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Monday, October 4, 2010

Don Quixote of La Mancha

This book took me a long time to finish. It definitely has its awesome moments, and I can see how it came to be considered a classic- however, it also has many long boring stretches and is hard to follow at times. The parts that are good are very, very good- and the parts that aren't... well, I've fallen asleep while reading it on more than one occasion.

Long story short: Alonso Quixano is a retired man of fifty with too much time on his hands and an unhealthy obsession with books about knights and chivalrous adventures. One day he decides to become a knight, because he is bat-shit insane and has way too much free time. He renames himself Don Quixote, decides that a lady in town is his lady-love (unbeknownst to her) and changes her name to Dulcinea (which she is also totally clueless about) and sets off on his old beat up work horse to commit acts of chivalry in her name (again, with her having no idea that this is going on).
He sets out on a mission to be knighted. He goes to an inn, which he believes is a castle, and has the innkeeper knight him. After leaving the inn, he has a negative encounter with some people who refuse to acknowledge Dulcinea's beauty. He is very severely beaten. He gets found and rescued by a neighbor who brings him home.
Don Quixote's niece, housekeeper, priest, and barber try to talk him out of continuing his adventures. He doesn't listen to their advice, so while he is still recovering they wall up his library and destroy his books. When he tries to find them, they convince him that the whole library was taken by an enchanter. He, being totally bonkers, believes it completely.
Despite the advice of his friends and family, Don Quixote resumes his misadventures. He promises a dull-witted neighbor, Sancho Panza, that he will give him an island to govern if he will be his squire. Sancho agrees, believing  a knight as fine as Don Quixote will surely earn a fine island. Sancho eventually catches on that Don Quixote is crazy, but they have many interesting misadventures including:

Don Quixote battles windmills, believing that they are giants

The making of a wondrous remedy which is supposed to heal, and instead causes the Don to vomit and pass out and nearly kills Sancho

Leaving an inn without paying, only to have Sancho get tormented and their wallets get stolen

The loss of some teeth

The murdering of some sheep

The stealing of a barber's basin, believing it to be a helmet

Various beatings, bouts of diarrhea, and assorted uncomfortable bodily afflictions

Being captured and hauled home in a cage

The attacking of various innocent people, animals, and inanimate objects

and a whole lot of trickery at Don Quixote's expense.

Definitely worth reading, though at times the reading is very slow. I particularly love the battling with the windmills- for some reason that scene really strikes a chord with me. Much of what we see as a giant or obstacle may in reality be a tool to help us in some way. So when armed for battle, be sure to ask yourself: is this truly a giant? Or just a windmill? Is this even my windmill to battle?


  1. I'm right with you on this one. I read it decades ago, and was amazed that such a renown book could have so many long stretches of boring. Is that wrong of me?

  2. A blog about books! Well... I've got to follow you! :-)