Big books invite big reviews, and in the case of some well-stationed critics, they invite a contest of even bigger egos and the swinging unmentionables they occasion. But can’t the glory of a large, capacious novel like Don Quixote be celebrated quickly and to the point? There is much to love in Quixote: its simplicity and elegance the device of winding up a knight, whose foolishness overwhelms his squire’s fickle grasp of reality, and then loosing him on the world, causing great harm and injury, despite his professed intention to correct them; the cadence of its prose beautiful sentences unfolding so gracefully that one is reminded of water slipping over stones in a river; its humor as if Cervantes is exploring the number and range of comedic effects that can be achieved through storytelling; and lastly, its blasphemy, the subtle, pervasive fun it pokes at Christianity (in fact, all mythologies with weak reality principles), by smuggling in tasty heretical treats, scene after gorgeous scene.


9 Responses to Quixote

  1. R. T. says:

    Here is a succinct review of Don Quixote: Everyone should read it more than once in his or her lifetime. -30-

    • Kevin Neilson says:

      Agreed! Whenever I see my copy of Quixote, I get anxious and excited like an angler on a river during a hatch. Pure, unadulterated glory.

  2. Skip says:

    I guess the reason for a long review of something like DQ is because it frustrates simple description. For example, I would argue that Cervantes’ critique is quite a bit more complicated than “fun” or “subtle,” though it is, at times, both of those things.

    And “simplicity”? How is a book that has its main characters meet their fictional counterparts “simple”?

    Also- two quick things. Don’t large and capacious mean the same thing? Maybe there’s a wrinkle to capacious that I don’t know. And what mythology has a strong reality principle? This is an interesting idea, but I am having trouble of thinking something that fits.

    • Kevin Neilson says:

      It’s a lovely bit of story telling, isn’t it?—Cervantes getting his po-mo on like that in, what, the 1600s? Fantastic. By “simplicity,” I’m referring to Quixote’s quest for glory, and not the complex gyrations his quest assumes, especially in part two, as you note. As for large and capacious, honestly I didn’t give it much thought. Hopefully I chose it because it sounds better than just “large” or “capacious.” Together the two words just feel right. Actually, now that I think about it “large” is a physical description of the size of the book (lots of pages) while “capacious” has to do with the grandeur of the dimensions realized in the story. Moby Dick is a large, capacious novel while Gilead is a small, capacious one. Lastly, Scientology has a weaker reality principle than does Christianity, which has a weaker reality principle than Buddhism, which in turn has a weaker reality principle than, say, Schopenhauer’s metaphysics. In other words, a mythology whose story is closer to the truth has a stronger reality principle than a mythology whose story is farther from it. Cheers.

  3. Matt Rowan says:

    ERRRRGH, I gotta read Don Quixote for all the reasons mentioned and more.

  4. Colleen says:

    Perhaps the sheer length of DQ is itself a great reason to write a short review of it. For, really, who’s done it before? The notion that a review must be long to be valid is perhaps one of the reasons book reviews don’t get read enough. A book review, ideally, whets the appetite, doesn’t stand in for the reading experience itself. Moreover, who’s reviewed DQ in a way that engages with language in playful, ambitious, and creative ways? Is not to do otherwise rather somewhat insulting to our maddening dead literary lover Cervantes?

    • Kevin Neilson says:

      Dear C, I’m very fond of Montaigne’s motto, “I have chosen to say what I know how to say, accommodating the matter to my power.” That’s why I find blogging more or less congenial. By the by, I’m trying my damndest to complete a longish bit on Lasso Round the Moon, which I’ll post next week. It’s sapping my energy, I say. Must, nap, soon…

  5. Tony says:

    “But can’t the glory of a large, capacious novel like Don Quixote be celebrated quickly and to the point?”

    Of course, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

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