December 13, 2007

I wrote an encyclopedia article about John Dos Passos last summer and read many of his letters as I prepared it. One thing I was struck by was his fascination for Don Quixote, which I had never read.

Dos Passos has been one of my literary guiding stars since I first read the USA trilogy, so I have tended to follow up on things I have turned over from him.

(I even wanted to name my daughter Dos Passos, though that didn't pass muster with the old lady, to say the least).

So, I made sure to add Don Quixote to the short list. It helped that the book met the criteria I set for books to bring to Korea--the high literary value and interest to weight ratio, which matters when you have to mail books from the US.

I read the John Rutherford translation, which I thought was beautifully done (not that I was checking it against the original). His rationale for some language choices laid out in the intro made a lot of sense to me.

So, I finally finished it last night. It is a very long book, though I think that the process of reading it is part of experiencing the novel. It is not at all difficult to read, just long. But there is a compulsion to reading it, a kind of comfortable familiarity throughout as well. Funny as hell too, clever but also just flat out funny in many parts too.

I was happy to get done so I can move on to something else, but I was sad to be done, it left me feeling kind of alone.

It is not hard to recognize much of what you read in virtually everything you read in much more modern stuff in Don Quixote. It is a weird feeling, but just about everything can be refracted through it I think, especially the books I have been reading in the past year. Maybe this is by a broader design (?)

The way the narrator steps in throughout the story, and the structure within the the narrative structure of the book, seemed more postmodern to me than modern. It makes me think that perhaps I have no idea what is really meant by postmodern. (Is that in itself postmodern or modern?)

One thing that I was struck with his that the book is often distilled into 'tilting against windmills," though that is something that happens in the immediate beginning. There is so much else going on, I think Don Quixote (the man, not the book) is actually misunderstood completely.

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