Quelle dilemma!

What do I read next? Yes, I am knee-deep in Don Quixote, and yes, I am halfway through a bio on D.H. Lawrence (Note to self: Be grateful you never met D.H. Lawrence.) And yes, I am about halfway through Kerouac's The Subterraneans.

I guess the real question is: Why do I want to start another novel?

Before I do any soul-searching over that, I want to lay out some of the choices that I'm toying with. Perhaps you all should vote on one for me.

Slow Man by JM Coetzee
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwicke (I could read along with the Slaves of Golconda folk.)
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Okay, I VOW to finish Kerouac before starting one of the above. That should keep me focused.

You know, I think I like the IDEA of having all these books to read better than actually STARTING one. I think I get a little freaked out by another commitment (Note to self: Sue therapist over not solving commitment-phobia issue). It takes me a while, too -- at least 60 pages -- to get really rolling on most novels. I have to force myself to stick with one 'til the hooks finally grab into my skin.

Not always. Sinking into Don Quixote, for example, has been like hopping on a trolley. Just get on and ride. I have a hunch the updated translation is a big help, though I know next to nothing about the science of translations, in the general sense or specifically about the history of this particular tome.

Enough rambling, dear readers. Time to visit Kerouac as I ride home on the BART...


The democracy of Don Quixote

Cross-posted at Tilting at Windmills

Here is an interesting article about Don Quixote and the state of the novel. Spoiler Alert: Don’t read the article until you’ve finished DQ. (But you can read my excerpts…)

The article by Jonathan Ree begins:

In or around 1605, European literature changed. No one realised it at the time, but when Don Quixote set off to save the world, a new kind of writing was born. The old forms of storytelling—the epic, the romance, the oral tale—would from now on be pitted against a boisterous young rival. Before long it would be universally acknowledged that a reader hoping to enjoy a good story must be in search of a novel.

Ree provides a pithy overview of the cultural relevance of the novel — and essay — (vis a vis politics), quoting several recent books, among them, Milan Kundera’s The Curtain, which refers to Cervantes and Don Quixote:

By inventing a narrator through whose consciousness such dumb events could be worked up into an affecting “scene,” Cervantes created a form of literature that could do justice to “modest sentiments”; and so a new kind of beauty—Kundera calls it “prosaic beauty”—was born. Henry Fielding took the technique further when he created a narrator who could charm his readers with benign loquacity, and Laurence Sterne completed the development by blithely allowing the story of Tristram Shandy to be ruined by the character trying to recount it.

The article concludes:

The novel, (Mario Vargas Llosa) thinks, articulates a basic human desire—the desire to be “many people, as many as it would take to assuage the burning desires that possess us.” Alternatively, it stands for a basic human right—the right not to be the same as oneself, let alone the same as other people. And the defiant history of democracy began not in politics but in literature, when Cervantes first tackled “the problem of the narrator,” or the question of who gets to tell the story. No doubt about it: Don Quixote is “a 21st-century novel.”


Books I will NOT be reading this summer

I will not be reading:
1. Exploitative books by anyone with the surname of Bush. Except if it's a travel guide about club-hopping and buying blow in Paraguay. Something the author really KNOWS about. I smell Judith Regan in this book deal...
2. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I won't be watching the DVD, either. 'Cos the real secret to everything is: Get Oprah to talk about it.
3. Anything containing the words "Harry Potter." I once dated a guy who too closely resembled Harry Potter. And I once wore polyester mini-dresses. No sense revisiting the ugly past.
4. The Reagan Diaries. I really never want to get into this guy's head, thank you very much.
5. Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. One of the blurbs for this book reads: "What do Hegel and Bette Midler have in common?" What's next? Understanding Classical Music through Britney Spears?

Don Quixote and other musings

A word on DQ: Is it me, or are Don Quixote and Sancho the Laurel and Hardy of literature. Talk about slapstick! Well, folks, that is my erudite reading of DQ. At least, for a Monday. And this observation: For being so famous, the windmill scene was surprisingly short.

Summer Solstice Reading: Another month gone by? Time: It's an outrage. Yes, indeed, the clock ran out on May 2007, and we are already 4 days into June. I slated June as the ubiquitous "Summer Solstice Reading" month, which means I can pretty much read what I want to, preferably anything of substantial length. Don Quixote certainly fills that quota, and I have other books I am longing to begin. (Apparently, I'm in good company; check out The New York Times' survey of reading recommendations by writers. Note that Michael Crichton apparently is doing research for a global-warming thriller.)

God, I long for the days of school vacation, when summers lived like years.