Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sex, Don Q, and Rock n' Roll

Tuesday, July 31, 2012:

There's story, and then there's the story of story.

Which is a totally #vaguebooking way to say there's the book you're reading (just for the sake of argument let's call it DON QUIXOTE), and then there's narrative of your reading journey.

Yes, I totally just said "your reading journey" with a straight face.  This is what comes of dabbling in Literature.

My reading journey usually plays out something like this: wanttoreadwantoreadwantoYESGETTOREADREADREADREADOHYESMOREREADINGMOREMUSTFINISHohcrapI'mdone.

A pretty standard narrative shape, right?  Complete with set up, ramp up, climax, and come down.  An indubitably human narrative, the shape of sex, of hunger, of rock n' roll.

Except Don Quixote is different.  Today, July 31st, 2012, is the deadline before which each member of my book club agreed to be done with half of the 1,000 pages that are our purgatory.  We worried about this deadline, when we set it.  We reasoned, drawing on our previous experience with stuff like other books and potato chips, that we'd have trouble preventing ourselves from wanting more.


I reached the halfway mark on Saturday.  Between Saturday and today I have finished two -yes two!- complete novels, neither of which bore the slightest resemblance to more of Don Quixote.

Book club meets tonight.  To utterly degrade Susan Cooper, Tonight I get wine, but tomorrow will be beyond imagining. 

The shape is wrong, see.  We've left the bedroom and are sojourning in the narrative equivalent of a bathtub.  There are gentle ripples of story, episode after self-contained episode, even episodes nesting within episodes, but nothing strong enough to rock the rubber ducky of our souls.

That's right. I said that, too.  Blame Literature.  I sure do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

At Home with Don Q

Friday, July 27th:

You'd think that reading a peripatetic novel on the road would be doubly satisfying, kind of like slamming scones while scarfing Austen.

You'd think wrong.

It's true that there was a whole lot of traveling going on.  Don Q was gallumphing more or less gracefully down the high road.  I was schlepping through two countries and six states.  He covered less ground (horse, ass, feet) than I did (plane, train, automobile), but he impaled things a whole lot more.  (Don Q's solution to life, the universe, and everything: Lance it!)

I got back yesterday at 2:00 AM EDT.

He, God help him -God help ME- still going.

It's the aimlessness that bugged me.  I mean, I had stuff to do!  Don Q had stuff to do, too, but it was so amorphous (embody knight errantry! Gallantly!) it might as well have been nothing.  And so, even though Don Q and I were both making up our beds anew night after night, and thus ostensibly had something in common, I started to resent him. 

Why did he get to run around speechifying when I had to figure out how to make my Power Point go "whoosh?"  Why did he get to maunder shirtless over the mesas while I drank a lot of very, very bad coffee?

We'll see if he and I get along better now that I'm at home for the luxurious span of a week.

Other notes:

*Lothario!  The word!  Comes from Don Quixote! I mean, hot damn!  Almost (not quite) worth the schlep!

*Are we there yet?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Am Here

Newmarket, Ontario, CA

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Am Here

Ypsilanti, MI

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Road with Don Q

Monday, July 16th:

It was at about 14% (who needs pages when you've sold your soul to Amazon) that I began wishing my longstanding conflation of Don Quixote with Dos Equis took a more tangible form.

I feel, quite strongly, that this is the sort of of novel that improves with beer.  Partly because it reels, like a drunk, from episode to episode, but not insubstantially because the process of forcing comedy through the long, tight tunnel of four centuries demands lubrication.

Comedy doesn't travel well.  You grasp this when you watch episodes of The Daily Show from 2009, but you really understand this, bone deep, as you read satirical passages in Don Q.  Poking fun at literature so old your grandmother couldn't have used it for toilet paper?  Not so hilarious.

Other thoughts:
  • Satire sours over time, but some basic comedy is indelible.   Like poop.  Still about as funny or not funny as it always was, depending on how hilarious you find poop.
  • Chapter names that announce exactly what will happen next are counterintuitively entertaining.  Why do we demand surprise all the time?  What's wrong with watching stuff unfold?
  • Is there going to be any character development here, or is the point merely to move characters though space and time, like comedic chess men?  Because that's kinda boring.  And there's a whole, whole lotta Don Quixote left to go...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Am Here

Seattle, WA

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Don Quixote Liveblog

7/8/2012: Crap!  I am not reading enough Don Quixote.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I Am Here

Communal toilets, Portland, OR.  I think this goes under the heading of "you know you're on a college campus when..."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Book club has chosen Don Quixote for August.  Here's an excerpt of the email by which I cast my fateful vote:

"Tough choice!  I think maybe The Forsythe Saga, though I have to say that Proust is also very tempting.  Really anything but Don Quixote- just not sure I can hack that."

Cue the universe's maniacal laughter.

July's a busy month for me: I'm making my first ever recording in the my-name-is-on-the-CD-and-not-buried-in-the-back-of-the-booklet sense, and I'm running scared.  The perfect time, it would seem, to have at those mills of wind.

But if I have to suffer, y'all do, too.  You know you've just been waiting for a DON QUIXOTE LIVEBLOG!  Oh yes.

 In addition, I hereby issue an open invitation to y'all to hop onboard and read along.  Please?  Where are you going?

Le sigh.

Thus far I've downloaded a free version of the book to my Kindle, tangled with the translator's preface, and skipped Cervantes's rambling prologue.  Now I'm on page 3.  Page 3, people! Bow down!

Though I have to say this sounds eerily familiar:

"In short, he became so absorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits."

Quixotically Yours,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


The first episode of Aaron Sorkin's newest coitusless interruptathon is out, and I like it way less than I'd like to.  Newsroom is a one-hour drama centered around a one-hour news show, which sounds as if it would inspire you to immediate narcolepsy were it not for your longstanding, inexplicable, and not entirely proper fascination with Jim Lehrer.

Not that you know anyone like that.

I wanted Newsroom to be both intricate and fast-paced, in the manner of a Robert Altman film or -hey, it's true- a Tina Fey sketch, and to some degree it is.  But it's also not cool.

You know what I mean.  You may pretend you don't, that you've forgotten Middle School and its attendant terrors, the maneuvering, like so many social battleships, of seventh graders though the stormy pubertal sea.  But you know who wasn't cool in Middle School?

You.  Because you cared.

Newsroom cares, too.  It projects an aura of coolness, with its snappy dialogue, its fashionably offbeat cast.  It's got the right clothes.  But as soon as you think, hey, this kid's not so bad, Newsroom invites you down to its rec room for a glass of chocolate milk an earnest discussion of climate change.

Climate change standing in, of course, for the colossal failure of television news networks to deliver, well, news.   It's not news, either, this failure.  Journalism is an onanistic industry, and Sorkin is more than a decade beyond the feverish burst of self-flagellation surrounding the rise (stop me?) of Fox News.  The waning of objectivity in Journalism is a story that's played out; yet Sorkin, curiously, seems determined to break it.


I'm not one for speechifying.  Or, truth be told, for network news.  There are too many constraints on TV journalism, and not enough space for investigation or imagination, those twin lodestars of print.

Instead of Newsroom, a show not even a deliciously nerdy supporting cast can save, I recommend an hour curled up on the couch with the latest issue of the New Yorker -its coverage ranging, in this issue, from the Guadalajara drug wars to a University of Chicago scavenger hunt.  I laughed.  I cried.  I turned the page.