needed, more than anything else, to understand. Since then, the capricious current of white waves has crashed side-to-side in my chest and moved me toward nothing other than understanding. But part of this understanding, part of the reason why Nietzsche so severely rocked me, is nothing other than his masterful prose. I became obsessed with literature because of him. Enter Nabokov.

My first brush with Nabokov was his Lolita. I attempted to read this book multiple times. However, reading is something one must learn! At that time, I was too immature, my hands were too smooth, my brain too weak. Each time, though, I made it a little further. The segments of language I read, which piled on top of each other until I was finally able to read it, penetrated through my eyes and installed little ghosts of obsession. I finished the book after a few years and I learned it to be something "wicked and malicious" (à la Nietzsche). But in its supreme ghoulishness, the insurmontable tragedy of someone cursed by their own nature, it struck me as among the most beautiful things I had ever read! Below are among my favorite passages from this wonderful book:

"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. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns."

"Lolita had been safely solipsized."

"I simply love that tinge of Botticellian pink, that raw rose about the lips, those wet, matted eyelashes..."

"She had entered my world, umber and black Humberland, with rash curiosity..."

"Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
Her dream-gray gaze never flinches.
Ninety pounds is all she weighs
With a height of sixty inches.

My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
And the last long lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust."

"It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight."

"...[M]y Lolita remarked:

'You know, what’s so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on your own'; and it struck me, as my automaton knees went up and down, that I simply did not know a thing about my darling’s mind and that quite possibly, behind the awful juvenile clichés, there was in her a garden and a twilight, and a palace gate—dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and absolutely forbidden to me, in my polluted rags and miserable convulsions; for I often noticed that living as we did, she and I, in a world of total evil, we would become strangely embarrassed whenever I tried to discuss something she and an older friend, she and a parent, she and a real healthy sweetheart, I and Annabel, Lolita and a sublime, purified, analyzed, deified Harold Haze, might have discussed—an abstract idea, a painting, stippled Hopkins or shorn Baudelaire, God or Shakespeare, anything of a genuine kind. Good will! She would mail her vulnerability in trite brashness and boredom, whereas I, using for my desperately detached comments an artificial tone of voice that set my own last teeth on edge, provoked my audience to such outbursts of rudeness as made any further conversation impossible, oh my poor, bruised child.

I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.

I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her—after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred—I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever—for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)—and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tenderness (with my soul actually hanging around her naked body and ready to repent), all at once, ironically, horribly, lust would swell again—and 'oh, no,' Lolita would say with a sigh to heaven, and the next moment the tenderness and the azure—all would be shattered."

Nabokov is something else! I can hope to, one day, write a single line as excellent as any he wrote. To turn the monstrous into the aesthetic, how can he do so with such greasy ease? Is he nothing other than an even more reprehensible and talented Baudelaire? Regardless, I am soon to read his work, Ada, or Ardor. I am excited!

July 7, 2022 at 5:54 A.M.