A Good Argument in Favour of Book-Burnings

   This morning I happened upon my friend, Jay.  He was in the middle of taking apart the Jetta TDI I sold him this past January.  Wen I asked him why he was dismantling a perfectly passably good car, he informed me that he was going to use the parts to build a British “Spitfire” (World War II aircraft) which would run on diesel.  When he was done building it he showed me to the cockpit and we took off amid my protests that we had little fuel.  He disregarded my warning and took off, flying low over the 403 highway.  As he turned the nose up to gain altitude I awoke.

I’ve thought about this dream all day and I think it has something to do with the fact that Jay and I both applied to the Air Force and while he was accepted fairly quickly I may be waiting yet another year for selection.  “What are you trying to tell me, brain?”

My Friends,
   As I mentioned recently, I have begun the book “Don Quixote” by Cervantes.  I am enjoying it thoroughly and I find myself highlighting many passages and taking notes in the margins.  I am happy to once again be reading a book I am passionate about.  Alas, it is a bittersweet feeling because when I inevitably have to put the book down for want of any more pages to read I will feel as if I am saying good-bye to a dear friend.  (nerd alert)  The last book which elicited this feeling in me was called “The Journeyer” by Gary Jennings,* a fictionalized account of the many adventures Marco Polo may have had but not mentioned,  predicated on his alleged deathbed rebuke to detractors who accused him of tall tales: “I have not even told half of what I have done!”  This book inspired me to plan a trip retracing his path to China through the Levant and Asia Minor.  Ultimately, this idea evolved into my current objective: circumnavigate the globe.
  The most important theme I took from “The Journeyer,” and perhaps that which has had the most sublime effect upon my outlook, presents itself as a phrase spoken to Polo by vastly different people in vastly different places throughout the book.  The phrase sits upon my corkboard, just above my previously mentioned sword (See: “Over-Ambition: The Bane of My Existence,” 3 Aug 2011)

Yeah, that’s my sword bottom right and a love note from my woman above it….I know, I know, chicks are for fags

“I should very much have liked to go there and seen that place, and I never did.”  This sentiment is perhaps the saddest thing I can conceive of.  I identify with it because I am inclined to see the world, but I think it has a more general message of regretting chances not taken.  ( e.g. “I should very much have liked to talk to that girl and at least asked her out, and I never did,” may be a variation that drives the message home a little more aptly for some)  Given my penchant for exploration, I can’t say I had any choice but to identify with this statement.
   So now, resolved to undertake this undertaking trip which has been nagging at me for the last two and a half years, I have begun reading “Don Quixote,” and I can’t help empathizing with his motivations: my mind has been similarly warped by “hellish books of knight-errantry,” which have engendered in me a desire to “dip [my] hands up to the elbows, in what is called adventure.”  Furthermore, we both welcome hardship, “[looking] upon every occasion of this kind, as an act … that strengthened the proof of [our] knight-errantry.”  Finally, we both have a Dulcinea del Toboso, a maiden whose presence in our thoughts empowers us to persevere, if only to be the worthier for her.  
   This identification with a literary character is not something easy to explain to someone else as I found out yesterday when I tried explaining my delight in reading the book to my foreman:
Me: This book I’m reading is about this guy who’s an idealist and he goes around looking for adventures but everyone thinks he’s retarded…I know what that’s like.
Foreman: Awww, we don’t think you’re retarded; we think you’re gay
(See: “To All the Hetero Men,” 30 July 2011)
Notwithstanding the difficulty in conveying this empathy to others, we must also be careful of getting too caught up in literary fancy.  I am reminded of Virginia Woolfe’s “To the Lighthouse,”which for the record I did not read, but we discussed it at length in class and I feel this qualifies me to expound on it, wherein the father traipses about all the time reciting the poem, “Charge of the Light Brigade,” imagining himself one of the poem’s soldiers, bravely leading his troops family to certain death a picturesque lighthouse on their vacation.  If memory of the professor’s analysis serves, he became so dissociated from real events that he alienated his family while never actually physically leaving them.  
   Therefore I must be careful too.  Although I may identify with Quixote and emulate his finer points, I must be wary of his excesses; he already got gooned by some peasants and dummied by a windmill.  As well, the rosy, idealistic view I have of the world (“people are essentially good and want to help each other out”) must be measured against the realities I will face.  Or, as Immortal Technique would say: “See things how they are, and not how you like them to be.”
“Smart nigga from the hood, pussy! What type of crime is that?”

   So as I prepare to sally forth into the great unknown I will continue reading about the “Man of la Mancha,” hopefully gleaning as much wisdom from his failures as I do inspiration from his attempting in the first place.
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo
*Gary Jennings also wrote “Aztec,” a similarly excellent work of historical fiction which is a confessional of an Aztec boy from the last generation of his people before the arrival of the conquistadores.


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2 responses to “A Good Argument in Favour of Book-Burnings

  1. I like that quotation. He hits the nail on the head in regard to comfort: its over-rated and there's time enough to be comfortable when I am old and feeble, with a lifetime of discomfort fondly recalled from an armchair to occupy my mind. I like that your dad gets it, and I think you will like DQ more than for just the spirit. The translation I am reading (by Tobias Smollett) has been praised for maintaining the vitality and cleverness of the original Spanish work, and stands on its own as a masterful use of the English language.

  2. B.

    well you've convinced me to read DQ. it was always a favourite of my father's, a bit of a traveller in his own right. i still don't the whole story out of him, but i know he hitchhiked to haiti, drove a beater car to the yukon, and was in india at some point. i think i've experienced enough adventure myself to understand it.thought i'd levae you with a favourite adventure quote of my own: I would not know how to instill a taste for adventure in those who have not acquired it. (Anyway, who can ever prove the necessity for the gypsy life?) And yet there are people who suddenly tear themselves away from their comfortable existence and, using the energy of their bodies as an example to their brains, apply themselves to the discovery of unsuspected pleasures and places.– Pierre Trudeau, "The Ascetic in a Canoe"

Go'head! Talk some shit! :-)

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