SAHM the Libby
I just finished How to Read a Book. This is a classic and I don't feel like really getting into my thoughts about it but I will say that either Adler and Van Doren think everyone reading this book is very dim or they just are that verbose. Here are some of my favorite sections though:

A house is more or less livable, so books are more or less readable. The most readable book is an architectural achievement on the part of the author.

Strangely enough, in recent years,...there is a dwindling concern with this criterion of excellence. Books win the plaudits of the critics and gain widespread popular attention almost to the extent that they flout the truth- the more they do so, the better. Many readers, and most particularly those who review current publications, employ other standards for judging, and praising or condemning, the books they read- their novelty, their sensationalism, their seductiveness, their force, and even their power to bemuse or befuddle the mind, but not their truth, their clarity, or their power to enlighten.

Not only are many of the great books related, but also they were written in a certain order that should not be ignored. A later writer has been influenced by an earlier one. If you read the earlier writer first, he may help you to understand the later. Reading related books in relation to one another and in an order that renders the later ones more intelligible is a basic common-sense maxim of extrinsic reading.
It has often been observed that the great books are involved in a prolonged conversation. The great authors were great readers, and one way to understand them is to read the books they read. As readers, they carried on a conversation with other authors, just as each of us carries on a conversation with the books we read, though we may not write other books.
...novels and plays can be read in isolation... although of course the literary critic will not want to confine himself to doing so. (which I note most book bloggers are doing.)

...Activity is the essence of good reading, and that the more active reading is, the better it is.

We have made this point before, but we want to make it now again because of its relevance to the task that lies before you. If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn.
SAHM the Libby
com·pen·di·um
Pronunciation: \kəm-ˈpen-dē-əm\

1 : a brief summary of a larger work or of a field of knowledge : abstract
2 a : a list of a number of items b : collection, compilation

From Merriam-Webster online

My sister, knowing my penchant for self improvement, gave me The Intellectual Devotional which is a compendium of seven fields of knowledge, one for each day of the week with entries for the entire year. I hope everyone received wonderful books for Christmas as well (and gave them too).
SAHM the Libby
Merry Christmas to everyone but especially to my brother who is in Iraq on his third deployment. Come home soon, there is a little elf here who can't wait to meet her Uncle Ryan.
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SAHM the Libby
Tendentious : \ten-ˈden(t)-shəs\ marked by a tendency in favor of a particular point of view : biased

ten·den·tious·ly adverb

ten·den·tious·ness noun

Merriam-Webster online

Autodidacts need to avoid tendentiousness or they will end up with a very lop-sided education, and then they'll walk funny.

SAHM the Libby
Okay this doesn't have anything to do with books but I wanted to share it none the less.
Love is for the birds.
SAHM the Libby
Well, the comments feature is working again.
Thank you to Sylvia bookworm for all of your help.
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SAHM the Libby
I added the The New Lifetime Reading Plan into The Well-Educated Mind. I found her list a bit eurocentic and using two lists ensures a more well rounded reading plan. My goal will be to read at least thirty of these a year which will mean this project will take me at least ten years.

Italics are The New Lifetime Reading Plan, Bold is where they agree, between brackets are my own additions.


1 Epic of Gilgamesh
2 & 3Homer, Iliad; Odyssey
4 Greek Lyrics
5 Confucius, the Analects

6-8 Agamemnon, Aeschylus; the Oresteia; Aeschylus
9-11 Sophocles, Oedipus Rex; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone
12 Herodotus, Histories
13-18 Euripedes, Medea; Alcestis; Hippolytus; The Trojan Women; Electra; The Baccae
19 Sun-tzu, The Art of War
20-22 Aristophanes, The Birds; The Couds; Lystrata;
23 Thucydides, Peloponnesian War
24 Plato, Republic (and selected works)
25 Mencius, The Book of Mencius

26 Aristotle, Poetics, Ethics, Politics
27 The Ramayana, attr. Valmiki
28 The Mabharata, attr. Vyasa
29 The Bhagavad Gita, Anon
30 Ssu-Ma Ch'ien, Records of the Grand Historian
31 Lucretius, Of the Nature of Things
32 Virgil, The Aeneid
33 Horace Odes
34 Plutarch, Lives
35 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

