Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What We Teach- Literature

I remember reading about Don Quixote and the windmills when I was in high school. It left almost no impression, except I felt once again something was a classic because no one would enjoy reading it.

About two years ago, Ezra read this version and laughed his head off. He could not wait to tell us the many ridiculous things Quixote and Sancho had been up to. He was so delighted that when I saw an inexpensive copy at Bear Pond a couple of months back, I picked it up.

The book is hilarious. The introduction explains something about it being the first modern novel, which seems like something that should have been included in my high school visit to La Mancha. I am not able to defend that particular statement about it being the first novel, but I can tell you that it is full of jokes and scenes any reader will recognize from one place or another.

It isn't exactly a page turner, all the same. Many (maybe most) of the paragraphs span more than a page. However, once you surrender to the story telling, Cervantes wants you to have a good time. His story is rife with irony, surprising situations, rank cynicism, and scatological humor. I found myself talking about the book at dinner and at our library group.

Then- I found myself having to take the book from Ezra who plunged into the 18th century translation with the same delight he gave to Martin Jenkins' version. As of this morning, I am also sharing my book with Phaedra, who could not put it down when I called her for lunch.

I am not really sure what this all means; I'm not sure what we're teaching in this. I just feel a bit like halo-polishing as my 13- and 11-year-olds delight in a cumbersome classic. Whatever we're doing, this one looks like it's working.

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