It’s Don Quixote by Cervantes again this week. I’m halfway through the book, the end of Part I. I’m finding it hard to write about a book that I haven’t completely read—as I prefer to think about the whole story and how it fits into my life, then blog about it. Since I can’t do that yet, I’ll just share some more of my notes on the book:
1.) Rocinante, DQ’s horse, is just as developed as Sancho or any other character in the novel. It’s subtle, but the layering of R—when he appears, how he moves, makes him feel just as important to the story as the Barber or the Priest. I love it when animals become characters.
2.) So it isn’t the masses who are to blame for demanding rubbish, but rather those who aren’t capable of providing them with anything else. Apparently, the debate between art and entertainment was raging hundreds of years ago. C goes into great detail, time and again, over this debate making the greatest case (thus far) for fiction that is both entertaining and of substance. Here’s one of my favorite lines: The subject you’ve broached, sir, the priest interrupted, has awoken my old loathing for these fashionable plays, which is as great as my loathing for books of chivalry, because whereas drama should, as Cicero puts it, be a mirror of human life, an exemplar of customs and an image of truth, these modern plays are just mirrors of absurdity, exemplars of folly and images of lewdness. This line is one of the most brilliant in the book because C has done just what the Priest describes, but somehow, by addressing it, he has also done so much more. In his own way, C creates a story that makes everyone involved in this topic utterly mad, the Priest for burning books (but enjoying the stories once he reads them) and DQ for living his tales.
3.) And it’s all a big joke. Lines like this one pop up all the time: Others write their plays so thoughtlessly that the actors have to run away and hide after performances for fear of being punished.
4.) All this bounces back and forth between moments of truth: Showing that love can only be conquered by fleeing from it, and that nobody should engage with such a powerful enemy, because its human strength can only be defeated by divine might.
5.) But as good as it is, it’s still a hard book to read. Every time C introduces a new character he goes into a backstory that can last ten to fifteen pages. He even freaking wrote a thirty-five page fictional story that the Priest reads aloud. You sort of just have to go with the breaks in the narration, or DQ’s storyline. You have to be like, cool a sonnet, or yes! An epitaph. You are, after all, following the mind of a madman . . .