36 & 37 Augustine, Confessions; City of God
38
Kalidasa, The Cloud Messenger; Sakuntala,
39 The Koran, Revealed to Muhammad
40 Hui-Neng, The Platform Sutra for the Sixth Patriarch
41 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
42 Firdausi,
Shah Nameh,
43 Beowulf
44 Sei Shonagon, The Pillow-Book
45 Lady Murasaki, The Tale of Genji,
46 Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat

47 Dante Inferno
48 Sir Gawain & the Green Knight
49 Luo Kuan-Chung, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms
50 Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

51 Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe

52 The Thousand and One Nights, Anon
53 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
54 Sir Thomas More, Utopia

55 Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

56 Attr. Wu Ch'eng-en, Journey to the West
57 Essays Montaigne
58 Life of Teresa of Avila
59 Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
60 William Shakespeare, Richard III; Midsummer's Nights Dream; Hamlet; Sonnets

-LRP suggests reading Shakespeare's Complete Works
61 Poems of John Donne
62 Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

63 The Plum in the Golden Vase, anon

64 Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
65 & 66 Rene Descartes, Meditations; Discourse on Method

67 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

68 Blaise Pascal, Thoughts (pensees)
69 & 70 John Bunyon, Grace Abounding; Pilgrim's Progress

71-75 John Milton, Paradise Lost; Lycidas; On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, Sonnets, Areopagitica,
76-78 Moliere, Tartuffe; (LRP suggests several others)
79 Mary Rowlandson, Narrative of Captivity & Restoration
80 & 81 John Locke, True End Civil Government; Second Treatise of Government

82 Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
83 Congreve, Way of the World

84 Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
85 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
86 & 87 David Hume, History of England; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

88 Henry Fielding, Tom Jones

89 Voltaire, Candide and other works

90 Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
91 Rousseau, Social Contract; Confessions
92 Paine, Common Sense
93 Gibbon, Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire
94 Sheridan, School of Scandal

95 James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

96 Thomas Jefferson and others, basic documents in American history ( The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc), ed. Richard B. Morris

97 Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. The Federalist Papers, ed. By Clinton Rossiter

98 Ts'ao Hsueh-Ch'in, The Dream of the Red Chamber
99 Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
100 Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women
101 Poems of Wordsworth

102 Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Faust

103 William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience

104 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Biographia Literaria, Writings on Shakespeare
105 & 108 Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice; Emma [Sense & Sensibility; Persuasion]
109 Keats, Odes & Poems
110 Longfellow
111 Tennyson

112 Edgar Allen Poe

113 Stendhal, The Red and the Black

114 Honore De Balzac, Pere Goriot; Eugenie Grandet; Cousin Bette
115 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
116-123 Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist; Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Great Expectations; Hard Times; Our Mutual Friend; The Old Curiosity Shop; Little Dorrit

124 Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls,

125 Ralph Waldo Emerson
126 Bronte, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, [Agnes Grey by Anne]

127 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
128 Marx & Engel, The Communist Manifesto
129 Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
130 Emily Dickinson
131 Christina Rosetti
132 Herman Melville, Moby Dick; Bartleby the Scrivener
133 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
134 Henry David Thoreau, Walden, and Civil Disobedience

135-139 Anthony Trollope, The Warden; The Last Chronicle of Barset; The Eustace Diamonds; The Way We Live Now; Autobiography

140 Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
141 Gustav Flaubert, Madame Bovary,

142 John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; The Subjection of Women

143 Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle; The Origin of Species

144 George Eliot, Middlemarch; Mill on the Floss; [Adam Bede]
145 Burckhardt, Civilization of Renaissance
146 Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

147 Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
148-151 Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment; The Brothers Karamazov [The Idiot, and selected short stories]

152 Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking-Glass
153 Paul Laurence Dunbar
154 & 155 Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, War and Peace
156-158 Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, [Jude the Obscure]
159 Carl Sandburg
160 Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House
161 Life & Times of Frederick Douglas
162-164 Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady; The Ambassadors, [The Turn of the Screw]
165 William Carlos Williams

166-169 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra; The Genealogy of Morals; Beyond Good and Evil; Ecce Homo
170 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
171-174 William James, The Principles of Psychology; Pragmatism; Four Essays from The Meaning of Truth; The Varieties of Religious Experience

