I started reading Don Quixote in Seville. The weather was hot, the gardens were in bloom and it seemed like a great idea to read the ultimate Spanish classic. But that didn’t work out because it turns out Don Quixote is kind of hard work. Also it’s like a billion pages long.
Kindle diss break: I don’t mind ploughing through a long book. A long book gives you time to get immersed in the story and its world. They’re really satisfying to finish if nothing else. I often get a lot out of something long and tricky because often more work gives a bigger payoff. I feel like this could be one of those books but watching my bookmark solidly progress through a chunky book is part of aforementioned payoff. It sits next to my bed and makes me feel guilty for not finishing it. Watching my percentage go up is so unsatisfying by comparison. And the second I get sick of a book it disappears into the ether never to make me feel guilty again! End tangent.
Don Quixote is about a man who reads to many stories about knights and then decides that he is one himself, going out into the world with his faithful sidekick and skinny horse to fight imagined dangers. Don Quixote is supposed to be a number of things: hilarious farce, some sort of meta chivalric story, philosophy of individual vs society, tragedy of a good man defeated. It also gets like ‘One day Don quixote went out, imagined some peasants were dragons or something, tried to fight them, fell over, everyone laughed, and then he and Sancho Panza talked about chivalry.’ Over and over. I identify it with tragedy – it gets really unfunny to watch all these people making fun of and beating on Don Quixote who is annoyingly crazy. But anyway I didn’t get that far so who knows how it turns out.
I will come back to Don Quixote and hopefully one day will have more constructive things to tell you about it.
Another recent failure is The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic. I gave this one more time and I can see how it is exciting and different. But in the end it was long and structurally easy to give up on. The novel is based on the real life mass conversion of the real life Khazars in the 8th or 9th century. It’s set up as three cross referenced dictionaries full of fake histories and people. Entries in the ‘dictionary’ tell mystical stories with a One Thousand and One Nights feel. People are devoured by ghosts, others have protection spells tattooed on their eyelids or histories on their backs, people live as one person in the day and another in their dreams. I quite liked it but the cross-referencing didn’t work so well with the Kindle, it’s very wordy and the nature of the entry style stories means it’s really easy to give up between them, especially after you’ve just read an uninteresting one. Which is exactly what happened. Again I feel like it’s something I’ll come back to in book form.
For all this failure, I have finished a list book for real and I promise to tell you about it next time.