I’ve got no quirky background story for once! I was browsing Barnes & Noble, I saw Lolito on the shelf with an interesting font on the spine, wondered if this was like Lolita only with the gender roles reversed, thought it sounded really interesting, and bought it. Just one of those spontaneous, random books you buy one day, I guess.
I’ve never actually read Lolita; I only know the basic premise of the story. So I’m not going to be drawing any parallels or differences between that book and this one (although I’m sure there are plenty to make for both sides). I will say the premise for Lolito does sound similar, just with the gender roles reversed and with a modern setting.
Etgar is an extremely anxious teenager. He finds out his girlfriend, Alice, had cheated on him shortly after she went on a family vacation. His friend Aslam has been getting on his nerves lately too, whether it’s being totally unhelpful and unempathetic to Etgar’s situation or trying to force Etgar to be social when he just wants to sit around the house and be miserable. His parents have left him home alone for a week while they attended a wedding out of the country, and Etgar is letting the world and its loneliness crush him.
He decides to mess around in an adult chat room and eventually starts privately emailing a woman named Macy. Etgar pretends to be about ten years older and starts to form a sexual relationship with her. He splits his time between mourning over Alice and taking out his sexual frustrations by chatting with Macy.
One day Macy says she’ll be in town on business and wants to meet up with Etgar. Etgar takes all of the money his grandmother left him after she died and goes to spend a few days with Macy. At first it’s pretty awkward; Macy can see he’s a teenager but doesn’t mention it. But they have a lot of fun on their date and become comfortable enough with each other to share a couple of intimate nights with.
When Etgar returns home, he’s busted. The police have found out what the two of them are up to, and Macy was arrested. Etgar breaks down and tries to convince everyone that Macy didn’t do anything wrong. Despite what people say, Etgar holds his ground and keeps trying to convince everyone that he wasn’t taken advantage of and that he wanted to fool around with her.
After being called to testify one day, Etgar awaits news of what’s to happen to Macy. All along he keeps praying that Macy doesn’t go to jail. His father eventually brings him news that she won’t be going to jail, but she’ll be going to a psychiatric hospital and won’t be able to work with kids again. The ending is abrupt and almost anti-climatic, but I feel that it’s pretty strong. Despite getting what he wanted (Macy not going to jail), Etgar’s disappointment in the fact that two extremely lonely people couldn’t enjoy each other without such a permanent scar on her life is too great for him to be happy about it.
Loneliness — I think that’s the central concept of this book. Lolito shows two extremely lonely people who just wanted some companionship. Etgar’s a pretty immature teenager. He’s at the heart of conflicted feelings and extreme emotions most teenagers go through, in addition to practically being an alcoholic. He’s very self-destructive, as we can see when he intoxicates himself and goes to watch animal abuse videos online for no other reason than being bored.
Honestly, that makes him sound pretty unlikable. In fact, most of the characters in this book don’t seem to be very likable. And yet somehow, I sympathize with Etgar. I think a large part of that is how the book is written — it reminds me a lot of Chuck Palaniuk’s writing. There’s a lot of rapid, short, powerful descriptions that are broken up in such a way that really left an impact for me. That being said, I know a lot of people either love or hate Chuck Palaniuk, so keep your opinion of him in mind before going into this novel (if you have one at all).
Anyway, there’s a pretty interesting shift in Etgar’s tone after he hooks up with Macy. He lets himself become a lot more vulnerable around her. She does as well, in fact. There’s a scene where they’re in the hotel room, just having fun and making some kind of fort with the sheets and pillows, both desperately wishing they don’t have to go back to their real lives. And it’s really sad. I could really see how alone both of them felt and how connected they felt with each other on an almost childlike level. It was like both of them were experiencing a connection with another person they haven’t felt in a very long time, a connection they both desperately craved.
And I guess it’s because of this that I really ended up feeling for Etgar when Macy’s life was jeopardized. He breaks down and keeps insisting that Macy didn’t do anything wrong, that he knew exactly what he was doing and he was fine with it.
I actually feel pretty uncomfortable discussing this in a post. I mean at the end of the day, a grown, married woman with children hooked up with a teenager. That’s not okay. But considering the circumstances of everything in both of their lives, the fact that Etgar was perfectly fine with what they were doing, and how genuine their relationship felt (even if it was the basic need for human touch and love)… I don’t know. The question of how right and wrong this situation is doesn’t feel so black and white. Is it because I’m a guy? I feel like guys would relate more to this situation than girls. And that brings forth another question: would I feel the same sympathy for this relationship if the genders were reversed?
There wasn’t a whole lot I disliked about Lolito. I’m guessing if other people had an issue with it (other than the right or wrong concept of the whole book), it would be Etgar and his friends. Etgar really is an immature, obnoxious teenager. The fact that he spends so much of the book hating his ex-girlfriend for cheating on him while he himself has sort of a bang buddy relationship with another friend (in which he views there’s nothing wrong because they don’t have feelings for each other and they’re not really having sex, just sort of dry humping) says a lot about how much he needs to grow up. But considering the novel never gave me the impression I was supposed to think of him as a mature person, as well as the way the book was written, he ended up being more likable than if he were to appear in a different book. Then again, I’m a Chuck Palaniuk fan, and Lolito is written very similarly to one of his books, so there’s probably some personal bias there.
Other than that, the first chapter kind of sucks. It’s one of those scenes where a few different conversations are going on at once and it’s kind of hard to tell what’s happening. The font size and margins are a little big, and it left me sort of nervous I was about to dive in a melodramatic YA novel. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but you know I have a thing about font sizes. :b
I definitely liked this book and would recommend giving it a try, but it’s not for everyone. There’s obviously a lot of sexual themes; if that’s not your thing, this book won’t be either. But it left me thinking more than I thought it would, and the book took a surprising, yet effective, change in tone towards the end.
Hope everyone’s having a great week! 🙂
Info for my edition of Lolito:
- Published 2015 by Regan Arts
- Paperback, 288 pages
- ISBN 978-194139335-2