Monday, 15 May 2017

The dogs in Lolita [updated]

Rereading Lolita, I struggle to find something to write about. This time I catch many allusions missed last time- references to R. L. Stevenson, Flaubert, Joyce, Freud, Lewis Carroll, etc. but almost everything I notice is in the annotations.
Then I notice that dogs are everywhere in Lolita.

"I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright would of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces." (P.1, ch.2)
"Knowing me by now, the reader can easily imagine how dusty and hot I got, trying to catch a glimpse of nymphets (alas, always remote) playing in Central Park, and how repulsed I was by the glitter of deodorized career girls that a gay dog in one of the offices kept unloading upon me." (ch.9)
"Speaking of sharp turns: we almost ran over a meddlesome suburban dog (one of those who like in wait for cars) as we swerved into Lawn Street." (ch.10)
Introduction of an important factor- easily missed the 1st time, noticed in rereading.
"It was crowded with dandelions, and a cursed dog — I loathe dogs — had defiled the flat stones where a sundial had once stood." (ch.17)
Ah, Humbert Humbert hates dogs.
"The fool dog of the prosperous junk dealer next door ran after a blue car — not Charlotte’s." (ibid.)
The same dog?
"A station wagon popped out of the leafy shade of the avenue, dragging some of it on its roof before the shadows snapped, and swung by at an idiotic pace, the sweatshirted driver roof — holding with his left hand and the junkman’s dog tearing alongside." (ibid.)
"An unidentified bearded six-footer, who, it was later conjectured, had been the lady’s secret lover, walked up to her in a crowded street, soon after her marriage to Colonel Lacour, and mortally stabbed her in the back, three times, while the Colonel, a small bulldog of a man, hung onto the murderer’s arm." (ch.20)
Comparison. Some men in the book look like pigs. Humbert Humbert's a few times compared to apes, and Lo, to monkeys. 
"We are unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet." (ibid.)
The man who hates dogs calls himself a dog-eyed gentleman.
"That day John had to see a customer, and Jean had to feed her dogs, and so I was to be deprived temporarily of my friends’ company." (ch.23)
Jean has dogs.
"Speaking of busybodies, I had another visitor — friend Beale, the fellow who eliminated my wife. Stodgy and solemn, looking like a kind of assistant executioner, with his bulldog jowls, small black eyes, thickly rimmed glasses and conspicuous nostrils, he was ushered in by John who then left us, closing the door upon us, with the utmost tact." (ibid.)
A dog-like man and a dog. 
"Very clearly and conclusively, this route came into contact with a boldly traced sinuous line representing two consecutive swerves — one which the Beale car made to avoid the Junk dog (dog not shown), and the second, a kind of exaggerated continuation of the first, meant to avert the tragedy." (ibid.)
Does Charlotte die because of a dog, or a "dog-eyed gentleman"?
"With his hummingbird pencil deftly and delicately flying from one point to another, Frederick demonstrated his absolute innocence and the recklessness of my wife: while he was in the act of avoiding the dog, she had slipped on the freshly watered asphalt and plunged forward whereas she should have flung herself not forward but backward (Fred showed how by a jerk of his padded shoulder)." (ibid.)
Beale avoids the dog and runs over Charlotte. Charlotte dies like a stray dog.
"Within the intricacies of the pattern (hurrying housewife, slippery pavement, a pest of a dog, steep grade, big car, baboon at its wheel), I could dimly distinguish my own vile contribution." (ibid.)
That's the question I had earlier.
"But every once in a while I have to remind the reader of my appearance much as a professional novelist, who has given a character of his some mannerism or a dog, has to go on producing that dog or that mannerism every time the character crops up in the course of the book." (ch.24)
He's about to say he's attractive.
"Lolita sank down on her haunches to caress a pale-faced, blue-freckled, blackeared cocker spaniel swooning on the floral carpet under her hand—as who would not, my heart — while I cleared my throat through the throng to the desk." (ch.27) 
Unlike Humbert Humbert, Lo likes dogs.
"The pink old fellow peered good-naturedly at Lo—still squatting, listening in profile, lips parted, to what the dog’s mistress, an ancient lady swathed in violet veils, was telling her from the depths of a cretonne easy chair." (ibid.) 
Quilty later buys her a cocker spaniel.   
"A key (342!) was half-shown to me (magician showing object he is about to palm) — and handed over to Uncle Tom. Lo, leaving the dog as she would leave me some day, rose from her haunches; a raindrop fell on Charlotte’s grave; a handsome young Negress slipped open the elevator door, and the doomed child went in followed by her throatclearing father and crayfish Tom with the bags." (ibid.)
I like that clause: "leaving the dog as she would leave me some day".
"For obvious reasons, I preferred my house to his for the games of chess we had two or three times weekly. He looked like some old battered idol as he sat with his pudgy hands in his lap and stared at the board as if it were a corpse. Wheezing he would mediate for ten minutes — then make a losing move. Or the good man, after even more thought, might utter: Au roi! with a slow old-dog woof that had a gargling sound at the back of it which made his jowls wabble; and then he would lift his circumflex eyebrows with a deep sigh as I pointed out to him that he was in check himself." (P.2, ch.6)
Gaston's also compared to a dog.
"Before their lighted porch Miss Lester was promenading Miss Fabian’s dropsical dackel. " (ch.14)
A dachshund. A dachshund is a hot dog, a sausage dog as I sometimes call it. Mentioned a few times are hot-dog stands. 
"Miss Lester’s finely groomed hand held a porch-door open for a waddling old dog qui prenait son temps." (ibid.)
