I must confess to a bit of relief when I finished this book. It is long, being actually two books combined into one. Part of me wanted to take the timI must confess to a bit of relief when I finished this book. It is long, being actually two books combined into one. Part of me wanted to take the time to write a masterful review in Cervantes' voice that would expose you to the writing style and at the end challenge you that if you made it through my review you certainly should attempt the work. But alas, I haven't the time. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to even pull together my thoughts on this.
Since I read this as part of an on-line book club, I think my review shall consist of my responses to the two questions that gave me the most insight into the work. ___________________________________________ QUESTION: How is this text self-conscious as a narrative? What do you make of references to publication of Don Quixote's adventures by Cide Hamete? Why repeatedly refer to Hamete's version of the story? What is the author saying about storytelling in general?
I think a lot of what Cervantes is doing here ties in with the themes on the benefits and dangers of excessive reading.
He is illustrating that:
1) Even though a work my lay claim to non-fiction status, it is not necessarily true (this makes me think of Alex Haley's ROOTS);
2) When an author strives for non-fiction status, real life people have the ability to talk back (Don Quixote doesn't like his presentation) and modify reality to suit their desires (Panza's deceptions, and Don Quixote's desire to be presented in a chivalric light), making a true record of actual happenings difficult even when historical persons and facts are available.
3) The author himself in either fiction or non-fiction work has a tremendous latitude to both create, report and embellish his subject matter to suit his own proclivities and obligations (such Cervantes' care in referencing the Prince as his sponsor).
4) Fiction tends to absorb reality as a basis for story (such as Cervantes' biographical references that creep into the soldier stories in the first part of the book - a common occurrence in many works), even as non-fiction absorbs fantasy at the whim of those who participated in it's creation (see #'s 1-3). ***** QUESTION: What is Cervantes saying about readers?: Don Quixote's madness is repeatedly attributed to excessive reading of novels of chivalry. What are the author's concerns with novels of chivalry and/or reading in general? Do you agree?
1) Cervantes is concerned that reading is a waste of time that fills people's minds with all sorts of non-practical ideas.
I found a need to put Cervantes work into it's proper time frame to adequately deal with this theme. Recognizing Don Quixote was written just over 150 years after the printing press (around 1440) and at the tale end of the Protestant Reformation (beginning with Luther in 1517 and continuing until around 1650), it became apparent to me that this was time in which the written word was exploding in accessibility for the first time. A little research into European literacy of Cervantes time also revealed that Protestant countries had far higher literacy rate than Catholic countries because Protestants wanted people to read the Bible for themselves. Meanwhile, Catholics discouraged literacy and saw it as a threat to the power of the Church. Recognizing Cervantes is Spanish, writing in a Catholic country and demonstrates respect for 'good Spanish Catholics' often referred to as "Old Christians" (in contrast to newly minted Protestants), made me question "Was Cervantes promoting the Catholic skepticism about equipping the masses to read by using novels of chivalry as a decoy?" When I considered that it is the priest that articulates many of the diatribes against reading, the religious aspect of the argument came into better focus. But is Cervantes so obvious? Or is he using the priests' ideas to arouse in the reader a desire to defend his reading? ...and in so doing, actually attacking the Catholic position? My personal inclination after finishing the text is that he sided with the Catholic Tradition on this one, as the book ends: "...for my only desire has been to have people reject and despise the false and nonsensical histories of the books of chivalry, which are already stumbling over the history of my true Don Quixote, and will undoubtedly fall to the ground. Vale."
On another track, I wanted to consider what social upheaval of our time might correspond to reading in Cervantes time? I wonder if in the future, we'll consider computer programming a necessary skill for everyone even as many criticize computer/ 'screen time' for taking people away from reading? Additionally, it occurs to me that the engagement of the mind through reading is the first step to the neglect of physical activity which is coming to fruition in the internet age. As many Americans know, a sedentary life (especially when combined with an abundance of pleasurable food) has it's problems. Are the intellectual benefits of reading/ education worth the physical damage? That thought certainly raises the bar on what reading is profitable.
