Hartman's analysis also applies on the level of Lolita's poetics, especially when the realities of death, aging, and ends creep into Humbert's narrative. Having just introduced his mother into the background of his childhood in the French Riviera, Humbert dismisses her summarily, recounting her sudden death with one abrupt gesture: "picnic, lightning" (10). She becomes the paradigm for the women in his life, all of whom enter the story in the shadow of their eventual deaths. Humbert's penchant for hapax logomena and idiosyncratic coinages parallel in language the foreshortened life of Lolita: despite their ostensible vibrancy, they are dying phrases, obsolete just after their initial utterance. A master of so many poetic devices, Humbert riddles the narrative with instances of tmesis, the figure Hartman identifies as the epitome of poetry's elided middles and over specified ends (344). From his evocation of "the Old and rotting World" (85) he left behind, to his self-characterization as "an enchanted and very tight hunter" (268), Humbert repeatedly pries apart common phrases to insert the world outside his solipsism. But unlike the classical model where necessity is parted for the sake of art, the order is reversed in Humbert's fantasy world: tmesis allows ends to rush back in. Images that traditionally evoke nostalgia become symptomatic of inevitable decay.
Lolita's Loose Ends: Nabokov and the Boundless Novel - Vladimir Nabokov by James Tweedie