Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

First published 10/30/2018; last updated 7/5/2020.

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes

First Publication: 1605 (Part 1), 1615 (Part 2)

Category: novel/satire/social commentary

Sales: 500 million


About the Book:

“Neither wholly tragedy nor wholly comedy,” LN Don Quixote has been called the first modern novel. LN It has been translated into English some 20 times” AZ since it first “appeared in two parts in 1605 and 1615.” AZ The book offers “a panoramic view of the 17th-century Spanish society” LN and “has been seen as a veiled attack on the Catholic Church or on the contemporary Spanish politics, or symbolizing the duality of the Spanish character.” LN It was “originally conceived as a comic satire against the chivalric romances. However, Cervantes did not destroy the chivalric ideal of the romances he rejected – he transfigured it.” LN

“Central characters are the elderly, idealistic knight, who sets out on his old horse Rosinante to seek adventure, and the materialistic squire Sancho Panza, who accompanies his master from failure to another. Their relationship, although they argue most fiercely, is ultimately founded upon mutual respect. In the debates they gradually take on some of each other's attributes.” LN

“During his travels, Don Quixote’s overexcited imagination blinds him to reality: he thinks windmills to be giants, flocks of sheep to be armies, and galley-slaves to be oppressed gentlemen. Sancho is named governor of the isle of Barataria, a mock title, and Don Quixote is bested in a duel with the Knight of the White Moon, in reality a student of his acquaintance in disguise. Don Quixote is passionately devoted to his own imaginative creation, the beautiful Dulcinea…The hero returns to La Mancha, and only at his deathbed Don Quixote confesses the folly of his past adventures.” LN

Check out a 2017 movie version here:

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our September/October 2018 book.
Questions About Don Quixote:
  1. Don Quixote is often called the first modern novel. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  2. Why do you think this is, according to most estimates, the best-selling novel of all-time?

  3. Lionel Trilling once claimed that “All prose fiction is a variation of the theme of Don Quixote: . . . the problem of appearance and reality.” Discuss.

  4. What was Miguel de Cervantes’s purpose for writing Don Quixote? Critics have debated the question of whether Cervantes’s intention in Don Quixote was to ridicule the chivalric romances…Do you think the book repudiates chivalry?

  5. What is the cause of Don Quixote’s possible madness? Is he even mad or, as Italian literary critic Giovanni Papini suggests, not mad at all, but merely pretending to be?

  6. How does Don Quixote’s perception of reality affect other characters’ perceptions of the world? Does his disregard for social convention change the rules of conduct for the other characters?

  7. Why do you think Sancho Panza sticks with Don Quixote throughout his adventures?

  8. Is there a moral center in Don Quixote? If so, which character occupies the center? If not, why would Cervantes leave this space absent?

  9. What attitude does the novel take toward social class? How is social class a factor in relationships between characters?

  10. What is the role of women as depicted in Part 1 of Don Quixote?
  11. Is Quixote a tragic figure, a comic figure, or both?

  12. Is Don Quixote insane or merely eccentric?

  13. Why does Sancho Panzo follow and remain loyal to such a bumbler as Don Quixote?

  14. Does Don Quixote need Sancho Panza?

  15. What is the function of the invention of Cide Hamet Benengali?

  16. What is the significance of Sancho's self-lashing?

  17. What is the significance of Dulcinea del Toboso?

  18. What is the relationship between the intercalated novel of "The Curious Impertinent" and the main body of Don Quixote?

  19. What qualities does Cervantes consider most important in literary art?

  20. Consider whether you prefer Part I or Part II and why.

  21. Discuss some differences in Cervantes' treatment of Part I and Part II.

  22. Was Don Quixote lying when he told what had happened in the Cave of Montesinos?

  23. How is the cave used as a symbolic device in Don Quixote?

  24. What kind of attitude does Cervantes (as a voice in the book) have towards the Moor?

  25. What is the relation between madness or foolishness and wisdom in Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?

  26. Is there any way in which they seem wise or virtuous because of their oddities?

  27. How do you react toward those who use Don Quixote as an object of amusement (the Duke and Duchess, Don Antonio Moreno, etc.)? Is this different from or similar to your reactions to characters who did the same in Part One?

  28. What view of chivalry emerges from Don Quixote as a whole?

  29. Consider Don Quixote’s final repentance. What reaction did you have to it?

  30. Is it a fitting ending?

Sources for Questions:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Great American Read

Updated 10/24/2018.

image from wttw.com

From PBS.org: “The Great American Read was an eight-part series with viewer participation to select America’s favorite novel, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels. It investigated writers’ fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what the 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”

The results of the vote are posted here. You can read more about individual books by clicking on titles below or going to the original page at PBS.org.

