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Steven Seagal is a Hero

February 6th, 2017

Don Quixote is Just a Psychopath

I’m sitting here trying to find the gumption to continue reading Don Quixote. No wonder I skipped so much of the reading when I was in college. I feel like I’m getting psyched up for a colonoscopy.

In an earlier post I quoted the author Vladimir Nabokov, who said a bunch of flattering and patently inaccurate things about Don Quixote. For one thing, he called the protagonist “gentle,” which is like calling Richard Speck gentle.

Here’s something weird: Cervantes fan-niƱos can be found on the web excoriating Nabokov for criticizing Cervantes. Nabokov called Cervantes’ work “crude and cruel.”

I wonder what the truth is. Was Nabokov pro- or anti-?

I have to go with the critical Nabokov. Don Quixote is remarkably free of any type of compassion. When DQ breaks an innocent man’s leg, it’s a trifle. It’s supposed to be funny. Cervantes himself calls a hunchbacked, one-eyed girl who has done nothing wrong “this engaging creature” (en EspaƱol). When DQ gets impatient with Sancho Panza, whom he considers a friend, he beats him with his lance, and we’re supposed to go on liking DQ.

I’m thinking Cervantes may have been a sociopath. He may have been unable to feel love or pity, so he may not have realized it when he crossed the line.

To push the notion even further, I think this book may be a good litmus test for sociopathy. If you really enjoy it, and the cruelty doesn’t wear you down, you have an issue. Some essential pieces of your heart are missing. You would probably enjoy a GWAR concert.

One of the rules of fiction is that if you want to put suffering in your work, and you don’t want the reader to sympathize, you should make the characters who suffer look like they deserve it. You can see this rule at work in any Steven Seagal movie. Steven Seagal can’t just march onto the set and start snapping people’s arms backward at the elbow and setting them on fire. Maybe it was hard for his directors to make him understand that, but it’s true. If he wants the audience to root for him, the people he hurts have to be set up in advance. They have to put him in a coma and shoot his partner. Something like that.

If Cervantes had written a Steven Seagal movie, it would have started like this: Steven Seagal is lying in bed with his really good-looking wife. They smile and cuddle. Then he shoves a bayonet through her throat and says something snotty while she dies. No, no, no. That doesn’t work. You have to lay some sort of John Wick-style groundwork. Stomp on a puppy. Steal Keanu’s Mustang.

Maybe the people who defend Cervantes are cruel and underdeveloped. Cervantes can’t see his own problem, and neither can they, because they’re just like him.

Just spitballing here.

What time is it? About 1:30? This isn’t working. I haven’t killed enough time. I still have time to sit down and read. Man.

I saw some foolish person claiming Nabokov was worse than Cervantes, because Humbert Humbert, the main character in Lolita, was a sexual predator who went after a young girl. What a stretch. You’re not supposed to like Humbert Humbert! Hello? It’s okay if a villain does bad things. Obvious, right?

I plan to gag my way through at least 30 pages today. I’m glad the copy I bought was cheap. I would hate to spend more than ten bucks on an experience like this.

It’s 1:34. I guess I better get to work.

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3 Responses to “Steven Seagal is a Hero”

  1. Terrapod Says:

    Steve

    I am genuinely curious why you are reading Don Quixote? I was obligated to read it in school (Spanish speaking country) and did not enjoy it much, however, the whole emphasis by the teacher as I recall, was on the prose, the beauty of the way the language was being used and of what Spain was like at the times. He did not dwell at all on the actual brutality or psychopathy you describe. I did read it in Spanish so maybe there is a rough edge to the translation. Frankly I am not sure I want to re-read it. Platero y Yo was more my speed at the time. Then again there were more macabre stories such as those of Cuentos de Amor de Locura y de Muerte by Horacio Quiroga, which literally turned my stomach.

    Two Years Before the Mast was quite good if you want to learn about sailing days. Heck, I would be scared to listen to what the present day teachers have to say about Robinson Crusoe or Gulliver’s Travels

  2. Steve H. Says:

    If you were to go back over my blog posts for the last six months, and I don’t suggest that you do, you would learn that I am punishing myself for refusing to do the reading when I took Columbia College’s Literature Humanities course. I found a syllabus, and I”m making my way through it.

    It’s pretty awful.

  3. Terrapod Says:

    Ah, I missed that little bit of information, makes total sense now. I hope you make it through the stack without a relapse into socialism .