175 George Bernard Shaw, Selected Plays and Prefaces; St. Joan

176 Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
177 Oscar Wilde, Importance of Being Earnest

178-180 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality; Civilization and Its Discontents
181 Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
182 & 183 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Nostromo
184 Langston Hughes
185 DuBois, Souls of Black Folk
186-189 Anton Chekhov, Cherry Orchard; Uncle Vanya; Three Sisters; Selected Short Stories
190 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism
191 Edith Wharton, House of Mirth; The Custom of the Country; The Age of Innocence
192 Poetry of W. H. Auden

193-195 E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, [Howard's End, A Room With a View]
196 Poems of Robert Frost

197-203 Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, [all of In Search of Lost Time]

204-206 D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love [Lady Chatterly's Lover]

207 Natsume Soseki, Kokoro,

208 Collected Poems and Plays of T.S. Eliot, Murder in Cathedral

209 Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
210 Lu Hsun, Collected Short Stories

211 Lytton Strachey, Queen Victoria
212 Phillip Larkin

213-215 James Joyce, Ulysses [A Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist & The Dubliners]

216 William Butler Yeats, Poetry and Autobiography

217 Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

218 Ernest Hemingway, Short Stories
219 Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
220-224 Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse; Orlando; The Waves; [A Room of One's Own]
225 & 226 Franz Kafka, The Trial; Selected Short Stories [The Metamorphosis]
227 Allen Ginsberg
228 Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

229 & 230 William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying,

231-233 Eugene O'Neill, Mourning Becomes Electra; The Iceman Cometh; Long Day's Journey into Night
234 Sylvia Plath

235 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
236 Gertrude Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
237 Mark Strand

238-241 George Orwell, Animal Farm; 1984; Burmese Days; Wigan Pier
242 Adrienne Rich
243 Thornton Wilder, Our Town
244 Seamus Heany
245 & 246 Perry Miller, The New England Mind
247 Richard Wright, Native Son
248 Robert Pinsky
249 C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
250 Albert Camus, The Stranger; The Plague

251 Tanizaki Junichiro, The Makioka Sisters
252 Jean Paul Sartre, No Exit

253 R.K. Narayan, The English Teacher; The Vendor of Sweets
254 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
255 Jane Kenyon
256 Thomas Merton, Seven Story Mountain

257 & 258 Mishima Yukio, Confessions of a Mask; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
259 Henry Miller, Death of a Salesman
260 Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
261-263 Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape
264 Rita Dove
265 John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash

266-268 Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Pale Fire; Speak, Memory
270-273 Saul Bellow, Seize the Day; The Adventures of Augie March; Herzog; Humboldt's Gift

274 Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
275 Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day
276 Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

277 & 278 Jorge Luis Borge, Labyrinths; Dreamtigers,

279 Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
280 Betty Frieden, The Feminine Mystique

281 Kawabata Yasunari, Beauty and Sadness
282 The Autobiography of Malcolm X
283 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

284 & 285 Aleksander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle; Cancer Ward
286 Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildentern are Dead
287 Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
288 May Sarton, Journal of Solitude
289-290 Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago
291 Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll
292 Charles Colson, Born Again
293 Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
294 Barbara W. Tuchman, Distant Mirror
295 Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory
296 Don Delillo, White Noise
297 Woodward & Bernstein, All the President's Men
298 James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom
299 Jill Kathryn Conway, Road from Coorain
300 A.S. Byatt, Possession
301 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History & the Last Man
302 Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea

SAHM the Libby
Discovered in 1872 The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in 1200 b.c.e and is the oldest story known. From the cradle of civilization Mesopotamia (which means the land between the rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates) the epic was lost in 612 b.c.e when the Assyrian city of Nineveh was sacked and deliberately broken to bits. It is unknown whether Gilgamesh was a real king, an inscription with a king list of Sumeria lists him but it also says that he ruled for 126 years and it was a common name at the time. The story of the story is really more interesting but I'll write more about that at a later time.

