Perhaps it's the looming prospect of a week at the beach. Perhaps it's the cumulative effect of seven months spent reading serious literature. Perhaps it is real and true frustration. Whatever the case might be, I think I have about had it with Don Quixote. I've had it with the foolish knight, Sancho Panza, and all the other daft characters Miguel de Cervantes has tossed into this long-winded pot.
To be fair, there is a good bit about the first volume of this magnum opus that I liked and found interesting. It was just the way in which it was delivered that grated on my nerves, especially in the latter half. Most of the key events and conversations just take too long to be said. There were too many words used and I was constantly replaying that clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where all the soldiers shout "get on with it!" The last third of the book felt especially slow, as Cervantes deviates from his main story for a good while.
Don Quixote, for seemingly no other reason than the fact that he hasn't been really crazy in a few chapters, decides to "run mad" for a while in the mountains, while he sends Sancho off to his mistress to let her know what he's been up to. (Quixote's mistress, incidentally, doesn't know she's supposed to be in love with him. Indeed, she never even appears in book one.) After a pleasant scene where the old knight does some pants-less cartwheels, the plot moves forward at a nice pace. Sancho enlists the help of some fellow townsmen to get Don Quixote out of the mountains and back home. After some good diversions, the group ends up at an inn, where things start to drag.
Whereas I had originally been interested in the fact that the book was primarily focused on a dominant character with orbiting seconds, at the inn Don Quixote vanishes for long stretches of text. Instead, what the reader gets is a series of stories told by other characters which have been recently introduced. There were a couple instances of this earlier in the book, most notably Cardenio, on whom Shakespeare's alleged lost play centers. Each of these side stories are interesting in and of their own right, but I think they would have been better served independent of the plot of Don Quixote. They do little to move the knight-errant forward, since, as they exist within the frame of the book, all that is actually happening is that one character is talking to the rest. Perhaps I'm being hyper critical in this context, but I couldn't shake my annoyance that Quixote, Sancho and myself were once again stymied by another randomly introduced windbag. Cervantes has material enough in these stories for a half dozen other books, and I wish he would have treated them as such. Incidentally, whether or not Shakespeare was working on a play called Cardenio, I can easily see his attraction to Don Quixote as a piece of source material. More often than not, I found the characters in these digressions more interesting than the lead players.