Moira Peckham, BFR Editor

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              As I’ve gotten older, busier, and generally more stressed, I’ve noticed something sad about myself: I seldom read for fun anymore. When I was a growing up in the truly riveting hubbub of Morro Bay, California I would make a conscious effort to sit myself down and read a gosh darn novel or even just a few short stories every week. Eventually I didn’t even have to try because reading was the most wonderful thing I could be doing. There was nothing like getting lost in someone else’s world for a few hours and, to be honest, that’s still one of the most incredible things life can offer us. When I reached college, however, I found my time increasingly taken up by technical readings for my courses in anthropology, philosophy, or whatever I was taking that semester. And let me tell you, after a week of reading Marxist theory and critiques of cultural ecology, nothing and I mean nothing sounded less appealing than sitting down with and trying to actually understand the copy of Infinite Jest that’s currently collecting dust on my book shelf. And after several months of doggedly ignoring all the books I’d been collecting, I finally realized something: I would have to force myself to read for fun or face the reality that I would only be reading technical pieces for the rest of my life. And I was not cool with the latter option.

              The first strategy I utilized to make myself read for fun was by taking an English course. English courses are a lot of work and anyone who tells you differently is wrong and probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But in spite of the work (or maybe because of it), English courses are also unbelievably rewarding. English 27: Introduction to the Study of Fiction allowed me to read seven incredible novels that I would never have picked up otherwise (as someone who reads mostly science fiction it was a trip to actually have to sit down and read Heart of Darkness for a grade but you know what it was great). I got to read amazing books for units! And write about them, which is a reward in and of itself. It was so amazing to be able to read and critically engage with literature that I never would have looked at before. Had I not taken that English course, I wouldn’t have even discovered how much I love Thomas Pynchon. So that particular experiment in forcing myself to read non-technical writings was a complete success. But alas, the summer rolled around and with it the time in which I could take classes outside of my major came to an end, so I had to think of strategy number two.

              Strategy number two was less about clever tactical course-planning and more about brute force. Amidst the balmy days of summer, my favorite author published an 880 page hard science fiction space odyssey and I vowed to finish it that summer in addition to about five other books that were burning a hole in my bookcase. So the strategy was basically to utilize my summer months to read as many books concurrently as I possibly could. I failed. But, boy, did I try. I got through probably about seven hundred pages of literature by the time summer ended just by sheer force of will, but it took me until the end of winter break that same year to finish the space odyssey. But that winter break introduced me to strategy number three: power reading.

              My first experience with power reading was with Camus’s The Stranger. If you aren’t familiar with that particular title, all you really need to know is that The Stranger isn’t that long. Maybe 160 pages, tops. One night after Christmas, I decided to read The Stranger but given my track record with actually finishing the books I start I knew that I needed to finish it all in one sitting or I wouldn’t finish it at all. So that’s what I did. It took me two and a half hours of non-stop reading but I did it. And it felt amazing. And so, I decided to try this tactic with something a little longer over spring break. (In between winter and spring break I didn’t read a single book; it was really sad.) Over the break, I went on vacation to a place with no Internet and I attribute this in part to the fact that I finished a 660 page book in four days. I was a well-oiled reading machine. I don’t think I had ever read anything as quickly and as thoroughly in my entire life. This too, is more an exercise in brute force rather than in self-control and cleverness. As of right now, however, power reading appears to be my most successful tactic for dealing with the fact that during the school year I have less and less time and drive to read for fun.

              Other strategies I’ve not tried myself but have seen others successfully employ include but are not limited to: having a book to read on your breaks at work, reading books of short stories, reading just before bed (I have tried this and fall asleep every time but other people do not), joining a literary journal (I actually do this one but some people don’t consider work fun for some reason), read poems, attempt to substitute Netflix with books at least sometimes, and many, many more!

              And perhaps this issue isn’t as universal as I feel it must be given my complete and utter lack of interest in staring at more pages full of words after spending my week doing just that, but maybe someone somewhere is struggling with this is very same thing. And if you are, hi there. I am here for you. Reading is the best and it is possible to find time to actually finish books, it just might take more effort than you’re used to. But stick with it because one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the ability to get lost, at least for a little while, inside someone else’s reality and to learn from it.

