When I posted my thoughts about the classic novel, Don Quixote, I never dreamed that within one week I would see 17th and 18th century artistic renderings of the story on the walls of a palace!
On our summer trip to Germany, my friend and I decided to go to the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin. This palace was built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte.
In one of the first rooms we walked through, I noticed the scene in a tapestry–the tell-tale helmet on one tall slim character and the round character on a donkey–could this be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? Yes!
Made in Paris, the tapestries were presented to Prince Henry, the brother of Friedrich the Great, as a gift from Louise the XVI of France. Imagine! This book, written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, was so popular that 18th-century artists created huge paintings and tapestries to depict the scenes, and kings gave them to other kings as presents.
And a glorious painting filled the ceiling, showing the windmills Don Quixote imagined to be giants…
To the best of my ability (typing in the correct letters into Google Translate), the French text curving under the ceiling mural translates in English to “Don Quixote led by madness to be a wandering knight.”
What a strange and thrilling experience to see that the author (1605), the artists (tapestries 1763-1784) and all of us today were all reading the same book!
One note about the palace, and something that made me proud to be German. The palace — like so many cities and churches and palaces all over Germany — was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt starting in the 1950’s. Thank you, Germany, for that determination and devotion to restoring the breathtaking beauty in art, music, architecture and gardens throughout your land!
I regularly recommend this novel as one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the pleasure of this story!
Actually, the full title of the novel is El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Low-Born Noble Don Quixote of La Mancha). And, apparently, this was William Faulkner’s favorite book; he read it once a year, and Don Quixote was his favorite character.
I didn’t know all this, however, when I sat down unenthusiastically to read it. Because the description made it seem so dry, irrelevant and archaic, I had to “make” myself read Don Quixote, because I wanted to read more of the classics of English literature, and this one makes it to the top of many lists.
Don Quixote did not start out with a bang, as many novels do today. In fact, I felt that throughout the book there was no clear main plot or building suspense. Rather, there were little vignettes of humorous adventures as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel, believing they are knights, trying each others’ patience, and trying the patience of those they meet, giving and receiving blows in some cases!
Once I got used to the pace of the story, I sat back and enjoyed every minute of it. What is so endearing is how their ridiculous antics are taken very seriously, and our pair are given respect and honor, even by the royal family who ultimately has the power to bring them success or leave them a failure. I found myself rooting for them, hoping beyond hope for their success, although their quest seemed destined for defeat. By the end, I was sad to leave these two “companions” of mine, Don Quixote, knight errant, and Sancho Pansa, most loyal friend, for whom I’d grown so much affection!
Don Quixote is one of the books you can find in most any library or bookseller, and I hope you give it a try!
Would some of my previous reviews of classic novels interest you? Here are The Bridge of San Luis Rey, My Antonia, The Inheritance and Pride and Prejudice. And here are more books to entice you in my post last month. I trust one of these will catch your eye!
Happy summer reading!
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza” by Jules David]
If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?
If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.
Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).
All of them were fascinating. Who knew?
Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).
It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.
Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.
That was the beginning.
These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.
I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!
And here is a list for classic children’s books.
What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge? One or two from the list each year?
Happy reading this summer!
My appreciation to the following for open source images:
There is still snow on the ground, but if the used book sales are happening, it must be spring! Two huge book sales offer Calgarians the opportunity to support worthwhile causes. I have attended these for at least 10 years, and always find great deals and unique books.
#1 – May 2-6, 2018 RESET Society book sale at Crossroads Market
RESET (formerly Servants Anonymous Society) is having its 16th Annual Book Drive and Sale on May 2-6, 2018, at the Outpost Tent at Crossroads Market.
Looking for vintage books? This one is my pick for finding vintage treasures! They are in a special enclosed area in the back right corner, very nicely organized.
One Weekend Only!
Wednesday & Thursday, May 2 & 3, from 3pm-8pm
Friday to Sunday, May 4 – 6, from 10am – 5pm
Heading to the Book Sale with Calgary Transit? There is a stop located @ 26 Ave 11 St SE for route 24 and 302. For more information or to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-237-8477. The proceeds from this book sale help RESET provide great supports for vulnerable women and their children.
#2 – May 11-13, 2018 CBC Calgary READS book sale, Calgary Curling Club
The impact of this sale on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy-filled books for adults and children.
Calgary Reads is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children in Calgary and beyond.
Such worthy causes! I hope you’ll join the fun and find some treasures!
My thanksgiving that I am accepted above, just the way I am, prompted by the beloved hymn…
J ust as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st me come to Thee
E ternal Lord, everlasting Father, O Lamb of God, I come
S inful, powerless, weak, foolish, confused, tired, I come to Thee.
