Lolita

[Amazon Link] Another attempt to tackle some serious fiction, a little vegetable-eating amidst the literary fast-food that makes up my usual diet. Lolita (as Wikipedia will tell you) is

… on Time's list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It is fourth on the Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It was also included as one of The 100 Best Books of All Time.

So that's an impressive pedigree, but Pun Salad readers come here for the straight scoop. "Hey, Paul, how was it, really?"

You've probably heard: the novel deals with an off-putting subject. It is set mostly in America of the late 40s and early 50s. The narrator, a European immigrant named "Humbert Humbert", is a nasty sort, with lustful urges for "nymphets", young girls. Fate brings him to a small New England town where he lodges with, and eventually marries, a crass dame named Charlotte Haze. Unfortunately, he's actually smitten with Dolores, Charlotte's 11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, who Humbert takes to calling Lolita.

Not to spoil things, but Lolita turns out to be more than Humbert bargained for. Young does not equate to innocent, even in the America of 70 years ago. Things turn out badly for everyone involved.

Nabokov's prose is full of wordplay, allusion, foreshadowing, symbolism, and a bunch of other words you probably heard about in literature class. Fortunately, I got, from the Library Near Here, the "annotated" version put together by the late Alfred Appel, a lifelong Nabokov scholar. I can't see how I would have made the slightest bit of sense out of the book otherwise, although it takes some of the surprise out of the ending. Nabokov is the kind of author who expects you to connect names and words mentioned briefly, amongst continual pyrotechnic verbiage, when they show up again hundreds of pages later. Unless you're a would-be literary detective, willing to ferret out every clue, tackling this book unassisted would be like setting out into the Himalayas without your Sherpa.

Appel also, bless him, translates the numerous French phrases that Humbert and other characters continually drop, resolves the literary allusions, points out each and every obscure reference to the mysterious Clare Quilty.

Skyfall

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

James Bond movies are on the short list of ones Pun Son and I will actually traipse off to the cinema to see on opening weekend. This one was pretty good, but (as I type) IMDB has it as #245 of the top 250 movies of all time. I don't think so.

Anyway, the plot begins with a slambang opening sequence: a bad guy has murdered a bunch of agents in Turkey and stolen a hard drive; 007 is right behind him. They leave a trail of destruction and—hey, I've always wondered about the innocent victims left in the wake of these epic chases. We never see them, but the body count must at least be in double digits here, with hundreds injured.

The chase ends poorly for Bond, the bad guy gets away. And Bond takes the opportunity to kick back for awhile, since everyone (except those in the movie audience) thinks he's dead. But he's drawn back into the thick of things by a cyberterrorist attack on MI6 headquarters. Apparently the chief bad guy has it in (specifically) for M, the hard-as-nails MI6 boss, played by Dame Judi. So Bond is tasked with tracking things down, but has he lost a step, due to nearly getting killed and all?

I had a lot of fun. However:

I know it's pointlessly stupid to gripe about the credibility of a Bond movie plot. But I found myself (afterward) thinking: why did they do that? Why didn't they do that? One thing in particular, and I'll put it here in spoiler-avoiding white text, mouse-select to reveal: to quote an IMDB poster: "I'll take M to a house 8 hours away, with no backup or weapons in a tiny car, and wait for the bad guys to show up. … Let's hope M doesn't get shot, oh she did, damn, what a stupid plan afterall."

I liked the occasional nod to long-ago Bond flicks, especially the very last one involving Eve; only saw that coming a few seconds before it actually did.


Last Modified 2014-11-09 11:50 AM EST

A Perfect Getaway

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2009 movie is a decent thriller, but probably not approved by the Hawaii Department of Tourism.

The island paradise of Kauai contains the Kalalau Trail, a tough 11-mile hike on the north shore leading to a beautiful secluded beach. The movie places three couples there: newlyweds Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich); free spirits Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez); burnouts Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton). Into this gorgeous setting, trouble intrudes, as word comes of a horrific double murder back in Honolulu. And (guess what) the murderers seem to have made their escape to (cue ominous music) this very same island.

So everyone's in for some stressful times. Can't really say much more without spoilers. I don't know about you, but I find I enjoy such movies more when I don't overthink them, don't anticipate the little (or large) plot twists the moviemakers may (or may not) have upcoming. Just sayin'.

Consumer's note for movie fans who might compulsively fly out to Kauai to hike the Kalalau Trail: apparently most of this movie was actually shot in Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

Veterans Day 2012

Veterans Day 2012

… thank a vet near you.

Google gets it this year: Google Veterans Day