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Nika Nabifar, BFR Staff

There is something that happens almost every time I finish a Haruki Murakami story—something that I now feel I have the precedent to call The Murakami Effect. A quick google search has alerted me of the fact that this term has been used countless times before, but it’s fine. Murakami can have multiple effects.

I preface this by saying that I’ve read a very small handful of his novels—After Dark, Sputnik Sweetheart, and I’m currently reading both Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (I don’t know why I’m always reading 5/6 books at once; I feel like I may have a fear of finishing novels but that’s a different story for another time). I have, however, read many, many of his short stories. I most recently finished The Strange Library, which I guess is technically considered a short illustrated novel, but it read like one of his short stories to me. After finishing it, I realized once again that I was hit with that same feeling, a.k.a. The Murakami Effect. It was kind of hilarious to me this time, albeit sad, because I thought I had escaped it, maybe grown accustomed to it, but then the last page happened and it got to me. Again. It never ends.

It’s something that’s hard for me to explain in words. How do you explain the way something leaves you feeling when you yourself don’t fully understand it? The endings are gut wrenching, profound, introspective. Sometimes they literally sum up the whole story in a couple lines; most of the times they’re really just plain sad; but all of the time, they’re beautiful. They always seem to creep up on me and then it’s like one large wave of emotion that I become completely submerged in and can’t seem to escape. It’s overwhelming, to say the least, but a good kind of overwhelming. A kind that makes me seek out his work time and time again.

I want to speak for Murakami’s corpus as a whole, but I cannot, so bear with me. Murakami seems to consistently write and grapple with the inevitable state of human loneliness. In fact, every Murakami piece I’ve read has to do with it (that and the moon are the two most consistent symbols I’ve registered in his works, but the moon is something that needs a piece of its own). I think the fact that his works affect me so deeply is because many of the protagonists have been in their 20s, or reflect on their time in their 20s, and Murakami writes specifically about a kind of loneliness felt by young people. His short story “Yesterday” deals with this most prominently–“But when I look back at myself at age twenty what I remember most is being alone and lonely.”

I don’t think I ever experienced The Murakami Effect as strongly as I did after reading “Yesterday.” Maybe it was the timing. I was in a new city. I barely knew more people than I could count on both hands. I also hadn’t read Murakami in a while. I think, though, it’s just him. His writing is so accessible, it’s easy and clear and doesn’t take much effort to comprehend most of the time, which is a nice break. But most of all, it’s lovely. He writes in a way that is poetic and the effect of it reflects that.

A bit of a tangent, but still related nonetheless: I recently read an article that was about the effects Marcel Proust had on Virginia Woolf and her writing. While yes, I understand Woolf when she speaks this way about Proust as I am also reading Proust at the moment (another one of my started-but-haven’t-finished attempts), and while I agree with her whole-heartedly, I also couldn’t help think about Murakami –as I always do. Woolf says, in a letter:

“My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped— and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical— like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined.”

This “Proust Effect” Woolf felt is exactly like my Murakami Effect. The first time I ever finished a Murakami piece, I couldn’t imagine even bothering with another contemporary author, and felt like asking Woolf’s “what remains to be written after that?” question. I was desperate to discover the authors that influenced him, the people he drew inspiration from, anything and everything that brought me closer to his work. I couldn’t and still can’t get enough. There is something about him that seems so otherworldly, sometimes I can’t believe someone even has the capacity to write the way he does, but also completely relatable, making it so that every time I read a new piece of his, it’s like I’m conversing with an old friend.

 

Side Note: I wrote this while listening to a playlist of the musical references Murakami mentions in his works which is pretty entertaining on its own – https://open.spotify.com/user/sdmeslow/playlist/6pEMWyjkKbufHyRZ7QZiaS

 

 

Samara Michaelson, BFR Staff

What is there to say that hasn’t already been felt? I can create nothing new, only new to young eyes. I can create nothing new but can only cut and paste words to tell you something I want to say. What do we tell anyone, and what do we tell the anonymous everyone?

The walls are white, and there is a clothes rack in the middle of the room. The windows are open, and the comforter is damp. The lamp is turned on, and a dog just barked. Is that what I should tell you?