I wonder what's up with "finely groomed hand". 
"One could make out an elf-like girl on an insect-like bicycle, and a dog, a bit too large proportionately, all as clear as those pilgrims and mules winding up wax-pale roads in old paintings with blue hills and red little people. I have the European urge to use my feet when a drive can be dispensed with, so I leisurely walked down, eventually meeting the cyclist — a plain plump girl with pigtails, followed by a huge St. Bernard dog with orbits like pansies. " (ch.16)
This, I suppose, is a dog I should remember. 
"On the grass expanse opposite, in the many-limbed shade of luxuriant trees, the familiar St. Bernard dog was guarding his mistress’ bicycle..." (ibid.)
Or just a red herring. 
"The necessity of being constantly on the lookout for his little mustache and open shirt — or for his baldish pate and broad shoulders — 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 Tender-Touch tissues in the back window; the recklessly speeding jalopy full of pale children with a shaggy dog’s head protruding, and a crumpled mudguard; the bachelor’s tudor sedan crowded with suits on hangers; the huge fat house trailer weaving in front, immune to the Indian file of fury boiling behind it; the car with the young female passenger politely perched in the middle of the front seat to be closer to the young male driver; the car carrying on its roof a red boat bottom up…" (ch.19)
"Oh Lolita! There she was playing with a damned dog, not me. The animal, a terrier of sorts, was losing and snapping up again and adjusting between his jaws a wet little red ball; he took rapid chords with his front paws on the resilient turf, and then would bounce away. [...] Even the dog seemed puzzled by the extravagance of her reactions." (ch.21)
Now I'm thinking about all the variety of dogs that pop up in Lolita
"And as if the sun had gone out of the game, Lo slackened and slowly got up ignoring the ball that the terrier placed before her. Who can say what heartbreaks are caused in a dog by our discontinuing a romp?" (ibid.)
That is such a sad line. 
"At one point, I was rather dreadfully rude to a very young and very cheeky nurse with overdeveloped gluteal parts and blazing black eyes — of Basque descent, as I learned. Her father was an imported shepherd, a trainer of sheep dogs." (ch.22)
Another kind. Why does a man who hates dogs know so much about dog breeds? 
"A bright voice informed me that yes, everything was fine, my daughter had checked out the day before, around two, her uncle, Mr. Gustave, had called for her with a cocker spaniel pup and a smile for everyone, and a black Caddy Lack, and had paid Dolly’s bill in cash, and told them to tell me I should not worry, and keep warm, they were at Grandpa’sranch as agreed." (ibid.)
That one I mentioned earlier. 
"The Enchanted Hunters
All legal beverages" (ch.26)
Reminiscent of the line "Children welcomed, pets allowed" at some other hotel. 
"I also wondered if a hunter, enchanted or otherwise, would not need a pointer more than a pew, and with a spasm of pain I recalled a scene worthy of a great artist: petite nymphe accroupie; but that silky cocker spaniel had perhaps been a baptized one." (ibid.) 
However, the rule is violated. 
"My fancy was both Proustianized and Procrusteanized; for that particular morning, late in September 1952, as I had come down to grope for my mail, the dapper and bilious janitor with whom I was on execrable terms started to complain that a man who had seen Rita home recently had been “sick like a dog” on the front steps." (ch.27)
"I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind. No matter how many times we reopen “King Lear,” never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. " (ibid.)
No lapdogs in King Lear, sir. 
"I got out of the car and slammed its door. How matter-of-fact, how square that slam sounded in the void of the sunless day! Woof, commented the dog perfunctorily. I pressed the bell button, it vibrated through my whole system. Personne. Je resonne. Repersonne. From what depth this re-nonsense? Woof, said the dog. A rush and a shuffle, and woosh-woof went the door." (ch.29)
Lo has a dog, of course. 
"My teeth chattered like an idiot’s. “No, you stay out” (to the dog). She closed the door and followed me and her belly into the dollhouse parlor." (ibid.)
"She and the dog saw me off." (ibid.)
I don't know why I find this line so sad. 
"“At this rate we’ll be millionnaires next,” she said to the ecstatic dog." (ibid.)
Poor Lo. 
"Then, as I drove away, I heard her shout in a vibrant voice to her Dick; and the dog started to lope alongside my car like a fat dolphin, but he was too heavy and old, and very soon gave up." (ibid.)
Why is a dog compared to a fat dolphin? 
"... Suddenly, as Avis clung to her father’s neck and ear while, with a casual arm, the man enveloped his lumpy and large offspring, I saw Lolita’s smile lose all its light and become a frozen little shadow of itself, and the fruit knife slipped off the table and struck her with its silver handle a freak blow on the ankle which made her gasp, and crouch head forward, and then, jumping on one leg, her face awful with the preparatory grimace which children hold till the tears gush, she was gone — to be followed at once and consoled in the kitchen by Avis who had such a wonderful fat pink dad and a small chubby brother, and a brand-new baby sister, and a home, and two grinning dogs, and Lolita had nothing." (ch.32)
Avis is Avis Chapman, 1 of her female friends. Look at that line "Lolita had nothing". 
"Closed were the white shutters of the Junk mansion, and somebody had attached a found black velvet hair ribbon to the white FOR SALE sign which was leaning toward the sidewalk. No dog barked. No gardener telephoned. " (ch.33)
The desolation. 
(my emphasis) 

Update on 17/5: 
I forgot the occasions when he wrote "bitch" or "bitches". 

No comments:

Post a Comment