2) Cervantes uses the character of the priest to assert that reading is a harmful escape. (This occurs when he is talking with the innkeeper, forgive me for failing to locate the page #)
Not all escapes are harmful. In fact, I think reading has many benefits (expands our understanding of people and places that are outside our everyday experience, saves us from more harmful indulgences, increases our knowledge base, teaches us the mistakes and triumphs of previous generations, etc). Yet Don Quixote, whose financial independence strips him of a need for either a profession or physical labor, has indulged far beyond the beneficial point. In this I agree that reading can be harmful, and that all good things can become harmful when engaged as idols-- in other words, to the extreme (for example: food, sex, physical fitness, cleanliness). I don't however, find reading particularly poisonous, and think it's contributions outweigh it's harms (when practiced with moderation).
3) Cervantes is concerned that people are unable to discern fiction from non-fiction (again, this comes from the discussion between the priest and the innkeeper).
I have to say Cervantes is onto something here, and based on what I see on Goodreads, it's only gotten worse. In the internet age, while we have access to more information, this requires MORE work from the reader to determine what information is reliable. I find that often people are unable to distinguish between an accurate and an inaccurate historical setting. Even in a fictional work, I think the author needs to present a historical setting accurately; if they don't, they are clearly altering things to support an agenda of their own. But readers seem unable to recognize this. And there is the reality that ALL writing is from one person's perspective, making neutrality impossible.
I am troubled by the ignorance of the historical (and even current record) that leads to foolish thinking and/ or decisions. For example, if someone writes a book (or even worse, makes a movie) on the glories of government health care, I am amazed at how many people will accept such an idea and even make decisions based on these assertions without researching the successes and struggles of said government health care in other countries that have it!
In a fictional work, people will claim to understand history or culture based on an author's presentation that is skewed at best and pure deception at worst.
Finally, people often misquote the historical record, usually to support their position on a certain matter. This practice not only propagates errant understandings of the past, but makes it more difficult for those less informed honestly seeking knowledge to enter into the topic or discussion. _____________________________________ In conclusion, I think Cervantes showed great foresight in predicting the dangers of reading. Though I don't think his warnings should eliminate reading, i think they do provide some wise cautions on what is valuable.
I cannot help but find it ironic that in writing a story in which reading is vilified, he created an entirely new form of written word - the fictional novel - that engaged more people than ever before and was far more pervasive and popular than any written form of his time - even those pesky stories of chivalry! Cervantes was unable to retrieve the reading cat that technology was letting out of the bag.
It is increasingly ironic that his book continues to be read some 400 years after it's publication - mostly by people who are avid readers! ...more
This is a book about men. Lonely men. Working men. Good men. Imperfect men. Their talk (rough and gritty), hopes (working their own land), recreationThis is a book about men. Lonely men. Working men. Good men. Imperfect men. Their talk (rough and gritty), hopes (working their own land), recreation (horseshoes, cards and whoring), dreams (freedom from wandering), character (each with strengths and weaknesses, thrown together) work (farming and ranching), challenges (lack of family/ relationship), and failings (the dark anger that lurks under the surface of even the innocent and seemingly gentle man). There is but one character that is a woman (she referred to as "Curly's wife"), and there is the whore house of unnamed 'girls'.
Such is the setting for Steinbeck's spartan novel. A short book that leaves you twisted up. Don't let Steinbeck's brevity fool you, this story will stick. The fantastic writing draws you into the setting, and sets in slow motion a tragedy that unravels in 3 days. You know it is coming, but you cannot turn away. The feeling of inevitable demise carries you along through the sentences, paragraphs and chapters, until it is done. Over.
And you are left with the lump in the stomach, pondering a world that is broken and in need of true hope.
This passage from Ecclesiastes 7 comes to mind, "2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
I suppose it is a wise book. Certainly a work that deserves to bear the name, "classic". But it is a difficult read that ends without hope, and honestly (fool that I my be), I prefer to be inspired instead of warned.
This is a book for men and young men. I'm not saying women and young women cannot eaveadrop on the conversation and enjoy it, but the topic, and especThis is a book for men and young men. I'm not saying women and young women cannot eaveadrop on the conversation and enjoy it, but the topic, and especially the way it is written are firmly rooted in the male world.
Basically, the book presents an introverted accounting of a single battle in the Civil War. This is the young man, Henry Flemings, first battle and he is nervous about how he will aquit himself and what his performance will illuminate about himself to himself and others. Very predictably for an account written by an adolescent, the narrative fluctuates from narcissistic absorption to self-deprecating criticism.