The ink of my pen is blue, but that doesn’t matter does it? What makes it not matter? And what makes anything matter? I use the same words to tell you when I woke up and where I’m from as when I tell you that I’m scared of never getting what I want because I’ve turned my desires into things that could never exist. It’s all the same words, or at least the same letters, or at least the same lines and curves and edges.

Only the ideas of things exist, when these things are not before you. So we live in a world that is swarmed with an infinite number of ideas. Anything is possible as an idea, but that doesn’t mean anything’s possible. Things keep moving as I move my pen across this page, they keep moving and allow me to sit up here and act like everything’s still. That’s a privilege really, most people aren’t allowed to question themselves or the reality on which they are dependent. They can’t risk it, they can’t climb all the way up and hold their tic tic ticking watch off the edge and let it slip to be amazed at how far they’ve climbed or how far they’ll fall.

I heard a homeless couple break up last night out my window. He felt she was selfish because she complained about being hungry after a day of no food while he starved himself for three days just to give her anything he had. He called her selfish, said that she didn’t care about his feelings. It’s strange to think that no one’s immune from feelings. But, it’s the way in which we find and express them that hides that characteristic of universality.

It is that feeling of loneliness in the empty space of emotions that make them ever more potent. Thus it is the very nature of feeling anything to at once feel like an individual, and to feel the duplicity of being a body that others can look upon and think to know and a self that is blind to that very body. It is the privacy of self even to the conscious part of that same self. We are scared to not know ourselves. How could we not when we are constantly having to be so sure and decide where to eat tonight? We are forced to pretend to ourselves that we know every one of our parts. It’s cleaner. The outline is defined, the wood isn’t splintered and the metal isn’t rusty.

Let’s all write what we are supposed to. Let’s all say what we are supposed to. But no, then we would all fade into the outline of these words, of these bodies, and nothing would mean anything if I ever figured out what I wanted to tell you.

Regan Farnsworth, BFR Staff

Why even bother?

That’s a question perhaps worth asking of the written word. We have movies, we have television, we have videogames. Why go to the trouble of reading at all? It’s a lot more effort, with a lot less—well—production value.

Movies are single, big, events. Explosions (literal and figurative) and grandiosity galore. Television shows have continuity, length, and the potential for constant variation. Both are easy to consume – just sit and watch, some barely even ask that you listen. Video games ask more of you, but in return grant you agency.

Books ask that you sit down with minimal potential distractions – and for a lot of people that includes even being in a moving vehicle – and put forth a great deal of focus, for consumption you have no control over. There are no fancy graphics, big special effects, or surprise Christmas episodes. So I posit the question again:

Why even bother?

But books are not without their own merit, even in the face of our new age of technological supremacy, because all such media rob the consumer of the one thing books grant: imagination. A book challenges its reader to quite literally read between the lines – to fill in the blanks as they come – and in doing allow access to an infinity of variety.

I don’t mean to sound like a grandmother, futilely attempting to persuade her grandchild to put that blasted watchamacallit down and pick up a book for once. What I hope to express is that books were not step one of an evolution, and that they do not compete with movies, and TV, and video games. The reason movie adaptation of novels are infamous for infuriating the readers of said novels optimistic enough to go and see them is related to this same concept. Movies can’t do the same thing – they’re marketing towards a different audience entirely, because if they weren’t, that audience would have been happy to just read the book instead.

So, no, I’m not saying books are better than movies and you all need to get your heads out of your screens – I love screens. This is a blog post for crying out loud; you’re on a screen right now, probably with Netflix on another tab. And that’s okay. That’s fine. That’s great. Stories are stories! But know that the story is only so much the story, and all the rest is in the telling. What a book does is give its consumer creative freedom. Not agency in the action but agency in the understanding. Different stories grant different levels of this freedom, but all of it is more than you can ever attain when a TV show, movie, or video game is showing you precisely how they envision it, not how you do.

Perhaps this is all rather old news to anyone well-read enough to bother reading this blog post, but in that case perhaps it might help you articulate to your less literary-enthused contemporaries.

And if not, well, hey, would it have been any better if this were a vlog instead?

Leah Tyus, BFR Staff

Leah

Who is the artist behind this piece? Is the individual male or female? What ethnicity? If we were to imagine that individual’s story, what might it be? How would their tale unfold? Regardless of the artist you’ve envisioned, it’s important to consider how our conception of an artist comes into formation.

