Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027048, Wed, 8 Jun 2016 00:54:52 -0300

Before Brian brought forth a few other examples of "tossing hair" in
"Lolita" I had already run my eyes over this novel, and through some of VN's
short-stories, because I wanted to find an innocent example related to the
joy little girls encounter by tossing and swinging their ponytails while
they walk or play games . I missed out the beautiful construction about
Lolita's tossing an apple ("a childish game in a context of a naive kind of
emotional forwardness," in Brian's words). The closest image for what I'd
been looking for is in "Beneficence" and, thanks to Brian's example and
interpretation, I could appreciate it all the more: "I departed along
darkening streets, peering into the faces of passersby, capturing smiles and
amazing little motions—the bobbing of a girl's pigtail as she tossed a ball
against a wall, the heavenly melancholy reflected in a horse's purplish,
oval eye."


De: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] Em nome de
Brian Boyd
Enviada em: terça-feira, 7 de junho de 2016 19:21
Assunto: Re: [NABOKV-L] "Tossing Hair" MOTIF in ADA and THE ENCHANTER

Great observations, Mo.

I notice that in Lolita itÂ’s only the sexually forward (like Ada) Annabel
who tosses her hair, although in a way that Nabokov complicates:

She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry
lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of
her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth,
while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my
throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of
my passion. [I.4]

The next use of “toss” in Lolita is from another female being forward,
Charlotte, and forms an artfully delicate metaphor on “tossing the hair”:

“This is not a neat household, I confess,” the doomed dear continued, “but I
assure you [she looked at my lips], you will be very comfortable, very
comfortable, indeed. Let me show you the garden” (the last more brightly,
with a kind of winsome toss of the voice). [I.10]

The next occasion “toss” comes up it’s Lolita tossing the apple to catch it
in the davenport scene: a very childish game in a context of a naive kind of
emotional forwardness:

My heart beat like a drum as she sat down, cool skirt ballooning, subsiding,
on the sofa next to me, and played with her glossy fruit. She tossed it up
into the sun-dusted air, and caught it—it made a cupped polished plop.

Humbert Humbert intercepted the apple. (I.13)

Here the “toss” with its possible sexually-inviting connotation—not
something Lolita is really aware of—and her sitting close to this new man in
the house mingle innocence and an uncertain forwardness that Humbert leaps

And note that “toss” used in this way does not feature again in Lolita. What
fine control on NabokovÂ’s part. Whether Quilty might have recorded Lo's
tossing her hair, had he had a chance to write his memoir and thought the
Lolita episode worth recording in his speckled past is another matter.

Sue Lyon I remember as tossing her full head of hair a number of times in
the Kubrick film.

Brian Boyd

On 8/06/2016, at 9:08 am, Mo Ibrahim <mibraheem@GMAIL.COM
<mailto:mibraheem@GMAIL.COM> > wrote:

Perusing through the motifs on AdaOnline, I read BoydÂ’s annotations that
referenced the motif “tossing hair [Ada]”:

42.27: They went back to the corridor, she tossing her hair, he clearing his

50.08-09: the self-conscious way she tossed back her hair [Merriam-Webster
defines self-conscious as “intensely aware of oneself”]

120.26: her hair-shaking head: Ada tosses her hair when self-conscious (cf.

189.26-27: tossing her head in a way she had when nervous or displeased

227.32-33: brushing away with rosy knuckles of her white hand the
black-bronze hair from her temple:

298.05: jacket, standing with her hands behind her back, slightly rocking
her shoulders, leaning her back now closer now less closely against the tree
trunk, and tossing her hair

585.10: “Yes,” said Ada (aged eleven and a great hair-tosser)

Then I recalled that Nabokov wrote in The Enchanter then when the nymphet
gave a "vigorous toss" to "her brown curls", she was displaying
“flirtatiousness”, (p. 51).

I knew from Neil StraussÂ’ New York Times Best Seller The Game: Penetrating
the Secret Society of Pickup Artists that “tossing hair” is considered an
Indicator of Interest (IOI).

“As we talked, she held eye contact with me. She played with her hair. She
looked for excuses to touch my arm. She leaned in when I leaned back. All
the IOIs were there.” (p. 298)

Clearly, the pickup artists featured in The Game werenÂ’t the first to
associate hair fondling with seduction and Nabokov probably wasnÂ’t the first
to associate tossing hair with “flirtatiousness”. But what could have been
Nabokov’s source(s) and is the “tossing hair” motif used in Nabokov’s other

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