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Posts Tagged ‘Don Quixote’

Listening to Stonehenge, and Other News

March 11, 2014 | by

stonehenge

Photo: The Stonehenge Stone Circle, via Flickr

 

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A Most Searching Examination

February 27, 2014 | by

sentence diagrams

Image via Pop Chart Lab

Pop Chart Lab, whose laudable ambition is “to render all of human experience in chart form,” is offering a print consisting of twenty-nine first sentences from novels, including one of my favorites, from David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress: “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” Of course, a print comprised of nothing but text would be not much of a print at all, so Pop Chart Lab has done us the favor of diagramming every sentence according to the Reed-Kellogg System, color coded and all. Plotting out the beginning of Don Quixote is, as you can see, complicated.

As a pedagogical device, sentence diagrams have fallen out of fashion; I never had to draw them (if that’s even the right verb) in school, nor was I made to study any grammar beyond the rudimentary parts of speech. This makes me feel like a fraud whenever I pretend to be a grammarian, as I often do. In fact, before today, I’d never heard of the Reed-Kellogg System; it sounds to me like a proprietary method for processing and packaging cornflakes.

Actually, it dates back to 1877, when it was invented by two men with great names, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg. Though the Don Quixote sample is intimidating, diagramming sentences turns out to be fairly intuitive. (“And fun!” adds a sad, sorry voice in my head.) You begin with the base, a horizontal line; write the subject on the left and the predicate on the right, separated by a vertical bar. Then separate the verb and its object with another mark—if you have a direct object, use a vertical line, and if you have a predicate noun (had to look that up) or an adjective (that one I knew), use a backslash. Modifiers of the subject, predicate, or object “dangle below the base.” Read More »

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Man with Van of La Mancha, and Other News

September 30, 2013 | by

vwmancha

  • In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath, playwright Octavio Solis, writer Patricia Wakida, and filmmaker P. J. Palmer will retrace the Oklahoma-to-California journey of the Joad family. Along Route 66, they plan to collect oral histories, documenting the ten-day journey on social media.
  • Meanwhile, photographer Jacob Robinson takes to La Mancha (and Kickstarter) to “capture the spirit of Don Quixote” for the Visual Editions project.
  • Helen Fielding has killed off Mark Darcy, leaving Bridget Jones a widow; readers are in shock.
  • Garrison Keillor has penned his first book of poetry: O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic and Profound.
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    I Opened the Door

    November 16, 2012 | by

    At last I had begun writing my long-planned book about Captain Ahab’s doomed enterprise in Moby-Dick—about Robur’s doomed enterprise in Verne’s Maître du Monde—about the doomed enterprise of Doctor Hans Reinhardt from the 1979 science-fiction film The Black Hole.

    Eleven thousand words in, and may God grant that I learn it sooner next time or else not at all, I understood with blinding clarity that my book itself was another doomed enterprise.

    As Don Quixote said: y yo hasta agora no sé lo que conquisto a fuerza de mis trabajos—I do not even know what I am conquering.

    “Master of the world”! Robur-le-Conquérant!—what a delusion! what a farce! The quintessence of megalomania: Richard Wagner named his dog Robur.

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    The Language of Men

    April 16, 2012 | by

    The New York Times made its first mention of Edgar Rice Burroughs on June 14, 1914, when the paper’s Book Review included Tarzan of the Apes among “One Hundred Books for Summer Reading.” Having asked publishers to supply the hundred titles, the Review editors did “not pretend to say what consideration has inspired each . . . particular selection”—a note of caution that veers toward alarm in the editors’ capsule assessment of Burroughs’s recent creation: “The author has evidently tried to see how far he could go without exceeding the limits of possibility.” The plot description that followed made it clear that, “possibility” aside, plausibility had certainly been breached:

    Lord Greystoke and his wife are marooned on the African jungle coast, build a cabin, and become accustomed to the wild life there. A son is born and the mother dies. A herd of giant apes invade the cabin, kill Lord Greystoke, take away the child, and rear it as their own. When the child has become a man he possesses the habits, the language, and the great strength of the apes. One day a white woman is put ashore from a ship, and the ape man falls in love with her, and rescues her from many perils. He also plays the part of instructor to a scientific expedition. The scene then shifts to Wisconsin, where the heroine is rescued from more perils. Meanwhile the ape man has been educated in the culture of his kind, and he finally proves that he has a soul as well as superhuman strength.

    Burroughs was surely unfazed by this. Read More »

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    Why We Read ‘Don Quixote’

    March 28, 2011 | by

    What does it mean to be “quixotic” today? Are street-corner preachers quixotic? Is Bono? What about film directors who dementedly pursue the unlikely grail of adapting a difficult book for the screen? The word endures because its source endures. Don Quixote de la Mancha is the first modern novel, and two weeks ago I found myself on the Upper East Side, at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, tracing the word part of the way toward its origin. In the inevitable absence of Miguel de Cervantes, it was left to the book’s most recent English translator, Edith Grossman, the publisher, Andrew Hoyem, and the artist, William T. Wiley to explain the book’s riverine significance. The Quixote Delta has proved fertile ground for world literature, branching off into numerous tributaries, irrigating any number of national traditions and, finally, trickling down into the work of some of the most singular figures in world literature, from Nabokov to Borges, Fielding to Garcia Marquez.

    But doesn’t quixotic threaten to swamp Quixote? Aren’t these words, which get coined in tribute to an author or a book, almost always treacherous? Can all the possibilities and implications of a character, or even—more ambitiously—a life’s work, be contained within the semantic boundaries of just one word? We think of Orwellian as adjectival shorthand for a state apparatus of terror and surveillance, but what if we also took it to mean window-pane clarity of expression or even a marked aversion to the poetry of Stephen Spender? In the same way, Don Quixote is not only a cautionary tale about the perils of idealism: among other things, it is also the first great book about books, a visionary parable about the responsibilities of reading and writing fiction that arrived early on in the age of printing. The river feeds into an ocean.

    Illustration by William T. Wiley.

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