If I told you the artist is a twenty-six year old African American male, with the physique of a D-line football player, would you believe me? Well, guess what? The artist is all those things plus more. What’s astonishing is how few people would associate such artistry with the true artist. Our preconceptions of what and who constitutes the art world lend themselves to biases. These biases have the potential to be detrimental as they impose pre-judgments. We allow our perceptions to create a limited normality.

Our faceless artist is named Julian.

Birthed within a name is the individual’s personality. Julian possesses a story that reveals his particular journey as an artist. He and other artists are more than fantasized ideas because they are living, breathing individuals. Because Julian does not fit within the societal norm of who an artist aught to be, does that make him any less of one? Have we considered how biases limit success for an artist? Doesn’t Julian deserve to be recognized for his artistry rather than an ability to perpetuate an artist stereotype?

I precaution us all to remember the impact our preconceptions have on artists. Let us not be limited in our understandings but become expansive in our thinking. Let us dismantle our concept of the idealized artist to that of the totality of the artist.

*Art by Julian Tyus

Georgia Peppe, BFR Editorial Staff

We all know the drill: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action. This is the formula for basic stories and a successful plot line, proven to be effective and hard to stray from as a writer.

And yet, in attempting a climactic moment, writers often get stuck in the mires of melodrama, falling prey to contrivances and tropes, even the dreaded cliché.

So how can one experiment with getting out of cookie cutter plot construction?

Try using bathos.

What exactly is bathos?

It’s an anti-climax device. (To see it for yourself, I recommend reading some of James Salter’s short fiction in Dusk and Other Stories and Last Night, especially the story Dusk, which was my first encounter with the literary device.)

Here’s how it works. You take your readers with you, through your world, through your character’s lives, through their thoughts, feelings, and desires; you present the conflict, the rising action, the triumphs and failures, all the elements of your story, the people, places, plot; you have all of that seeming ready to coalesce in one moment: your climax.

And then you have that moment not be there.

No climax. Instead you have a place holder that occurs in your novel/short fiction where the climax should be. But what is there now? A let down. A moment of quiet. Stagnancy.

Going out without a bang.

You whip away from your readers all the greater purpose of the story hinted at throughout the writing, all the promise of some greater resolution or conclusion. Readers hang in the air in a moment of suspension, waiting for the great reveal, but instead are sent back down, sent home with nothing to show.

This is not to be mistaken for an easy fix to a not-quite-there story. It’s not the ultimate psychological twist either. Bathos has a tone it carries about—a rather despondent one, at that—which may or may not be the perfect ending to your story.

That expectation of—or even sense of entitlement to—the moment of clarity when the meaning of a story becomes clear, and the rejection of that expectation, are what make the let-down that much more powerful.

To achieve bathos the writer must turn back to the mundane, must leave behind the satisfaction of resolution, must opt to subject their readers to unfinished business, denying the sublime for the trivial.

Ultimately, it must be purposeful that there was no greater meaning all along. No message or greater truth. We build and build only to walk away empty handed.

So why does bathos leave its readers so uneasy? How does it devastate us so entirely?

Maybe, it hits just a little too close to home.

Lauren Cooper, BFR Managing Editor

I can’t forget the day I met him. Surrounded by books from my mother’s shelf, I leafed through page after page of white and black. Reading was, and is, like air to me, and that day I breathed it in without hesitation. Shakespeare and Shelley drew me into their complex worlds of love and nature, Neruda showed me some of his favorite dreams, and I reveled in the woods created by Frost. But I saw nothing of me in the poems I read until, turning the page, Allen Ginsberg stood with his hand outstretched, ready to lead me to his Supermarket in California.

I began to skim, tired from my journeys and wary of entering yet another poet’s world, built of words and punctuation. But as I read, I breathed fresh air. Choppy lines filled the page, and syntax flowed to the beat of an unheard drum. Dialogue filled my ears, as Ginsberg talked to Whitman, Whitman to bananas. He spoke of life and time, how neon fruit and grocery boys have replaced the simple past; he asked the world at large what the future would bring. And I listened. I shared in his uncertainty and echoed his honest questions. In the midst of his stream of consciousness, I glimpsed myself.