I found the book painful to read. In essence we all see our world and it's happenings from the perspective of self at the center. This was convicting to me. Sure, Fleming is immature, but reading this shows me while I'm not as young as he is, I still have a long way to go.
I also found the book to be plodding (as battles often are). Some readers will be put off by the high vocabulary level and descriptive writing form of Crane's time, but I didn't mind this. There is some graphic content here that will be difficult for more sensitive readers to handle. Battles and death in it's many forms are vividly portrayed. I was particularly intrigued by Crane's use of color to set/ change a scene, give symbolism and vibrance to an account.
All that said, I couldn't give more stars because in the end, I just didn't like Henry Flemming. Even the moment of redemption which comes at the end was not satisfying to me... I found him to be painfully realistic, but not inspiring. But perhaps this is merely the inadequate perspective of a women looking into the male world... ...more
The older I get, the more amazing this "experiment" (as the founding fathers called it) of democracy is to me. To think, this form of government was eThe older I get, the more amazing this "experiment" (as the founding fathers called it) of democracy is to me. To think, this form of government was established such a short time ago. How many people lived and were governed before democracy was even practiced? And what an impact the creation of our nation has had on our lives and the world... this is truly an amazing document....more
Written in the robust prose of the 19th Century, "The Heart of Darkness" creates and maintains a sense of foreboding similar to a gothic novel. Rich sWritten in the robust prose of the 19th Century, "The Heart of Darkness" creates and maintains a sense of foreboding similar to a gothic novel. Rich symbolism abounds throughout the tale. I couldn't help but think of the Bronte's while reading it. This style is not a favorite of mine, hence the three stars.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to rave about here. This is an excellent character driven novel. Conrad explores the character of his storyteller, Marlow, through his actions and reactions in both living and accounting his adventure. The mysterious character of Mr. Kurtz is finely cultivated, inserted in the story as a recurring counter melody that overtakes the work at the end in a triumphant dominance. While primarily about these two men, the story effectively incorporates other characters that are illuminated for a time and then fade into the interplay between Marlow and Kurtz and Africa herself. For Africa is a character here. Conrad portrays Africa as a savage, living, breathing place that is physically (via disease) and morally (via the hardships, people and cultures living there) corrupting. As a literary device, Conrad's illustration of how the environment of Africa illicits responses of the soul was amazing. He also captured the confusion, the tendency to violence and the fascination of encountering a place in which one is a total stranger. However, if I tried to think of the book from an African perspective, I found myself wondering if Conrad did not shape the mind of the reader in a somewhat less than positive way toward Africa and her people. Finally, it is difficult for me to fathom that Conrad was writing in his second or third language! Incredible.
This is a worthy read that those who enjoy character driven novels will enjoy, and those that like the gothic style will adore. I'm glad I read it. Being a classic, I am thankful for a better understanding of this novel when it is discussed in other works. However, at least at this time, I don't have a strong desire to read it again....more
I'm not a big short story fan. But even though I haven't read this story in years, it is VIVID in my mind. High adventure, mystery and the struggle foI'm not a big short story fan. But even though I haven't read this story in years, it is VIVID in my mind. High adventure, mystery and the struggle for survival. Excellent!...more
This book is a historical account of the Civil War. With pages of notes, a bibliography and an index, it is a good read with lots more to explore. WriThis book is a historical account of the Civil War. With pages of notes, a bibliography and an index, it is a good read with lots more to explore. Written by Bruce Catton, who has published many books on the topic, it has the feeling of a substantial work. The account is heavy on battle strategy and documentation, with some insight into politics and even less into the societal impact of the War. Historical account being the privelage of the victors, it is told from a Union perspective, but includes glimpses of the South.
Overall, i liked the book. True, it dragged in the middle. I'm sure those who lived through it also thought it dragged in the middle, so the author was successful in giving the reader a feel of the times.
I would recommend this book for those interested in non-fiction accounts of war, particularly battle details. Those interested in politics or societal impacts of the war may find other books more helpful....more
I read this book for a book club and strongly disliked it. To me, it was a testimony as to why a journalist should not write theology. I found his thiI read this book for a book club and strongly disliked it. To me, it was a testimony as to why a journalist should not write theology. I found his thinking to be sloppy, uninformed, and lacking Biblical basis. All of this said, I cannot deny that it fostered a great deal of conversation, and that some of his thoughts were challenging. Just make sure you read a good dose of your Bible before you read Yancy's anecdotes....more