Gilgamesh begins as a jerk, it says that he hoards the wives of other men for his own purpose, Robert D. Biggs who wrote the intro for my translation says that this means as king he demanded the first night of a marriage. The men naturally complain. Specifically to the Gods who then create Enkidu. Enkidu begins life as a wild beast of the field. A shepherd though isn't to pleased about the wild man drinking from his pool so he and his father come up with a plan to bring a temple priestess over to tempt him. There is an interesting debate in the appreciation written by James G. Keenan on the translation of Shamhat to temple priestess. Some translations say she is a prostitute but at that time that profession has a different connotation than it does now. Personally I think they made the correct choice in light of the role she plays. They bring her to the pool and wait for several days until Enkidu shows up, then she disrobes and flaunts before him her womanly graces. There is some description here that gave me a sophomoric chuckle and then a groan and eye roll as it was obviously written by a man. It is very openly sexual and even raunchy. After this tryst the animals he once ran with want nothing to do with him and that animal power is gone from him so he returns to Shamhat who in turn brings him to Uruk (civilization) where he meets Gilgamesh. Enkidu and Gilgamesh are alter egos. They immediately clash (a recurring masculine theme) fighting until exhausted and after are immediate friends.


There is some debate of whether or not this is a homosexual relationship. Before they meet Gilgamesh has a dream of this meeting where he embraces him as a wife. It is suspicious imagery but I agree with Robert D. Biggs who says, “It seems inappropriate, in any case, to apply the modern European concept of homosexuality to an ancient text.” Enkidu then go to slay Humbaba, who is a god of the forest. This event is likened to the death of nature by the representatives of civilization. This is a very interesting idea from the cradle of civilization and one wonders how much they understood about the destruction of nature because of civilization. The slaying of Humbaba is a rather merciless scene, first Humbaba is bracketed by forceful winds sent by Shamash, Gilgamesh's patron god, until he is exhausted and weakened. Then in column vi Humbaba cries out, “Please, Gilgamesh! Have mercy on me, wounded. I shall freely give you all the lumber of my mighty realm and work for you both day and night.” It is Enkidu who tells Gilgamesh to ignore his cries. Since we first meet Enkidu in the wilderness I find this interesting, his transformation is complete, he is converted.


After that there is an episode with Ishtar (an Assyrian Goddess) which I found uninteresting but it results in a bull from heaven being released which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight and then slay. As punishment the gods smite Enkidu. He spends days ill and finally dies. Before that he curses the woman Shamhat. A bible parallel. Always the woman's fault eh?


One of the most beautiful parts of the story is how Gilgamesh grieves when Enkidu dies. This death confronts him with his own mortality and he sets out in search of Utnapishtim who is an ancestor of Gilgamesh and who survived the flood. After the flood Utnapishtim was granted immortality by the gods.


The biggest stand out in the text are the parallels to the bible. While completely different in the particulars the similarities are unmistakable. His mother Ninsun has never 'let a man touch her' so he is born of a virgin. In the story of Enkidu and Shamhat we see a parallel with the loss of innocence and the garden of Eden, also with the story of Samson and Delilah who losses his strength because of a woman. Of course the story of Utnapishtim and the flood. Then Gilgamesh is directed to a plant that will grant him eternal life but when he stops to get a drink from a lake a serpent slithers up and snatches it (enter that here). What all this means for the Bible is something I won't comment on. Believers and non-believers just see and interpret things differently so any debate is pointless. I noted a parallel Biggs and Keenin did not between Gilgamesh and Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), a prince who spent all his days in luxury who when confronted with the realities of life sickness, old age and finally death went in search of meaning.


Gilgamesh ends by accepting the eventuality of death and adopts an eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die attitude. There is the important theme: the fear of death and the meaning of life. Apparently we've been pondering it for thousands of years and we're not any closer to an answer than Gilgamesh.

SAHM the Libby
Laconic: \lə-ˈkä-nik\
To the point, concise. Using the minimum amount of words to the point of appearing rude or mysterious.
Merriam-Webster

I've been goofing off a bit this week, finals are over and its my vacation, plus my husband was sick the past few days so I had two babies (haha, just teasing honey...sort of). I'll have a post about the Epic of Gilgamesh tomorrow.
SAHM the Libby



Happy anniversary sweetie!