Ginsberg asked where the past was hidden, where the next step might lead. I looked into his eyes and answered, who knows? His questions were my own. He had spoken the thoughts that I had yet to verbalize, and in that moment I knew that I, too, had something to say.

I had never written much poetry, preferring analytical essays to emotional poems. But, with his talk of peaches and penumbras, Ginsberg inspired me to search for an answer to my questions and his. He had shown me that poetry could be as true as not. An imagined world of neon fruit could speak volumes about reality; it could recall the forgotten past. Unsure of how to begin, I simply started to write, letting the words guide my hand and give me the answers that my mind alone could not create. Unformed thoughts spilled onto a blank page, as black ink lay down next to the white. I wrote of nostalgia: radios and an analogue watch, the how-do-you-dos of woe-be-gone days. I wrote of dial tones and handwritten letters, of memory’s persistence, as moving pictures marched through test patterns and static. Soon I had an answer, a finished piece, a world that we had created, Ginsberg and me.

And I knew that I was a writer, a purveyor of truth and fresh opinion. One simple word piled upon another and another had captured an image, a part of my soul displayed to the world and ready to be understood. It came in waves, then—the anxiety, the vulnerability that comes with making that leap, with allowing my soul to be read like a book. What-ifs echoed through my mind as I fussed over commas and capitals, for each letter had a purpose, and each letter could bring failure if it were read the wrong way. Yet, if Ginsberg had done it, then so could I. In him, I had found a kindred spirit. Perhaps someone else, someone far and away, might find one in me.

Georgia Peppe, BFR Editorial Staff

Sci-Fi.

An abbreviation that has the power to invoke utter joy or disgust given the beholder of the topic.

I personally used to be one of the blind that discredited this genre as gimmicky and meritless. Though I appreciated the concepts and imagination, I never considered anything even faintly classified as science fiction to be “literary” or of “literary merit.”

That was until my mother put Pastoralia, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, in my lap. Tenth of December soon followed.

These anthologies had no boisterous, graphic design cover art or obsequious font, so I doubted that this was in fact science fiction.

What I like specifically about Saunders-esque science fiction is its subtlety; how the science fiction aspect of his writing does not come from blatant exhibitions of, or references to, subjects preordained as science-y.

His literary trick is best described as continuous discontinuities. For Saunders this manifests in some of his short stories in an extremely unnerving manner.

The difference is this:

In most science fiction, the reader is presented a fictional world where everything is different. It is garnished with flying cars, dinosaurs, etc. There are innumerable rules governing the world and not all of them are cohesive when put in place next to each other. How this world exactly works gets confusing because the ambiguity surrounding what is different about this world is not consistent. Too many extrapolations, additions, twists, and throw away, last minute explanations that shoddily fill in gaping plot holes. In other words what is different about the world from ours, the discontinuity, is not continuous.

In Saunders’ worlds, it is typically difficult to first perceive the slightest difference between his literary world and our own. He chooses and places perversions of the expected in a setting the reader is all too familiar and comfortable with: a world without flying cars or dinosaurs, a world that is otherwise their own. Except for the twist.

I personally prefer Saunders’ more subtle approach, but, subtlety aside, even mainstream action-centric science fiction could stand to observe his skill.

A Saunders’ twist is the discontinuity, and this discontinuity is continuously integrated into the world it inhabits, creating a new world for this fiction to take place in. It is an eerie alteration of what we know so well. Though it is not as outrageous a presentation as mainstream science fiction, it leaves much more room for metaphors and allegories, but most of all, a real fear of that world which is only a slight deviation away from our own.

Continuity is crucial to world building. But of course we all knew that.

What is even more crucial is the continuity of a discontinuity. Being meticulous about your representation and presentation of an aspect of your world that defines it and distinguishes it from “reality.”

You, as a writer, want this discontinuity so well integrated that your reader is taken aback when it surfaces, when they finish your story and are left with a discomfort,  an eeriness regarding how clear and permeating that world felt.

Regan Farnsworth, BFR Staff

We all know genre fiction. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are the most well-known examples, but most any fantasy (Eragon, A Song of Ice and Fire) or science fiction (Ender’s Game, Dune) counts. These kinds of stories, while many are popular, are rarely if ever touted in academia, and often lack credibility in terms of intellectual merit. “Literary fiction” books such as Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby take their place, in literal classrooms and in discussions of academic nature. I posit that works of genre fiction—written well, of course—have no less a capacity for meaningful intellectual contribution than any work of literary fiction.

