Freed from jury duty, she dithers on…
I was feeling a little bogged down in Don Quixote. I really love the novel; it’s as bawdy and fun as a funhouse carnival ride. But, at some point, you want to get out of the funhouse and take a spin on the carousel.
Examining this frustration, I wisely decided to visit the Tilting at Windmills reading blog.
Lo and behold, here’s a post by the insightful Imani, who admits she fluctuates in her opinion of DQ. Imani, we salute you!
Here is the passage she quoted, from a lecture by Natsume Soseki on Eighteenth-Century English Literature:
What…is the secret of making long stories appear short? It is what we call interest, composed of three things in fiction: character, incident, and scene. And the closer the second draws to the first, the more intense the degree of necessity; and the closer the second swings to the third, the more importance is given to chance. Most novels, being complex, contain all three in varying amounts. But all successful novels must achieve unity. And this unity of the three kinds of “interest” can be achieved through acceleration, development, and change. Out of this unity emerges the theme of a work.
I am not a seeker in the quest for the Absolute Truth on What Makes Novels Work. But I do like my brain to be prodded and poked by original thinkers who struggle to answer the eternal question.
From the spritely comments of the fellow Windmill-Tilters, I gleaned the name of Mikhail Bakhtin, whereupon I Google’d with abandon to find this (in addition to several pop-up windows promising to show me how to make quick money. But that’s another story.): From The Problem of Cervantes in Bakhtin’s Poetics by Walter L. Reed:
Don Quixote figures significantly as well in this essay in Bakhtin’s attempt to develop a more intrinsic poetics of the novel. Cervantes’ text becomes the epitome of the “Second Stylistic Line” of the novel’s development, a line that is more radically dialogic or heteroglossial than the First Stylistic Line, which opens dialogic possibilities only to foreclose them. The contrast between these two stylistic lines is a more sophisticated version of the traditional distinction between novel and romance. Furthermore, within the Second Stylistic Line, Don Quixote turns out to embody both of the two basic types of testing that purely literary discourse is subjected to: the testing that centers on a hero trying to live according to the books he has read and the testing that centers on an author trying to live by writing a book of his own. “Both these types of testing literary discourse [are] blended into one . . . as early as Don Quixote,” Bakhtin says, noting the importance of Cide Hamete as well as of Quixote himself (p. 413).
Okay, I have to agree with most of you that this sort of bloodless dissection of a juicy novel renders the living patient to a corpse. Not to mention makes me feel really stupid. However, the gist of what they are saying corresponds neatly with my impressions of this novel. It’s fun, it’s complex, I suspect we are being set up for a change in the second book at which time the pain, much like childbirth, will have been worth it — yet, the reading of it is a messy, arduous process.
I am not cross-posting this at Tilting, because I am cowed by the collective Reading IQs of the celebrated panel. In case you were wondering. There. I feel much better now. Back to the messy, sprawling DQ — areba! areba! undele!