Wedding Prayer by Robert Lewis Stevenson

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the health, the work, the food,
and the bright skies that make our lives delightful;
for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Amen



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SAHM the Libby
John Lennon was shot December 8, 1980.
Click on the link for the 1971 video.


Imagine
there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
it isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
and no religion too
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm note the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world can be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm note the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world can be as one

You may say I'm a sap, but that song gets me every time.
SAHM the Libby
Fungible: Returnable by exchange. Interchangeable.

Fill out some post its and place them on the T.V. the refrigerator, the car stereo, the baby's forehead, any where your likely to see it often.
SAHM the Libby
I have this little book called The Book of Brevity, which is a book of Latin American short short stories or mini-cuentos. I came across it because the translator Jose Chaves taught at the community college I was attending. I like to take it out every now and then and thumb through it. They are funny, charming, and thought provoking. They are little puzzles without answers for you to sort out and have fun with. I'll share a couple with you.

The Burro and the Flute

A flute that no one had ever played had been lost in the country for quite some time, unitl one day a passing burro blew hard into it, making it produce the most beautiful sound in their life; that is to say, the life of the burro and the flute.
Incapable of understanding what had happened -as rationality was not his strong point, and they both believed in rationality- they quickly separated, ashamed of the greatest thing either one had accomplished during their sad existence.

Augusto Monterroso (Guatemala)

The Arms of Kalym

Kalym took off his arms and threw them into the abyss. When he arrived at home, his wife asked him, astonished: "What have you done with your arms?"
"I was tired of them, so I threw them away," said Kalym.
"Well, you had better find them. You're going to need them to eat lunch. Where did you put them?"
"They're sitting in an abyss, miles from here."
"How did you even manage to get them off?"
"I just took my right arm off with my left and my left arm with my right."
"That's impossible," cried his wife, "You needed your left arm to take off your right, but you had already taken it off."
"I know sweetheart, my arms are a very strange things. Let's just forget the whole thing and go to bed," said Kalym embracing his wife.

Gabriel Jimenez Eman (Venezuela)

...and my favorite...

The Dinosaur

When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

Augusto Monterroso (Guatemala)
SAHM the Libby


Last night I bought nearly fifty bookmarks. I'm always losing them and down to one. I'm currently reading about five books in addition to my text books so I thought I'd look on Amazon and see how much their book marks are, but I didn't think I'd buy any since paying four dollars for shipping on a bookmark is kind of insane. But I found twelve Emily Dickinson bookmarks for a dollar fifty and free shipping, well, sold, but should I get the Emily ones, the Shakespeare, or the Degas ballerinas? Also contenders were the Henry David Thoreau and Van Gogh ones, then I saw Fairy bookmarks and thought of my little niece who loves fairies and is getting several books for Christmas so I had to have those as well. So having narrowed myself down to four sets of twelve I went to the check out and found they were having a four for three deal so I got the fairies for free. Four sixty three for forty eight bookmarks. It will take me a while to lose that many.

All this book mark buying reminded me of a comic I saw years ago of a very unhappy cat stuffed into a book. The caption read, "In a readers home everything is a bookmark." I nearly chocked on my tea because I had done that. I had used my cat as a bookmark. She, like all cats, would come sleep next to me while I was reading and I had several times layed the book over her while I went to the bathroom or the kitchen. Nothing is safe.

It's finals week so I'll be gone for a bit. Hope your finishing up Don Quixote because I've started on The Epic of Gilgamesh. See you next week and wish me luck.
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SAHM the Libby
Warning! If you haven't finished Don Quixote don't read this post until you do. It is important to read the book and formulate your own opinion first.

I have several concerns with Don Quixote. The side stories are my biggest question with this book. The style of the book and the plot. The premise seemed so promising but in the end I feel it fell flat. Lastly the sexism and racism is a concern for me.