The simplest way to distinguish between genre fiction and literary fiction is the focus on plot versus thought, respectively. Literary fiction is often introverted and reflective, while genre fiction focuses on actions and reactions. This makes the idolization of literary fiction for academic and intellectual study seem obvious: any work that goes into the thoughts of a character and the ideas of a theory is surely going to be more worthy of thoughtful discussion and consideration. This seems only natural—events do not provide insight into mentality or philosophy.

Yet to take this stance fails to heed some of the most fundamental advice given to writers of all fiction: “Show, don’t tell.”

This is the crux of my argument. Anyone who picks up one of the literary fiction examples listed above, or even books a bit more ambiguous such as Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, recognizes immediately and inevitably that the author is trying to tell you something. There simply isn’t enough plot, enough “story,” for the intent to be anything else. A message or allegory or symbolism so blatant that, while the message may be entirely valid and important, the book or story becomes immediately less about the characters within and more about the ideas and thoughts it discusses, dissects, or encapsulates.

This is not true for those books of genre fiction that focus on events and happenings. We get wrapped up in what happens next, in the characters and relationships and developments. We are not being told, we are experiencing. This is how humans learn—not through the raw consumption of knowledge but through the experience and test of that knowledge. Thus, in genre fiction we are granted the opportunity to learn from the experiences of our characters, and derive lessons and concepts that are personal and more real than the metaphorical lecture of literary fiction.

This is not to say literary fiction is inferior, either, and certainly these two categories are arguable and occasionally ambiguous. I mean only to say that we should not discount a work’s intellectual merit solely because it has ogres or lasers, because it may be that laser-toting ogre will face hardships that mirror your own, and in doing so indirectly provide insight into your own life, rather than tutor you directly on matters of lost innocence or obsession and affluent debauchery.

Caroline Riley, BFR Staff

When I tell people that Lolita is my favorite novel, I usually receive a reaction straddling the line between fascination and horror. Yes, I know what it’s about. It wouldn’t be my favorite book if I hadn’t read it too many times to count. Yes, I think it’s disturbing. It’s deeply disturbing in a way that still leaves my skin crawling and stomach churning. Yes, it’s still my favorite book.

Lolita is not a work to be taken lightly. First published in 1955 by its author, Vladimir Nabokov, it delves into a plot narrated by professor Humbert Humbert, who enters into a sexual relationship with a twelve-year-old girl after she becomes his stepdaughter. Its narrator is more than unreliable: Humbert is manipulative. His narrative deliberately intends to mislead, to deceive, to trick the reader into believing his side of the story. Cloaked in beautiful, romanticized language, Humbert’s first person narration has the power to strategically persuade the reader that his relationship with Lolita is amorous rather than abusive, beautiful rather than horrifying. Even more unnerving, sometimes it works.

Lolita challenges us in more ways than one. It attacks a controversial subject in jarring, heartbreaking ways. It forces us to listen to a self-described “murderer” wax poetic in dulcet tones about non-consensual sex with an underage girl. It confronts our moral stances and attempts to break them down, evoking sympathy for a narrator with whom we would never want to identify. It is not, in any way, shape, or form, an easy book to read.

This being said, Lolita teaches us how to read. It informs us that as readers, we are just as malleable as the novel itself; our perspectives and positions can ebb and flow just over the course of a single narrative. It presents us with a self-conscious “fancy prose style” whose goal is implicitly to confuse us into feeling slightly less disgust and slightly more pity toward its narrator. As readers, we are responsible not just for the words on the page, but also for their subtle connotations, hidden meanings, and cunning agendas. From first page to last, Lolita presents us with a narrative perspective and then begs us to question it, to read more deeply, more closely.

John Milton wrote in his 1644 speech “Areopagitica,” “I cannot praise a fugitive and  cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.” Humbert Humbert, armed to the teeth with clever wordplay and exquisite language, is this adversary. As readers, we are called to consider not only the literature that supports our viewpoints, but also the literature that tests them. Without a doubt, Lolita tests us. It requires us to read with a critical eye. It forces us to face the immoral disguised in beauty. It inspires us to decide how to stand our ground not by default, but by battle.