U nless you fill me with your Spirit,
S adly silenced I will stay.
I nstead, however, your life flows into me,
S o pristine, pure, so new every morning.
A t your unspoken bidding, your beckon
L ifts me, laughing, above dreary clouds
I nto the sun-filled blue above:
V isions of heaven, of truth, unweighing my heavy heart, inspiring deep breaths of pure Spirit life,
E ndless hope, everlasting life.
My acrostic poem, written many years ago, where the Pacific Ocean brought inspiration, worship and gratitude.
Happy Easter everybody!
When I was in elementary school in Denver, Colorado, there was a book high on the top shelf of the school library that kept catching my eye. The book’s title was my name. How intriguing! I saw it year after year, but I couldn’t reach it, and anyway it looked too thick and grown-up to me. After I left elementary school, from time to time, I would run across the book. I got the impression that it was an overly historical book and very dull. Nevertheless, I’d often think, “One day I’m going to read that.”
Fast forward almost twenty years and I was now living in San Diego, California. One of the places a co-worker had taken me was called Old Town, a historical part of San Diego that included an area called “Ramona’s Marriage Place”. (Here is a photo of me there in 1981.) One day I was browsing around at the public library…and there it was! Helen Hunt Jackson’s book, Ramona. Well within reach now, and no time like the present, I checked it out. I was surprised to find out that it was considered a classic American novel. And to my amazement, this historical novel was set right THERE…in the San Diego area!
This novel tells the story of Ramona, a half-native woman from a wealthy Spanish family, who meets Alessandro, one of the Native American shepherds near her home. They develop a friendship which turns into love, marriage, devotion and tragedy because of discrimination against her husband.
Helen Hunt Jackson delves into some politically incorrect territory for that time in history. In October of 1879, she learned about the plight of the Native Americans and the mistreatment they received from the government. Sympathizing with their cause, she toured many of their impoverished communities, and wrote articles and a book to publicize their struggles. In 1883 the plot of a novel came to her suddenly one morning, and she began writing.
Of course I highly recommend this classic novel. The inside flap of my 1912 edition says
For over a half century Helen Jackson’s romantic story of Spanish and Indian life in California has been widely read until it has become an American classic. Originally published in 1884, “Ramona” has been issued in various editions, with a total of 135 printings. The Atlantic Monthly has termed the story “one of the most artistic creations of American literature,” while the late Charles Dudley Warner [an American essayist, novelist, and friend of Mark Twain] called it “one of the most charming creations of modern fiction.” Born in 1831, Mrs. Jackson was an ardent champion of the Indians to the end of her useful life, in 1885. “Ramona” has been three times produced as a motion picture, been played on the stage, adapted for a pageant and may eventually be utilized for a grand opera.”
More of my personal connection
I have always had an interest and a special place in my heart for the Native Americans, so of course I loved this book with its focus on these people. That, along with the fact that it was a romance based on actual history, including characters living out their faith, made it nearly the perfect book. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that the tragedy in the story was softened by an unexpected ending of kindness.
The book inspired the Ramona Pageant, which is still performed in the hills of Hemet, California. It is said to be California’s Official Outdoor Play and the longest continuously running outdoor drama in the United States. The original “Ramona” movie came out in 1928, and was remade in 1936, starring Don Ameche and Loretta Young. I’d always known that my grandmother named me after the song, but when I found out that the song was created for the movie based on the book that I loved, I was beyond excited!
While I was growing up, many teachers and other adults sang the first few lines of the song to me, and I finally found a copy of the entire song online. It just so happens that I love it; it is a very sweet, flowing love song. I love the references to nature–hills, mountains, babbing brook, kissing the sky, meeting by the waterfall–and hearing the church “mission bells above”.
One year our family toured southern California and we stayed overnight in the town of Ramona, northeast of San Diego. The town was named to capitalize on the popularity of the fictional character from the best selling novel. I made sure we stopped in Temecula, one of the towns mentioned in the novel (much to my family’s disappointment!), where I purchased a book called The Annotated Ramona and a little Spanish maiden figurine as a memento. The book opened up the whole historical side of the book to me, as well as a biography of the author. I learned that later in her life she moved to Colorado, my home state. Magical!
Here is a postcard a friend in California recently sent me. Notice in the far lower right corner it says, “The Real Ramona”. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it is clearly quite an old photograph. Very intriguing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my history, and will check out this wonderful book. It’s a gem!
