Letter to Dina, 1999


Dear Dina,

Sorry for the computer I'm using lunch/spare time at work to write you a quick letter. I wanted to respond to your last letter the second I received it. Really, it was a great letter and I remember what I loved so much about being in touch with you while you were in Italy.

It sounds, from your most recent e-mail, like you are going to face a lot of interesting challenges with your work this summer. I'm sure that the disorganization can be frustrating; I remember that being a big part of my experience at the Fresh Air Fun. I guess though that it is especially stressful to you though since you are on your own and don't have a co-counselor or anything.

Things here continue to go smoothly. I realized this morning as I was taking the bus down to work that I really do love my life down here this summer. I have been lucky, really lucky, in so many ways. The apartment here is great and I like both living on my own and living out of the while dorm atmosphere. I haven't cooked up any real serious storms but I just like having fresh things to eat around the house and the ability to eat what and when I want to. A. has a really cute house in the suburbs, and its way out there but also really pretty and green and close to a number of fun things to do (like the zoo, good restaurants and theaters) I also love going to the gym. Its really been just to hot to run outside here.. especially since I don't feel comfortable with the shape I'm in and if I went for a run outdoors I'd honestly be worried about fainting or something. The gym is literally 2 minutes from my apartment and it makes me feel like I am part of my own neighborhood in the city. I run on the treadmill every day and I am quickly remembering everything that makes exercising the wonderfully life-giving phenomenon that it is. I might take a step class one of these days, but I worry because most of the other people in this gym strike me as seriously hard core.

Another thing I really like is taking the bus to work. I don't think I ever got on the bus in D.C. while I was here last summer. Maybe it sounds like a small thing to make a deal out of, but there is something nice about using the buses instead of the metro as a mode of transportation. The metro is always full of interns and men in business suits, and of course, its underground. On the bus, however, come young mothers with children, old men who have probably lived in D.C. for three times my lifetime, fat women with big shopping bags and packages, couples speaking different languages: basically, people with more character. And you get to look out the window and people-watch and see the city go by and get to know it in one of many ways one can know a city.

So I've definitely been enjoying getting to know different parts of this city in different ways. My worries about being sick of this place and unexcited about D.C. have proven to be unfounded. I haven't been doing a ton of sight-seeing, like I did last year, and I think that too is what makes it sorta nice. I just feel more at home here this time around. Instead of going museum crazy, I look in the City Paper (D.C.'s equivalent of the Village Voice) and look for fun concerts to go to, for improv comedy shows, etc

I'm trying to make a decision about whether or not to take the Kaplan course for the LSATs. I think I may just want to go ahead and apply to law schools and different grad schools and then make a decision later in senior year. But since I know that I definitely want to take time off after college, to work and to travel, my supervisor has suggested that I put off all of my test-taking and applying until I come back from my one or two years off from school and have a better idea of what it is I want to do. In some ways, I think that is the smarter thing to do. Still, I think it would make me feel so much more while and happy if I could go away for a year or two with the knowledge that I had a secure place in a school upon my return. Really, I have to start making these decisions.

Okay. About Lolita. To be honest, as always, I'm disappointed with the amount of the book that I actually can remember. But I'll try to convey my impressions based on what I can recall. About your being disturbed, I don't think that's weird at all. I think probably many people are disturbed when they read this book. I think, though, that what amazed me about it was that I wasn't disturbed by it. I felt seduced by his language, incapable of judging the relationship because of the twisted beauty of his words. In this, and I remember in many points of the book, I thought that the whole novel was, to some degree, about Art. I think Nabokov consciously tried to toy with the reader's mind by creating the audience of the "jury", and in other ways, but that ultimately he wanted the book to be viewed as a work of art, and to raise the question of whether it could be valued for its artistic power in spite of the subject matter - I thought he was successful. I also just thought there were a lot of interesting questions about the narrative voice and how much the reader was able to trust Humbert Humbert in his recounting of the story. And the fact that the origins of his love for Lolita were in a love that was more pure and accepted and innocent, does that justify him at all? (perhaps not, but he tries to use it to validate his feelings, I thought) I guess it was this general manipulation of the reader that interested me (though it doesn't seem to have been quite as successful with you!! Guess im too soft and mushy : ) and I appreciate the book for the power of the story and for its power as a work of art.

Something interesting that we talked about in class too, was the idea that H.H. symbolizes old Europe and Lolita symbolized the new, young America. On this interpretation, the second part of the book is, along with the normal story line, Nabokov's discovery and impressions of America it becomes a sort of travelogue in the second part.

Gosh, it's hard to discuss books through mail, no?? Tell me if you buy any of this.

I should definitely get back to work, though it feels nice writing to you.

I will write again soon, a handwritten letter for sure back to work.