I just finished reading Lolita. I picked it up some time eons ago in a moment of faux erudition and managed to make it through -- enjoying it, I think, although it's hard to separate the experience of reading a Great Work from the experience of being someone who is reading a Great Work. I don't remember much of it from the first time through, certainly nothing that couldn't be gleaned from a quick skim of the back cover. I can't say that I any longer feel the need to work my way through the canon (Paradiso quite handily cured me of that), but having randomly come into possession of a (heavily annotated) copy of the book, I decided to give it a second run through.
It was a much more memorable read this time through and (the annotations are quite useful here) the wordplay and allusions are all quite clever. But, try as I might, I couldn't find it within me to give a damn for Mr. Humbert. He has an unhealthy attraction to underage girls, of couse, but he's also arrogant, alcoholic, and an all-around unpleasant personality. He really has nothing to recommend himself, and so, while I enjoyed the book, I spent most of it hoping that the guy would just get picked up by the cops or run his car off a cliff or something.
Of course, proudly announcing to the world that you don't care for a hebephile is hardly a controversial opinion, so allow me to generalize.
I don't like anti-heros. Can't stand 'em. I'm not talking about your good people caught on the wrong side of the law--your Jean Val Jeans, your Malcolm Reynolds, what have you. I have no especial attachment to the rule of law in my fiction, and it's not that I fell the authorities somehow need to be the face of morality. No, I'm talking about irredeemably bad characters, ones that have nothing to recommend them but for their protagonism.
You ever seen Reservoir Dogs? Movie about a diamond heist gone bad when it turns out one of the bad guys is an undercover police agent (played by the delectable Tim Roth)? There's this one character in it, Mr. White, who befriends Tim (without knowing, of course, that he's a cop) . Most of the movie is Mr. White and the cop interacting and, at the very end [SPOILER ALERT] the cop lets out who he really is and Mr. White gets all weepy.
I think you're supposed to empathize with Mr. White and for how horribly betrayed he feels at the end, but I couldn't have cared less. He's a nasty, unpleasant murderer -- why the fuck should I care what happens to him? I certainly don't feel any sympathy for Ted Bundy or any other real-life psychopaths. I just felt bad for Mr. Roth, who trusts the guy and gets killed for his troubles.
I just can't bring myself to care about these guys. I don't sympathize with them and I generally want them to die, be arrested, or otherwise get their just desserts.
I realize this sounds a bit moralistic and, therefore, uncool, but I don't think that's really my intent. I've definitely seen movies with thoroughly unpleasant characters that I've liked (American History X comes to mind). I just can't bring myself to root for them. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm a contradictionist and my immediate reaction is "Screw you! I'm not going to care about this guy just because you made him the star of your movie."
Or maybe not. What say you? (Also: hey! I just updated my blog! Crazy.)