Here are the books I enjoyed reading the most in the past year. They fall into various categories of fiction and non-fiction, old and new, and are listed in the order that I read them. The only thing they all have in common are that they are generally positive and upbeat!
I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron © 2010 – some quite humorous essays
The Man of the Desert by Grace Livingston Hill ©1914 – inspiring characters, excellent Christian romance
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (fiction) by Siri James © 2008 – absolutely incredibly awesome.
The New Year © 1968, by the amazing Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – characters of strength and integrity – a perfect marriage is rocked by a letter from 12-year-old Korean son of wartime romance
Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything that you Love by Barbara Sher © 2006 – thank you Barbara for saying that scanners are unique and intelligent and valued!
The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller © 2015. Hilarious! And it does have some good solid advice and thoughts for people addicted to buying.
Venetia by Georgette Heyer © 1958. Humorous Victorian romance – one of her very best!
The Sojourner © 1958 by Marjorie Rawlings, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling – wonderful, I reviewed this here.
Selected Stories by P.G. Wodehouse © 1958 – even the author’s foreword is funny, every story is laugh-out-loud hilarious (to me, anyway!).
Charmed Particles: A Novel by Chrissy Kolaya ©2015 – a theoretical physicist, his wife and daughter assimilating into suburban America, the last great gentleman explorer and his politician wife and their precocious daughter; all living near the superconductor supercollider in Illinois. Fascinating on so many levels, I couldn’t put it down (a debut novel—wow!).
And for a few more, here is my post from last year: Positive Uplifting Humorous Reads
What are YOUR favorites?
Happy New Year of Reading in 2018!
Thanks to ulleo at pixabay for the creative commons photo of book heart https://pixabay.com/en/book-pitched-book-pages-browse-1975830/
While listening to a radio program which mentioned Santa’s reindeer in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, something occurred to my mom about Donner and Blitzen. In her native German language, donner means thunder, and blitzen means lightning. We were both curious to know if the creator of the song chose these names because of these meanings.
Well! What fun we had on the phone, her asking questions and me surfing the Internet to find the answers. The first link I landed on said that the song came from the book.
Book? Rudolph was a book before it was a song? Now I’m really interested! Who wrote the book, and when?
In 1939, Robert L. May, an ad man for Montgomery Ward retail store, was asked by his boss to write a little story that could be made into one of the booklets that the department store gave away to their customers at Christmas time. He created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a rhyming story poem.
May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the character in the book. He borrowed most of the reindeer names from the classic 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (more commonly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas”) written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. or Clement Moore.
And now we come to the answer to our original question. According to ThoughtCo.com,
The 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” refers to “Dunder” and “Blixem”…Dutch names written into the poem by Livingston.
Only in later versions, modified by Moore in 1844, were the two names changed to German: Donder (close to Donner, thunder) and Blitzen (lightning), to better rhyme with “Vixen.”
Finally, for some reason, in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Johnny Marks turned “Donder” into “Donner.” Whether he made the change because he knew German or because it just sounded better is uncertain. In any event, there is certainly some logic in using German Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning) for the names.
Since 1950 or so, the two reindeer names have been Donner and Blitzen in both “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”
So, Mom, now we know! Here are some other fun links to check out:
The Archive.org video of the 1948 Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer film, including some stanzas from the original story poem by Robert.L.May
The touching story from the December 22, 1975 Gettysburg Times newspaper, “Robert May Tells How Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Came Into Being” (Part 2)
An NPR webpage with audio of their interview with Robert L. May’s granddaughter in which she reads the poem. The webpage includes images of the original color sketches for the book drawn by Robert May’s friend in the art department, Denver Gillen.
Happy New Year everybody!
One of my mom’s favorite verses of scripture is Psalm 46:6, so I decided that for Christmas I would make her a poster of the scripture that she could hang on her wall.
I added my visual interpretation of the verse, using pictures that displayed the chaos and terrors of today’s world in contrast with the calm and strength in God Almighty, the highest authority in the universe.
My interpretation of the last line is that many people’s hearts are raging, hardened and cold, toward others and toward God. But when God speaks, when we hear the truth, and when we know who He is that is speaking, that ice melts. Then He gives us a “new heart” that can hear him speak and submits to his perfect government of our lives and our world.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
I also believe that the word-picture of the earth melting is related to the breaking, or melting, of the power of sin, which is what Jesus accomplished in dying on the cross.
Notice that the scripture says He will put his spirit in those who trust him, and “move you to follow” His decrees and laws. Instead of waiting for us to get it together and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, he enables us to follow him.
If you like the poster, you can download it below for free, as my little Christmas gift to you!
Click here for the JPEG image
Click here for the PDF image