El's Reviews > Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote

Fighting Windmills by Manuel Durán
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's review
Dec 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: lit-crit, 17th-centurylit
Read in December, 2009

I don't think it's very well known in my circle of peeps that I actually harbor a girly-boner for Don Quixote, but now you know.

I was blown away when about four years ago I first read about Don Quixote and Sancho Pancha's adventures, and while I've only read it once I think about it regularly. Like an abnormal amount of time is put towards thinking about the book, in deconstructing it, in analyzing it in my head. If you were to take my head, chop it open, remove my brain and dissect you would find A) a lot of thoughts about Taco Bell, B) some random Bon Jovi lyrics and C) a muddle of half-baked and possibly inappropriate thoughts about Don Quixote. It's like a college thesis on crack up in there.

So when I stumbled upon the section of the library I might just now refer to as the Don-Quixote-Sex-Chamber and found this book I think I did a happy Snoopy dance right there in the stacks. This book has it all, from discussing Cervantes's life and times to the work itself to authors in the following centuries who were inspired by Cervantes - the list of inspired authors, I must add, is pretty awesome: Daniel Defoe of the craptastic Moll Flanders fame, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Melville, Twain. The author here, Manuel Duran, goes so far as to discuss how Cervantes shaped pop culture, and used Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo as an example. One of my favorite books and one of my favorite movies, side-by-side? It's incredible.

Additionally - as if my geekhood couldn't reach greater heights - each chapter begins with a detail of an artist's famous work of art depicting Don Quixote. It begins, duh, with Gustave Dore and features others such as Goya, Daumier, Picasso (duh 2.0), and some other dudes. Fantastic.

But, reining it in just for a moment here, I have to say that Duran could probably have taken this text even further. I appreciated his work at deconstructing the text in a clearer manner than my own burrito-addled mind. He has extensive notes and I have a lengthy list of books I want to look up now, and authors I'm ashamed to have never read yet, being such a fan of Don Quixote and all. I felt Duran probably didn't let himself go hog-wild, or perhaps the editors didn't let him go hog-wild. In any case, someone was holding back. Perhaps that means Duran might have limited information also, and his research only produced this. Still, it's a great background for anyone interested in reading Don Quixote or for anyone who has already read it and didn't really get it. Or, like me, for anyone who is a total spaz over that damn character.
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12/07/2009 page 129

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