Don Quixote and other Delights

Sea Lions, San Francisco

How is it Thursday already?

I’ve been having fun working on my new novel (The Coming of Fitzroy — I keep changing the title, but I think that’s what it is at the moment) and a few short stories. I’ve also been doing a fair amount of other work, gardening, tutoring, and slowly feeling my way in this whole publishing business side of things. That’s also a lot of fun, but certainly a lot of work … still, I keep telling myself that once all the accounts are set up (I’m still struggling — well, ignoring, really, but that’s because their interface is daunting — with Google Play, and iTunes is having to go through a distributor because of reasons I haven’t gotten to the bottom of yet), then they’re set up.

Likewise, once I’ve got the basics of InDesign, although there will be more to learn, at least it will be improving rather than beginning at the beginning and having difficulties with figuring out the super-obvious-in-retrospect-but-very-confusing-in-prospect parts of the process. I keep thinking of my struggles with stoichiometry in high school chemistry, which I found remarkably difficult — until I understood it, whereupon it suddenly seemed very easy. Same with negative numbers earlier on (grade six? grade eight? something like that) … another thing I had immense conceptual difficulty with, until it clicked. Here’s hoping that linking text boxes on InDesign and importing my Word document into them will prove the same, eventually. I figure it must be that easy, since all the ‘basic’ tutorials I’ve found so far skim over it in ten seconds, so obviously I’m just missing something small that will make it all work easily and smoothly.

Other than that, I was inspired by a blog challenge I found but didn’t sign up to, since I turned around and discovered it was Thursday to my surprise, and the challenge was only for one week: to read more than normal. That’s it. It was a reading challenge. I thought about this last weekend, when I took The Silmarillion with me to Ottawa to read it, *finally* (I’ve been meaning to read it since, oh, grade eight at least, which is, er, not quite two decades ago now). I decided that one of my goals for this year was to read some of the honking big classic novels — you know, Moby Dick, Tom Jones, A Tale of Two Cities — and so I’d begin with one of the first of the great novels, indeed, one of the first of the novels — Don Quixote.

That’s it. One book. But it’s a big one.

I got a bit distracted by a scholarly book on Robin Hood (Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, by the go-to scholar on the subject, Stephen Knight), and by a quick humorous mystery set in 1920s Melbourne, Australia (Cocaine Blues, by Kerry Greenwood), but I’ve already been reminded of why this is a book generations of people have loved. I’ve read about half or two thirds of it before, but each time in abridged form — there are a number of inset tales and songs I’ve previously skipped — and for classes. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to sit down and read it, but it is nearly a thousand pages long and there is something daunting occasionally about The Classics — and I say this as someone who loves them heartily. But I was reading a short book on time management by a Victorian writer who argued that people need to embark on a course of study in their free time to make something of their lives (a very Victorian sort of sentiment — the book is How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, by Arnold Bennett; it’s available as a free ebook on the American Amazon), but that this shouldn’t be novels, because, as he says, “You do not set your teeth to read Anna Karenina.”

Of course not! I thought, and realised that was what I had been doing. One of those small follies one falls into. I’m not reading these books for class (either to take or to teach); I’m reading them because they are great books, and great stories, and I both want to read them and would like to learn from them — though that comes second to the initial surge of enjoyment in reading them.

And am I ever glad for the galvanic jump (as it were), because Don Quixote is quite as good as five hundred years of people have said it is. Even if I’m only a hundred pages in so far — that’s enough to encounter the windmills.

What are you reading this week?


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