Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don Quixote is Dead: Preface to Final Thoughts

Reading the last words of the book, I was reminded of the Eric B. and Rakim classic, I Ain't No Joke:
I ain't no joke.
I used to let the mic smoke
Now I slam it when I'm done and make sure it's broke
When I'm gone no one gets up 'cause I won't let
Nobody press up and mess up the scene I set
This is a decent description of what Cervantes does, killing off DQ and legally establishing his death with the scribe. Biters like Avellaneda won't be able to press up and mess up the scene he set. Indeed, Cervantes tells us of Cide Hamete hanging up his pen after completing the story of DQ, and instructing his pen on how to warn off pretenders. (939)

I doubt there's anyone still checking the site. Perhaps aliens, in the distant future, who have come to visit our devastated and barren planet and have recovered data from the internet circa 2010. Welcome!

In any event, I guess it's time for us to try to talk about the end of the book, and perhaps the book as a whole. I'm still mulling over my feelings and thoughts about the book, but I think I can say this for now: it was a real struggle to get through this book. I'm glad I did, but I doubt I'll ever do it again. It's not a book that's easy to enjoy, especially given our modern sensibilities, our expectations that there will be some kind of compelling narrative arc or structure, some kind of character development, etc. There are bits and pieces of those things in the book, but there also bits and pieces of all sorts of other things in there as well: random Latin sayings, Spanish proverbs, rambling, digressive stories, exhaustive allusions, etc. It all feels a bit like a magpie's nest: all sorts of glittery baubles and trinkets and foil wrapped up together, in no discernible order, with no apparent greater purpose or design.

Slight feelings of wistfulness wafted over me as I read the final pages of the book. But that feeling was probably more about being done with this project I've been involved in for months now than it was about the characters or DQ's death. Perhaps part of it was relief: after weeks of wondering whether I had the will power or fortitude to trudge on, the end was finally at hand. It was a Christmas miracle.

There's much to say about DQ and Sancho's encounter with the character from the illegitimate DQ sequel, DQ's reactions to his own fame, etc. I promise that I will get to that. For now, if anyone is still here, let me know how you felt about the book as a whole, and how you felt about finishing the book.

And Merry Christmas!