Literary Mixtape: Humbert Humbert


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Humbert Humbert, Lolita‘s questionable narrator.

No matter his (considerable) faults, Humbert Humbert is a hopeless romantic. And a fairly pathetic one too, it would be fair to say. After all, he falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl and does everything he can to stay close to her, even as she manipulates and scorns him, and even as he follows her to his own destruction. His is the definition of an obsessive, unconditional love. Now, while we are mightily tempted to proclaim that Humbert Humbert would only listen to Man Man, Frou Frou, Mother Mother, Xiu Xiu, Motel Motel and of course, Duran Duran, we think he’s a little more complex (and self-conscious) than that. There’s a certain argument that poor, heartbroken Humby is the victim of Lolita, or at least a sympathetic Frankenstein, and we imagine him listening to some seriously sad sack love songs as he cries and mourns, trying to figure out ways to get his beloved nymphet to warm to him. Here are the songs we think he’d be justifying, self-loathing, and pining away to.

“Only Sixteen” – Sam Cooke

We know, we know, she was actually twelve. But even still.

“She Sends Kisses” – The Wrens

One of the most desperate love songs we know — something for HH to cry to once Lolita has left him.

“Number One Crush” – Garbage

“I will sell my soul for something pure and true…”

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” – The Police

Duh. So he wasn’t her teacher, but he was her stepfather. Same difference.

“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” – Barry White

HH needs the justifications. As in: “You see, I loved her. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” Plus not to mention, a dorky middle-aged man like him would definitely have some Barry in his collection.

“Slow Graffiti” – Belle & Sebastian

One of their very saddest songs, though we’re sure HH would have albums full. All loss, dread, and anxiety.

“Just the Two of Us” – Al Green

That was the idea, anyway. Effing Quilty.

“Say Yes” – Elliott Smith

If only she would. Elliott does delicate desperation better than any man.

“Creep” – Radiohead

A song about a beastly man in love with a perfect angel? There could be nothing more pertinent to HH’s headstate. After all: “I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I … and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais.”

“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” – The Smiths

Lord knows, it would be the first time.

“Father Figure” – George Michael

This is the most pedophilic song we have ever heard. “Put your tiny hand in mine”? “Sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime”? “I will be your father figure”? Just saying.

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Bonnie Raitt

Nothing like a good old country ballad about unrequited love to get some catharsis.

“I Want You” – Elvis Costello

A lesson in persistence, if nothing else.

Anything we missed that you think old Humby would have on repeat? Let us know in the comments!