Saturday, January 29, 2005

Some thoughts and many asides


The end is not yet in sight, but the quarter mark is. The fact that I have truckloads of paying work to do means I will likely be procrastinating a great deal in days to come, both reading and posting.

Plus, I've decided there's no point in waiting till I've finished reading to discuss what's going on.

Diana's recent lightbulb moment is helping me consolidate some impressions of my own.

The mystery to me at this stage is how could anyone possibly think Don Quixote is not mad?! It's bloody obvious he's a raving lunatic. It's openly stated on virtually every other page. How did it ever come to be a question? (Do things take a drastic turn in the pages to come?)

The only sense, that I can see, in which he isn't mad is if you read the whole quest as a metaphor — and this is where my impression bumps up against Diana's lightbulb (in a good way) and I find I'm constantly thinking about it while riding the metro, or blogging for that matter.

Random thoughts
Every individual has their personal quest.
We decide who we are.
We create personas.

How often do you find yourself in situations and have a meta-moment, where you see and hear yourself acting a part. You wonder if others hear themselves — are they for real? Or are they reciting the lines they think they're supposed to say, "playing" the role of "Expert" or "Lover" or "Mother" or "Grocery Store Clerk" or "Mysterious Passenger on Train" or "Coffee Drinker in Quaint Cafe"?

I can recall several work situations where I would remind myself to exude confidence, pretend you really know what you're talking about, feign enthusiasm. At times, I believed myself. I wonder how often other people perceived the script in my head. At home, there are days I pretend to be a grown-up, someone who's organized and has all their bills and paperwork under control. It's a little more than just "putting on a hat." Maybe it's closer to what in psychotherapeutic terms is called "visualizing."

A friend the other day posted: "I learned that Don Quixote was right: Facts are the enemy of truth."

A quotation
"It is your fear, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "that keeps you from seeing or hearing properly, because one of the effects of fear is to cloud the senses and make things appear other than they are..."

A question
Why doesn't Sancho Panza just give it up and go home?

A spot of humour
I keep hearing this dialogue in my head involving the Black Knight. Is it just me?

Apropos of nothing
I was discussing Jorge Luis Borges the other day, and when checking a biographical detail came across this:

At times, confronted with an idea for a work that bordered on the conceptual, Borges chose, instead of following through with the idea in the obvious way by writing a piece that fulfilled the concept, to write a review of a nonexistent work, writing as though this work had already been created by some other person. The most famous example of this is "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", which imagines a twentieth-century Frenchman who so immerses himself in the world of sixteenth-century Spain that he can sit down and create a large portion of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote — verbatim — not by having memorized Cervantes's work, but as an "original" work of his own mind. Borges's "review" of the work of the fictional Menard effectively discusses the resonances that Don Quixote has picked up over the centuries since it was written, by way of overtly discussing how much richer Menard's work is than Cervantes' (verbatim identical) work.

Apparently, Borges references Don Quixote quite a lot, but I'd never noticed. I don't pretend to have any idea what the above quote means — I just think it's rather interesting.

Meanwhile, a book on my own shelf jumped out at me: Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream, by Kathy Acker, postmodern feminist (and it shows). (You can read an excerpt at Amazon, and I recommend that you do.) I read this book about 15 years ago and thought it convoluted and weird, yet oddly I did not dispose of it those few times that I've culled my shelves.

It begins thus:
When she was finally crazy because she was about to have an abortion, she conceived of the most insane idea any woman can think of. Which is to love....
She decided that since she was setting out on the greatest adventure any person can take, that of the Holy Grail, she ought to have a name (identity)...

And wouldn't you know, here's an article that the most evident precursor to Acker's Don Quixote was Borges' creation.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The madness becomes much more ambiguous in the second half, IIRC. The end, in particular is interesting, as regards that -- er... SPOILERS, I guess: DQ effectively goes sane, and you have other characters wanting, needing, and begging him to be mad again.

The other issue, as it frequently is, with madness, is the question of who is in fact mad, DQ or the world around him. Other authors ask that same question later on, but I believe Cervantes was the first.


1:03 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Wow, Isabella...

I was just working on my DQ essay some more and came back to distract myself - er, I mean, review what you'd written here, and I was so relieved when you said: " I don't pretend to have any idea what the above quote means — I just think it's rather interesting." I read that passage several times and lost IQ points with each reading. It appears, though, as if it will be very interesting when I at last comprehend it...

You make some really, really good points here about the roles we all take on in life, and I had even come across the Acker novel in an Amazon search and was curious about it. So, you really think we should read it? (And I love the visual of the book that just won't let itself be thrown out. I have several of those, and wonder what they represent...)

And then I read the last article you linked. When I came across, "The intensity of her masochistic climaxes burns up the binarity of gender," I wondered if I should just pick up a Grisham or something. :P

Still trying to hone in my "lightbulb moment." It was all so clear in my mind. Now if I could just get that out and into words...

4:47 PM  
Blogger Misha Tch. said...

Isabelle, I only know Borges's name, but now I am willing to read somethings by him.

What he did is very much in line with postmodernistic writers and the trends in literature. Basically, all that's been written in the 20th century is metatextual. That is, it's literature about and on the basis of literature, and this is something that fascinates me. Take Nabokov, for example. His novel 'The Eye' or 'Despair'. Both are experiments of distancing yourself from your existence, and your moments of reading mental script fall right in line. It is not only metatextual, but intertextual. You'll miss out on half the fun in Lolita, if you don't have a sound knowledge of Russian and French literature. Same goes for lots and lots of other writers.

I would say that the modern literature goes in two opposite directions: the mass literature is getting simpler and simpler, and the elite Literature is increasingly becoming more complex.

8:35 AM  

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