The Before-20 List: Books I Should(‘ve) Read Before I Turned Twenty Or Else I’m A Giant Loser — One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. and Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
About a year ago, knee-deep in a discussion (aka beer-guzzling with accompaniment) about, well, books us writerly-types (ha) liked, I realized I had not yet read two books on everyone’s Must Read Or Else You’re An Ignorant DooDoo List: One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. There’s an explanation for this oversight–moi, with a fondness for magical realism and, well, squick-shmexy (for bleep’s sake, I read Masters and Johnson when I was fourteen, okay?)–how dare I go on living without having read these?! Meh.
See, back in Cavite, where only the dirty laundry could rival the amount of books me and my mother have–there were books in every room in the house, including the bathroom, jeesh–in one of the shelves my father made for my mom, there was a copy of Solitude. Mom probably got it when I was nine or something, because I’m certain that the entire time I still lived in Cavite, I resolutely ignored that book, mostly because it had Nobel Prize for Literature emblazoned on its cover with a shiny gold sticker. Well. That was my Anne Rice phase (ugh, you had one too), my Stephen King phase, my Harry Potter phase. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever outgrew these “phases”–In Snape We Trust!) Oh, I tried to read the book a couple of times. But it was just too damned convoluted for me. I set it back down countless of times, and happily opened, I dunno, a Mills & Boon paperback. Yeah, I have wunnerful taste in Literature. Anyway, to cut ten odd years of my story short, I decided, a few months after turning nineteen (for the record, most of Nineteen was CRAP, okay?), to read said books before I turned twenty.
And now I’m twenty.
A coupla days before the big 2-0, I plunked down on my bed and read. I remember buying a copy of Solitude in National Bookstore Katipunan (mag-plug daw ba?), before I met with Marie, who’d just gotten back from Belgium. I also remember buying Solitude with Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake. Huh. I didn’t read Solitude immediately. It was on my nightstand (yes I have a nightstand) for a number of weeks, happy-dappy in its plastic cover. And then, well, tiring of hearing how OMFGWONDERFUL it was from the intarnetz and friends, I tore open the plastic, plunked down on my bed, and read. This was on the afternoon of August 12th.
I finished reading before noon of August 13th. I tried to read it in one sitting, but apparently, my body needed to sleep. But I read, and I read–and early in the book, I took breaks to Tweet how OMFGWONDERFUL it was going. And then I just kept on reading. Plunked on my bed, and several times I had to raise my head just to say Tangina wasak. I slept at around 4:30 AM, begrudgingly, well, involuntarily. So I slept. When I woke up, I reached for the book to finish reading it. And even then, I had to take an emo yosi break (internalizing, haha, moment!) before the final chapter because somehow, convolutions and repetitions and crazy-ass family tree aside, I really liked this book. I really REALLY love this book. This very much surprises me. Ursula Iguaran FTW, bitchez.
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The same thing didn’t happen to me when I read Lolita. Hay. Lolita was definitely harder-going for me. I have always thought I would love this book, though my two previous attempts to see it to its end have been thwarted (thwarted is such a funny-sounding word, yes?) due to one reason or another. The first time, senior year in high school, I got lynched by my batchmates for reading too much (hell yes I will rant about this soon) and I somehowmisplaced the library’s copy during a lunch break. Yeah. No repercussions from the library, incredibly terrible system we had there, but damn it, did I get mad. Batchmates paid for it in an unrivaled valedictory address care of yours truly. (Ah, the revenge of the dork.) The second time, sophomore year in college. I had to put the book down because I was dating an a-hole, and I didn’t want my memory of the book to be clouded by my memories of aforementioned a-hole.
Excuses, excuses. Also, well, the first time I tried to read it (and this was about two-three years ago-ish), distractions aside, the prose was purply and romantic and nosebleed-inducing in its unabashed unabashedness. The first lines, those immortal lines–“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”–easy to think the invocation/praise/lala was just for introductory purposes, that dear Humbert Humbert would go on and laugh at his own highfalutin expressiveness. But no. The rest of the book goes on in the same vein, and then to dizzying heights. Nabokov, dude–you do not make it easy. Jeepers.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I like the two-thirds of the book that I managed to read (over a two-week period, slow going for me). The same way I liked the fourth of the book I’d read two-three years ago-ish. I’ll reread it again, and this time I’ll cheat and just continue where I left off. So far, I am liking Humbert Humbert, delirious with Lolita, and dude, Mama Haze me likey. Hay. I will read you again, sweetling, don’t you worry none.
PS – Cover photo for this edition of the book? Hawt. Disturbing when you really think about it. Which means it works. Ha!