Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Chapter in Which Our Most Illustrious Gentleman, Don Quixote, Meets an Orthopedic Surgeon and the Chief Conservator of Works on Paper

Something occurred to me while planning the recitation sections for my intro course last week: I wonder what one could tell about a person based on where the spine of their copy of DQ is broken. It's not a bad point of comparison because we pretty much all have one, and I'd stake a sum of money to bet that the vast majority of them are broken somewhere.

The spine of mine — the Cátedra* edition that I've had since I first read the novel in my college survey course and which is full of marginalia in different colors of ink, a new one for each re-reading — is broken in the middle of Part I, chapter 23, which is in the middle of the Sierra Morena episode.

Where is your copy of Don Quijote broken? And what does it say about you?

Sure, it's a bit of a meme, and a bit of a facile indicator of some kind of cultural gestalt, but it does raise two serious issues about reading: First, that books are meant to be used, and second, that this sort of thing would be impossible to tell with an e-book. I think I may rewrite this post at some point in the future in a way that answers more questions than it poses, but for now, this is what I've got.


I'm hoping to have time to write two posts of greater substance, one on introducing undergraduates to the history of the language, and the other about my current binge on books by and about Garcia Lorca, but those are going to have to wait until I have finished: a book review that was due two weeks ago, a fellowship application, an R&R, a letter of recommendation, a talk I'm giving in November, the rest of the book chapter that will be the basis of that talk, a committee report and some correspondence. Phew. As I said, posting will be intermittent, and having now written a few short and fluffy posts in a row, I really don't want to post again until I have the time and inclination to say something substantial. Please bear with.

Edited on 10/9/11 to add: So much for that.


A very nice (if not earth-shattering) essay on Don Quixote and the nature of fiction and reality, sort of in the vein of "Reading Quijote in a Time of War," appeared in the NYTimes online opinion section this week.  I wish it had appeared a week earlier so I could have used it in my class when I introduced the idea to my students by talking about levels of fiction and whom we could consider to be readers of the Amadís de Gaula, the famous book of chivalry that ostensibly drove DQ mad:

*I linked to the publisher's web site because it was the best illustration of what the book is, not because I have some shady (or any kind of) financial arrangement with them. Click away or not; it will have no bearing on me one way or another.

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