  1. Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
  2. Diana Gabaldon Outlander (series, 1991-2014)
  3. J.K. Rowling Harry Potter (series, 1997-2007)
  4. Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) (1955)
  6. Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind (1936)
  7. E.B. White Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  8. Louisa May Alcott Little Women (1869)
  9. C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia (series, 1950-1956)
  10. Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre (1847)

  11. L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  12. John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
  13. Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
  14. Markus Zusak The Book Thief (2005)
  15. F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (1925)
  16. Kathryn Stockett The Help (2009)
  17. Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  18. George Orwell 1984 (1949)
  19. Agatha Christie And Then There Were None (1939)
  20. Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged (1957)

  21. Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights (1847)
  22. Larry McMurty Lonesome Dove (1985)
  23. Ken Follett The Pillars of the Earth (1989)
  24. Stephen King The Stand (1978)
  25. Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca (1938)
  26. John Irving A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  27. Alice Walker The Color Purple (1982)
  28. Lewis Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  29. Charles Dickens Great Expectations (1861)
  30. J.D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

  31. Wilson Rawls Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)
  32. S.E. Hinton The Outsiders (1968)
  33. Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code (2004)
  34. Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
  35. Frank Herbert Dune (1965)
  36. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince (1943)
  37. Jack London The Call of the Wild (1903)
  38. Jean M. Auel The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980)
  39. Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
  40. Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games (trilogy, 2008-2010)

  41. Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
  42. Amy Tan The Joy Luck Club (1989)
  43. Mary Shelley Frankenstein (1818)
  44. Lois Lowry The Giver (1994)
  45. Arthur Golden Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)
  46. Herman Melville Moby-Dick (1851)
  47. Joseph Heller Catch-22 (1961)
  48. George R.R. Martin The Game of Thrones (series, 1996-2011)
  49. Isaac Asimov The Foundation Trilogy (series, 1951-1953)
  50. Leo Tolstoy War and Peace (1869)

  51. Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  52. Michael Crichton Jurassic Park (1990)
  53. Mario Puzo The Godfather (1969)
  54. Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  55. Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  56. Nicholas Sparks The Notebook (1996)
  57. William P. Young The Shack (2007)
  58. John Kennedy Toole A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)
  59. Tom Clancy The Hunt for Red October (1984)
  60. Toni Morrison Beloved (1987)

  61. Andy Weir The Martian (2011)
  62. Robert Jordan Wheel of Time (series, 1990-2013)>
  63. Herman Hesse Siddhartha (1922)
  64. Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment (1866)
  65. Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  66. Mark Haddon The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003)
  67. John Knowles A Separate Peace (1959)
  68. Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote (1615)
  69. Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones (2002)
  70. Paulo Coelho O Alquimista (The Alchemist) (1987)

  71. Gary Paulsen Hatchet (1987)
  72. Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (1952)
  73. Stephenie Meyer The Twilight Saga (series, 2005-2008)
  74. Armistead Maupin Tales of the City (series, 1978-2014)
  75. Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
  76. Ernest Cline Ready Player One (2011)
  77. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins Left Behind (1995-2007)
  78. Gillian Flynn Gone Girl (2012)
  79. Dean Koontz The Watchers (1987)
  80. John Bunyan The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)

  81. James Patterson Alex Cross Mysteries (series, 1993-2018)
  82. Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (1958)
  83. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness (1899)
  84. Marilynne Robinson Gilead (2005)
  85. V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic (1979)
  86. E.L. James Fifty Shades (series, 2011-2012)
  87. Kurt Vonnegut The Sirens of Titan (1959)
  88. Frank E. Peretti This Present Darkness (1986)
  89. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah (2013)
  90. James Baldwin Another Country (1962)

  91. Rudolfo Anaya Bless Me, Ultima (1972)
  92. John Green Looking for Alaska (2005)
  93. Junot Diaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008)
  94. Robert R. McCammon Swan Song (1987)
  95. Dave Hunt The Mind Invaders (1989)
  96. Zadie Smith White Teeth (2000)
  97. Jason Reynolds Ghost (2016)
  98. Sister Soujah The Coldest Winter Ever (1999)
  99. Colson Whitehead The Intuitionist (1999)
  100. Romulo Gallegos Doña Bárbara (1929)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein published 200 years ago

First posted 6/11/2020; updated 7/6/2020.


Mary Shelley

First Publication: January 1, 1818

Category: novel/Gothic thriller

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

“The great genius of Shelley's novel has often been overwhelmed by images of schlocky bolt-necked ‘Frankensteins,’” TG but “Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster…The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.” AZ

It “began merely as a whim of Lord Byron’s. ‘We will each write a story,’ Byron announced to his next-door neighbors, Mary…and her lover Percy.” AZ The others “failed to complete their ghost stories” AZ but Shelley, only eighteen when she began writing, BN “rose supremely to the challenge…to create a story that, in her own words, ‘would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature,…curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.’” AZ

Victor Frankenstein is a “committed science student…[who] assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator.” BN

“At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science,” BN Frankenstein “also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature?” BN

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our November 2019 book.