Book 359: Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Part 2)

Cervantes, Miguel - Don QuixoteI did it! I finally finished! After almost exactly a month to the day that I started the infamous Don Quixote I finished it. I recapped Part 1 last week because I knew I would struggle to remember everything in it due to how long it took to just read that part but now I’m ready to recap Part 2!

I thoroughly enjoyed Part 2 of Don Quixote. I didn’t enjoy it for the same reasons as I enjoyed Part 1, but it was as great. I think the biggest difference is Cervantes, if possible, was even MORE aware of his works impact on culture and literature. He took the jibes and teasing in Part 1 and turned them into full-blown sarcasm and satire in Part 2. I think a lot of this is in direct response to the “fake Don Quixote,” published before he could release Part 2 and I talk about that in my Reading Spain, AKA an Homage to Miguel de Cervantes post (about half way through under the Biblioteca Nacional Museo section).

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Book 359: Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Part 1)

Cervantes, Miguel - Don QuixoteAfter slogging my way through the first half of this infamous book I decided to break my response into two parts. (Click here for Part 2.) This wasn’t planned, obviously, but coming in at 982 pages it may as well be two books, so I figured why not. (I’m still only going to count it as one book though.) I’ve split this for two reasons: I doubt I’ll remember the first half by time I finish the second and I have so much to talk about related to Miguel Cervantes and Spain, Madrid in particular, it just makes sense.

I first read portions of Don Quixote in my high school Spanish class. It was one of the only works that we read in English and in Spanish. I don’t remember the overwhelming majority of it. The only part I do remember is what has become so much a part of the modern psyche, “tilting at windmills” (Wikipedia link) that I can’t even say for sure it’s from reading the book or just from hearing it so often. It’s sad, but that’s all I remember. What’s interesting is how much more of an analytical reader I’ve become and how I took so much more appreciation from the novel’s absurdity and Cervantes’ critiques on novels and literature in general.

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Book 358: The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

Kafka, Franz - The MetamorphosisThis isn’t the first Kafka I’ve read. I read Amerika way back in 2011 and my opinion is pretty much the same: the man is a bit weird but he writes well.

I can, with utter confidence, say I have no idea what in the hell I just read. I mean, I know exactly what the words said and can tell you the story pretty much verbatim, but as to the meaning behind it, I haven’t got a clue. (Don’t worry, I’m going to look it up in a minute and see if it in anyway makes sense to me.)

I honestly thought it was some sort about sickness and loss of health, but no one seems to agree on that. There was a lot of talk about dependence and the family needing to learn how to care for themselves and that his metamorphosis resulted in the family being more productive and less lazy. Honestly, I don’t really know.

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Book 101: Two Serious Ladies – Jane Bowles

This is one of those rare novels that I just couldn’t like. A quote from the back synopsis states “This story of two stated women ‘going to pieces’ in their eccentric, disjointed ways has the hallucinatory power of an unavoidable dream.” What it doesn’t mention is that it’s more of an unavoidable bad dream than just a dream.

Overall, it seemed well written and it had plenty of humor, but I just couldn’t make myself like the characters or their situations. And I really wanted to like it when about half way through I found out that the author was good friends with Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams, both of whom I love and truly brought Southern Gothic to life. It also didn’t help I kept wondering when the drag queens would show up based on the front cover.

Thankfully it was a short novel (only 200 pages), but I do feel bad because my boss gave this to me way back in September to read. I’m glad I didn’t read the back cover or I probably would’ve avoided it even longer, or just not read it! However, it does count towards my 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge, bumping that challenge up to 8/25 so YAY for that!

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Book 63: Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street – Herman Melville

This is my first introduction to Herman Melville. I don’t believe I’ve read any bits of Moby Dick, even though I know (as most people do) the opening line, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago…” This is a novella so I wasn’t sure whether to count it in my total, but decided to as it was an interesting read, and probably a fascinating case study for Mellville’s mindset during the time, or the character Bartleby.

Melville wrote this, among a series of short-stories after publishing Moby Dick. Many believe he wrote this in response to his inability to follow-up with the success of the novel, and that it shows clinical depression through the character Bartleby.

At the heart of the story is Bartleby, who does not speak unless spoken to and even then only complied to requests of help/work during the first few weeks of his employment by the narrator. The way Melville told the story convinced me Bartleby didn’t speak English and only parroted the sentences which sounded like questions back to the narrator.

Click here to read the rest of the review and for quotes from the novella.