Literary QOTD: In that order


Presently, the lady herself–sandals, maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse, squarish face, in that order–came down the steps, her index finger still tapping upon her cigarette.

Lolita, Chapter 10, Vladimir Nabokov

There are plenty of books that might convince you of your mediocrity as a writer, but none so much as Lolita. Reading it is like taking a master class in flowery prose, a lengthy linguistic lesson in additive adjectives. Of all the quotes from this story, the above (emphasis mine) is the one that puzzles me the most. I cannot figure out why the words “in that order” are in this sentence. Is it a dig? Is it just how she appeared to him coming down the stairs?

If I were being tested on it, I’d say the latter–as in, he was describing each detail as he encountered it. But I prefer the dig interpretation–as in, these are the remarkable descriptions of Charlotte Haze in particular order, her face coming last.

I’m probably overthinking it, but I love this line.

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