Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Sweet Tooth

IMG_1230

Remember the kind of treats you’d pick out as a kid? Blue raspberry, grape, banana—-none tasting like any sort of fruit found in nature, most tinting your teeth a sort of swamp-monster green (which you probably found AWESOME at the time).  Bubblegum ice cream? I mean, do you chew it, do you swallow it?  It was one of my eternal childhood dilemmas.

Lolita is mentioned to have a sweet tooth throughout the text—-probably a combination of her adolescent disregard of things as trivial as nutrition (from my observations high schoolers consider hot Cheetos and Gatorade breakfast) and an amplification of Humbert’s disdain for her uncultured, juvenile palette (I hear adults are more cultured, H-dawg).

I picked a recipe that has a childish whimsy about it—-a faint reference to the Easy Bake Ovens of yore—-but that adults would like also (NOT bubblegum ice cream).  It calls for actual vanilla beans: you might get ID’d trying to lock those bad boys down.

The recipe used is one of Joy the Baker’s—-if you’ve never visited her blog, I highly recommend.  A sassy female with serious cooking chops (love those sassy females).  Here’s the link to Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies.  Sprinkles!

Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies

*makes about 18 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles (I prefer jimmies over nonpareils)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough will be thick (you may have to finish incorporating the mixture with a spatula). Fold in 1/4 cup of the sprinkles.
  4. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sprinkles in a bowl. Scoop up 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Dip the ball in the bowl of sprinkles to cover lightly. Put the balls on a plate. Repeat with the remaining sprinkles and dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Transfer the chilled dough balls to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space in between each ball.
  7. Bake until the cookies have spread and are just beginning to brown around the edges, but are mostly pale and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

 

Aaaannnd Sprinkles!

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Becoming Dolores Haze

IMG_1214

I first read Lolita as an undergrad—-barely legal myself—- and remember being taken by the breathtaking language and the shock value of the content.  Reading it a second time 12 years later, now both an adult and a mother, I found it to be so much more: more breathtaking, more complex, and much more disturbing.

The layers of storytelling alone are enough to make your head spin.  Nabokov is using a first person narrator who is writing, and intermittently narrating, about his affair with Lolita—-sometimes jumping another layer deep to read from a journal  he kept during the enterprise (summary: the author is writing about someone writing about their writing).

I found the most compelling element of craft to be Humbert’s transformation throughout the text—–the evolution (devolution, perhaps more accurately) of his tone and state of mind over the course of events is  remarkably well done.

In the beginning he reveals his audience-awareness in several passages.  Additionally, he is quite self-aware, both of his mastery of language and the hypnotizing effect it can create for said audience.  In that way Nabokov has truly depicted him as a smooth-talking, manipulative predator.  In the introduction he writes, “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.”

As he loses himself more to obsession, the visuals provided at times become unnatural, unhinged.  After one of his assaults, he writes, “My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys” (165).   He has moved beyond a desire for sexual interaction with Lolita, revealing his slavering urge to consume her, to possess her completely. 

Toward the end of the novel, Humbert’s sanity begins unraveling; he is paranoid and desperate. As he slips further into his downward spiral, the imagery veers with him.  Once he is sure that he’s being followed on the road, he becomes fanatical about every car on it—–is convinced that the pursuer is everywhere, changing vehicles at every turn.  To illustrate his unhealthy focus, the descriptions of cars become quite specific and overwhelming in number: “…led me to a profound study of all cars on the road—behind, before, alongside, coming, going, every vehicle under the dancing sun:  the quiet vacationist’s automobile with the box of TenderTouch tissues in the back window; the recklessly speeding jalopy full of pale children…”

To this day there are those who would argue that Lolita is not a canonical masterpiece—that it is pornographic smut, as it was claimed upon its initial release.  I’m on team Nabokov on this one.  The mastery of craft needed to deliver this story with all its complex intricacies in tact, in a way that is both beautiful and disturbing? It’s no small feat.

As I am long past my nymphet expiration date, I was a little nervous (and just…ewwww) about pulling this character off.  I approached it with a hope, a dream, and a liberal application of bobby socks.

“You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs―the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limbs, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate―the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”

IMG_1204

  So, yeah… How exactly does one segue from the pedophile post?

Oh look, puppies!