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That book by Nabokov – and others for 2019 | Editor's Note


Last updated 1/3/2019 at Noon

Last month, I posted on Facebook my mission – OK, my resolution – to read only classic works of fiction in the new year written by universally lauded dead writers.

I started early, securing a dog-eared copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.”


Well, the classic from the 1950s ranks high on many best-ever lit lists.

And Sting mentioned the novel in song – although the predator/prey roles were reversed – when he sang, “It’s no use, he sees her/He starts to shake and cough/Just like the old man in/That book by Nabakov.”

Yes, it’s a tremendous read. A dictionary helps. Nabokov, a native of Russia, was a popular college professor whose predilection for obscure words frequently gave more-than-deserved heft to quotidian (see what I did there?) passages.

It’s a wonder to ponder: Would “Lolita” find favor in today’s #MeToo era? I know of at least one young woman who could go no further after the first chapter.

After all, it’s a first-person account of an incorrigible pedophile whose obdurate gaze is a Haze through which he sees his pigtailed Delores.

It’s explicit, an often-uncomfortable slog, and the groomer inevitably becomes the groomee.

Nevertheless, it’s incandescent.

My Facebook post drew many replies, certainly more than selfies with my Moby, the rascally feline. I appreciate them all.

So, based on a few of those prompts, I visited several bookstores and thrift shops – determined to find the books the hard way, sans smiley face – and purchased Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and two novellas from Henry James – “Daisy Miller” and “Washington Square.”

Hugo’s first, and I’m racing right through an abridged version from James K. Robinson ($1.99 from Goodwill). I haven’t seen the musical or the movie, and only have previously known it as “Les Miz,” whose action takes place in long ago France.

What I’ve discovered is that it’s a book that grabs you, shakes you, tickles your brain, and enriches your senses. In short, the kind of book you don’t want to end.

But I am looking forward to digging into the rest of the classics, golden-age TV be damned.

There is one other book on the list. It’s long and unabridged. I read a few chapters as part of a survey of American literature in college.

I’m saving it for 2020.

Call me ambitious.

Or call me Ishmael.


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