Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 7:16:16 PM
“Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”
That was all it took. A thirteen-year-old girl transformed my adult world.
I’ve never actually seen her, but nonetheless, she ruptured my psyche. She seduced me—not with preadolescent sexuality or idiosyncratic quirks—but with lusty prose and sultry style. What else could a man want? And while the passive efforts of Humbert Humbert failed to persuade my sexual craves and covets toward a younger, sprier, and all-together intolerable demographic, he succeeded in inciting a different lust: an ambition I could not have imagined just a decade ago. He made me want to write.
Nabokov’s Lolita has sat among the top of the Greatest English Book Lists for a half century. There is nothing, in terms of critical rave or review, I can offer concerning this quintessential guide to nymphets that cannot be found in abundance elsewhere (penned by those much more qualified). So I won’t try. Instead, I offer you the acute and violent influence it had on my life.
I had a successful career . . . still do, I guess, though not one that can satisfy this precarious affliction of literary aspiration. Growing up, through school, through work, through life, I focused on the sciences. It’s what made sense; it’s what I’m good at. Inevitably, the weight of my reading submerged me in a placid sea of murky nonfiction. Informative, not inspiring. Educative, not enlivening. I hadn’t read a real story since the nuns or professors made me.
But on that curious day, perhaps prompted by some censored need, I read those opening lines and my life unexpectedly altered: I fell in love with language. I devoured the classics. I studied the Greats. I found my own characters and a need to tell their story. The priorities of my days reluctantly gave way to the requirements of writing. Hobbies ended. Obligations suffered. It was a complete shift in life-paradigm to something more reclusive, more agonizing, more raw. I would tell stories. The world be damned.
Yes. I fell in love with a girl named Language.
“Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.” Ahhhhh. Breathe it in folks; it doesn’t get any better. There is no teenage phenom alive sexier than that.
Nowadays, a daunting image of the Master Himself looms above my desk, fenced in by an unworthy frame. Known for writing in cars, Nabokov sits shotgun, pen in hand, leering over spectacles and under raised brow, out the passenger window, out of the photograph and into my study, as if to say, “I’m writing, why aren’t you?” In more ways than one, his legend hangs over me as I toil away in obscurity. And I remain forever grateful.
But I’m still attracted to adults.