Reading the Classics

At long last I am reading Don Quixote. It’s been a goal of mine for many years to read this classic that has become such a part of everyday culture, everyday language (example: the word “quixotic”). Just a few days ago I purchased a gift at Barnes & Noble. The bag supplied for my purchase was inscribed with a drawing of Don Quixote and a portion of the book’s text. I’ve always felt that I was missing out on something because I’d never read this renowned work.

I shy away from the classics, probably because I read so many when I was in school and college. I sometimes found them challenging. George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss was a tough read for me, but I got through it eventually. War and Peace was also a challenge (and, truth be told, I never finished the lengthy essay that concludes the book). Though I admire John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, it was another difficult read for me, as were William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury (never finished it) and Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Like many modern readers, I don’t favor long, descriptive passages, which are commonplace in classic fiction. In this day and age, who needs detailed descriptions in books when we can easily watch a movie or television program to fulfill our visual needs? But it has been a pleasant surprise to read Don Quixote and find that it is so easy to absorb and enjoy. It is a lengthy book, but it is not at all laborious reading. The plot, characters, and, above all, the humor, transcend the centuries to provide an entertaining story for today’s reader. So far I have chuckled my way through three quarters of the book and look forward to enjoying what remains.

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