On a pragmatic level I understand the reason Cervantes had so many diversions. Cervantes was not very successful and Don Quixote was sold as a series. It creates a disjointed feel. In the second half the central characters weren't even the same, Sancho was more intelligent and Don Quixote was less insane. The side characters had disappeared and we had new ones, the graduate and the Duke and Duchess. Things really went down hill for me when the Duke and Duchess entered into it. At first it was funny, that he was famous and that they set up some adventures for him. But they took it too far, especially when they were laughing at Teresa, Sancho's wife, she wasn't a part of it, that made me mad. And when they drag Don Quixote back and present a 'dead' Altisidora who is raised by pinching and poking Sancho (and that's another thing why are they so interesting in flagellating Sancho?) you have to wonder don't these people have better things to do? Then I thought that perhaps Cervantes was trying to make a point about the spoiled bored upper-classes and then I connected it back to Dorotea and Don Fernando. That was an annoying side story. Boy what a relief when he marries Dorotea and we know she can look forward to a long life with him cheating on her. This isn't the promised meaning of the book but it is something to connect the stories. However there are many other stories and what about them?

Cervantes invented the novel but it has been greatly improved upon since then. Supposedly written by two different people who interject often, while interesting because it is so unusual, every time the translators showed up I felt assured that the style for less obvious narrators is superior. I understand a lot of that is a satyr of another work but as a modern reader it makes it disjointed and takes me out of the story. I imagine it did back then as well but it was more accepted by people in on the joke. While reading the section on poetry in The Well-Trained mind Susan Wise Bauer tells us that poetry was delivered orally and mostly on the spot. To help the poet remember the story they used formulas, the Hero is away from home, there is a great battle, the loss of a friend, struggle for return,...you can see that there is that formula in Don Quixote. Poetry was the first way of relating these stories so of course it would be the most familiar method for Cervantes. Ms. Wise Bauer writes: “Other memory aids shape the epics as well: The poet often began with an oral “table of contents,” a prologue that outlined what he was about to do...and halted occasionally to recap the action, to remind himself of where he had been before he proceeded on.” Sound like Don Quixote? So the epic poems that preceded him is a good place to start understanding him. It's a good thing The Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer are next.

The case of accused rape that Sancho judges which Cervantes meant to show Sancho's homely and surprising wisdom showed me something different. It was (and still is) the attitude that a woman cannot be raped but that at the last moment she had to acquiesce. From there people felt that the woman had brought it upon herself. The attitude toward the Moors is unsurprising considering the time and place but just how much of these kinds of attitudes are forgivable and understandable? It is hard to answer that because as much as we would like to believe we would have been intelligent and feeling and progressive enough not to be that way we simply cannot know. Our society and how we were raised plays a lot more into our attitudes than we would like to admit to ourselves. The fact is we have opinions that will melt with time as our grandchildren will show us. I liked that sanity returned to Don Quixote but I was also dissatisfied with the ending. I thought it would have been funny and more suited had they stumbled into exactly what they sought just as they stumbled into their adventures. If it had ended the way of Don Quixote's knight errant stories with Sancho proving better at being a governor than had been expected and being allowed to keep his post and with our knight winning the hand of his fair lady. If the real Dulcinea, Aldonsa Lorenzo, had figured “Hey sure he's a rich Hidalgo I'll marry him.” When Don Quixote regains his senses before he dies I'm actually disappointed. For me the fun is that he has his adventures and is a knight errant despite everything. No matter what happens or what anyone says he explains it away and enjoys himself. That is what makes me root for him and when he realizes the insanity of it all he losses that, the whole point of the adventures, of the bumps and bruises. He realizes he is a laughing stock and everything he has wasted and lost. It's not that I believe ignorance is bliss but when so much has been sacrificed to maintain that ignorance it is sad when it is lost.

Altogether I really enjoyed the book, which is what it all comes down to any way, no matter how genius a book is supposed to be (which is still up in the air as far as I'm concerned) it should be enjoyable. It was funny, even if a lot of the jokes are four hundred years old and are lost on me. It was a fun and interesting concept. The stories were entertaining if questionable why they were there. I can see why it has endured and inspired for so long. I am looking forward to expanding my reading of Don Quixote and deepening my understanding of Cervantes. The plot is thin, very little actually happens, there is no transformation or awakening, which leaves me wondering why I came along for the ride in the first place. It is the first novel so it deserves its place on our list but it's clunky and unrefined.

Doctoral dissertations could be written about this book (and probably have) but this was my first reading which Ms. Wise Bauer calls the grammar stage reading. I am now acquainted with Don Quixote but we have yet to make friends.