Defeated by Don Quixote

5 02 2012

I love books. All books. OK, most books.

I was deeply moved by Fahrenheit 451 as a kid, and have almost revered books ever since, treating them as some kind of religious icon. They are a little package of thoughts, and indeed provokers of thought, and have been cast into the shared consciousness.

A couple of books have defeated me though. One is the bible. I’ve never read it all. A couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a prescribed reader at school, and my innate rebellion therefore made it verboten. The other reason is that someone told me how the story ended, and it just didn’t seem that attractive. Wycliffe did his best to smarten up the style a bit, but I think it could do with more pictures.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not without persistence in the face of long or tedious content. I have read many tinder-dry texts in my time, including an innumerable quantity of text books at college (OK – at least 3. I found most of my university education a distraction from the more useful lessons of life. The practicals were way more interesting too…), and an entire McGraw/Hill science encyclopaedia, borrowed one volume at a time from the local library in Silsden when I was about 12. (Nobody else in the village ever read it, so it had been consigned to the stack. Being the village book-worm, I was allowed to wander their dusty rooms and take home even “Reference Only” books).

Wikipedia: Vancouver Library - as seen on "Fringe"

Wikipedia: Vancouver Library - as seen on "Fringe"

I have even attempted to read the shorter OED, though they keep adding new words. Ironically, this is two volumes and significantly longer than what one would consider a “normal length” dictionary. (That’s the Concise OED.)

Where was I?

Oh yes, the second book to defeat me. This, I am ashamed to say, was actually a worthy tome. The inadequacy was mine alone. It was (and still remains) CervantesDon Quixote. I just couldn’t get over the clumsiness (to the modern, and let’s face it: science-educated, definitely non-arty eye) of the prose.  Indeed, to this day Don Quixote is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written (by those whose opinion is deemed “to count”).

Wikipedia: Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, at the Plaza de España in Madrid

Wikipedia: Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, at the Plaza de España in Madrid

Maybe one day I’ll give it another try. I gave up before he’d even got to the windmills! In the meantime, if you’d like to get the short version, try it in graphic novel form, or get the gist from Wikipedia. 😉

These days, I attempt to honour the writers of books by reading online reviews first, or waiting for friends to recommend books they’ve enjoyed. This allows me to avoid starting a book I’m unlikely to finish, and therefore less likely to feel like I’m dismissing the author’s efforts unduly. Like they’d care…

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6 responses

5 02 2012
me

If it makes you feel any better Don Quixote is rarely called one the best work of fiction by any qualified literary critic. It does have the distinction of being one of the first novels ever written. It was very influential since it established basic structure of the modern novels but, as most first of all things are, it isn’t that great.

Now here are three great works of fiction that often defeat readers:

Middlemarch by George Eliot (pen name of Mary Anee Evans)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

In Search of Lost Time; earlier translated as Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. (I know no one who has finished reading this one)

5 02 2012
Quieter Elephant

Ah! I thank you for the “heads-up”, and will likely therefore avoid all three.

5 02 2012
treacle

I haven’t read Don Quixote but then I have never tried. I have tried to read Vanity Fair and failed a number of times. This post sort of makes me want to try again.

5 02 2012
Quieter Elephant

As I’ve got older (a long process in my case), I have been more aware of society trying to tell us what “quality” is. Be it “quality” classical music, or “proper” literature.
To be sure, some of it is truly inspired. Some of it, though… meh! If you WANT to try again, do so for your own reasons, not because you feel you “should”.

6 02 2012
misfits' miscellany

If I respond to a book, I read it, if I don’t it goes into the pile of give-aways, the Bible included.

6 02 2012
Quieter Elephant

I’m with you on that. These days I’m rarely influenced by what I “should” read.

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