Friday, March 31, 2006

Searching for Stars

I try to live without having regrets. Not so much along the lines of being an extreme athlete who lives on the edge and grabs each day by the throat to experience it more fully, but rather I try to convince myself that each decision I have made will produce healthy results. My choices may not always be revealed as correct, or right, or moral, or a multitude of other defining terms, but I attempt to not let the memory of the past and the possibility of what might have ensued had I made a different decision rule me.
I know that my life is filled with faults and that there are plenty of opportunities for others to remind me that I am consistently insufficient in certain measures, but be that as it may, aren't we all trying to make it through another day? I wish that I had the ability to take weekend trips whenever I wanted. That I had the mental fortitude to work harder at my writing and to engage myself more fully in a scope of literature and music. That I took the time each day to cook a decent dinner and enjoy it while listening to some Joni Mitchell or Tom Waits or Sade or any other great ambient musician. That I had the courage to tell people exactly how I felt about them, either in admiration or dissapointment.
I say these things, in part, due to my respect for people who appear to have much better grasps on their lives than I have on mine. The people of whom I model my wish list off. I'm not even sure how I qualify these people and, in some cases, why I strive to emulate them. I have a best friend who announced to me that he will be getting married in June of 2008. I have absolutely no desire to have a spouse by then, but I still respect him for the degree to which he appears to have control over his life.
This is getting further and further from any aesthetic topic that I might have been trying to make with my first few sentences, but I think it's too late now to erase this. I could make a half-hearted argument about how my attraction to the simplistic and definitive nature of math is an analogy for the resolution I'm searching for on my own, or how Humbert Humbert is the embodiment of dueling partitions of the same psyche; a complete lack of control faced with a model of himself with which he cannot reconcile. I could even go so far as to say that the beauty in the actions of people whom I admire is what drives me to yearn for a recreation of them in my own body and life. But the truth is that I don't understand what it is, precisely. What the answer is. And I'm hesitant to say things that I'm not sure of, so I will doubtlessly keep thinking on it until I have thoroughly flogged the dead horse.

More Lolita Talk

To appreciate a novel as an aesthetic object, we generally look to the text, examining the form and content of the prose. But why should we neglect the aesthetic of the book as a whole? Graphic artists work to create book covers which draw us in and, whether we like it or not, they inspire our first opinions of any new book.

On that note, I found it interesting that there was such variation in cover designs for different printings of Lolita. Looking around the class, each person’s book cover highlighted a different characteristic or interpretation of Lolita. One is a close-up of a woman’s mouth, showing only one half of her slightly parted lips. The sensuality this photograph indicates is obvious, but it is particularly interesting that the mouth does not even seem to belong to a child. The image of Lolita as a wayward and abused child has given way to a picture of a seductress. Before reading the first page, the reader already shifts part of the blame away from Humbert and towards this sultry version of Lolita. This cover also highlights the idea of Lolita as an object of desire. Her smile, which Humbert describes in great detail, is enough to enrapture men of all ages. By focusing on one small fragment of a face, this cover design also implies that we can never really know Lolita beyond Humbert’s perception and description of her.

Another cover displays only the lower portion of a young girl’s legs. The wide skirt, saddle shoes and lacy socks do not fit descriptions of Lolita’s clothing in the book, and seem characteristic of a girl even younger than Lolita. Rather than pointing at the sensuality of the novel, this cover focuses on the youth and innocence of the title character, therefore inspiring the reader to place more blame on Humbert. Each of these cover designs magnify one aspect of Lolita’s character, while neglecting to display any images from the novel itself.

The cover of my edition (which I could not find a picture of) takes a thoroughly different route than the previously discussed images. Instead of abstracting the idea of Lolita, this cover displays her as a person in a situation similar to many in the novel. It shows a girl of twelve or thirteen, wearing clothes that Lolita is described as owning, standing behind a bicycle. The grainy, black and white image resembles a photograph taken mid-century. Although this cover does the best job of actually representing images from the novel, it is by far the least interesting and aesthetically pleasing of the three. It doesn’t inspire the reader to draw any further conclusions from the image, and although it accurately represents the plot of the novel, it does not present Lolita or Lolita as an aesthetic object.