Will I die never having read Don Quixote?


I bought Don Quixote about six years ago at a station. Probably either Manchester or Bristol as I was commuting between the two cities at the time. Dark days. There was some problem: the wrong kind of leaves, or a butterfly flapped its wings in Brazil. And therefore chaos and problems with all the trains.

We were told to expect the journey to take even longer than usual. So, I bought this enormous book.

But in that wonderful blitz spirit way that people adopt in the face of adversity and highly flawed train infrastructure, all the passengers sitting on the floor near the toilet in the foyer between carriages became firm friends for the duration of the journey. I don’t remember what we talked about or what any of them looked like. In my memory now, we’re all passing round a hip flask and sharing hilarious tales of adventure – but that’s my memories for you. I do remember laughing a lot, that the long journey passed pleasantly, and that the book remained untouched.

Until now.

When I finished Boy, Snow, Bird and was looking for my next read – its time had come.

This is a 950 page beast of a book. And almost a month later, I am barely over 100 pages in. Some of it is quite funny. Some of it is fairly interesting. But it is not gripping. The characters are not at all real to me; I couldn’t care less what is going to happen to them.

I almost never abandon books. But I am seriously considering abandoning this one.

I have read 31 books in 14 months since I started this blog. If I continue at the same rate, and if I live for a further 498 months (taking me to a respectable 80. I don’t expect I’ll last much longer than that, certainly not with marbles in tact) – then I will be able to read 1,102 more books in my life.

A sobering thought. 1,102.

I always thought I’d read or reread the complete works of Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy L. Sayers – to name only three – which takes me over 50 for a start. And definitely everything by Jules Verne, Edith Wharton and my beloved Robert Louis Stevenson. Well over another 50.

Helen Oyeyemi is 31 and she has written six books in ten years. I want to read everything she ever writes. That could be another 36. And there are lots more Oyeyemis that I have already discovered, and am yet to discover.

1,102 is starting to feel like an alarmingly low number. And like I should put Don Quixote to one side. It’s not doing it for me and it’s enormous. Maybe I should crack on with some others.

Unless you’ve read it, and it really starts to motor along after page 120? Otherwise, Don Quixote can join bungee jumping, oysters and Las Vegas on the list of things I will make my peace with never experiencing.


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