When I was asked to participate in this blog, Meg at Random House, asked me to come up with a specific subject for Libba's post. Well, that wasn't hard. I wanted to know how she came up with the title, the signifigance behind it. Ever since I started seeing the book around the blogosphere, I've been intrigued by the title and what the book would be about. So, from that, we have "The Impossible Dream."
“The Impossible Dream”
My new book, Going Bovine, is loosely based on Miguel Cervantes’ classic novel, Don Quixote. I’m embarrassed to say that my fascination with that great classic probably all started with a vaguely remembered dinner theatre production of “The Man of La Mancha,” the somewhat cheesy musical based on Don Quixote. (Really, when we are talking levels of cheese, it doesn’t get much more queso than a dinner theatre version of TMOLM. That’s like cheese squared, which is now my new band name. “Hello, Cleveland! We are Cheese Squared!” But I digress.) My mom and I used to sit at the piano and sing Broadway songs (oh, the humanity…) and one of them was “The Impossible Dream.” That song always made me cry. Apparently, I was the world’s weariest seven-year-old. They should have given me my own bar stool.
But c’mon—it had lyrics like this: “To dream…the impossible dream/To fight…the unfightable foe/To bear…with unbearable sorrow/To run…where the brave dare not go…” Any song that uses an egregious amount of ellipses has me at hello.
I identified with Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills, with his noble ideals and impossible quest, which everyone else saw as mad. I remembered it as a celebration of this. But in rereading Cervantes’ novel, I saw that he was, of course, mocking those very ideals. This is not the madman as wise fool.
To play the association game, “The Man of La Mancha” is to Don Quixote as vanilla pudding is to habanera sauce.
Don Quixote is hailed as “the first modern novel.” And it is surprising how accurate this is. It’s like Monty Python traveled back in time with Kurt Vonnegut to write a massive treatise on absurdity in Spanish. It’s no wonder Terry Gilliam wanted to direct the movie version. It is weird and brutally satiric. It’s hilarious and sad. And it challenges us to examine the illusions to which we hold fast , the status we take as quo, when, if I may quote Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible, “the status is not quo.”
Don Quixote left me with questions I wanted to explore for myself: What is insanity? How do you define insanity in an insane world? What really matters then? How do we ever know what’s real and what’s not? My “real” might be somebody else’s delusion. How do we keep scratching away at the glossy surface of life and find what’s individually authentic while living in a society that is designed to reject both authenticity and individualism? Do we need certain illusions in order to live fully? Do we sometimes need to tilt at a few windmills as a way of raging back against the inevitable?
Life IS an impossible quest, because the truth is, at some point, we all have to let go of certain illusions, like the idea that we will live forever. Eventually, we have to die. (I’m sorry if I’m the one breaking this news to you. Would you like a cookie? I find there is very little existentialism in cookies. Unless it’s one of those jelly cookies, which is just a wrong thing to do to pastry.) Hopefully, we get in a lot of living first.
And that seemed the crux of the matter. What, I wondered, was there to do about my feelings that Alonso Quixano, Don Quixote, was both deluded and not? Could I find a balance between the cynicism of Cervantes and the sentimental idealism of “The Man of La Mancha?” In the end, I went back to the quote from Don Quixote that opens Going Bovine: “Take my advice and live for a long, long time, because the maddest thing a man can do in this life is to let himself die.” Ah, I thought, that’s not a completely sucktastic place to start. And so, there was the creation of an alter ego Don Quixote—sixteen-year-old Cameron, the slacker kid polar opposite of a knight errant, pressed into a quest he does not want, setting off on adventures both mad and impossible, and in the end, hopefully necessary, an unreachable star brushed with a fingertip for a moment—singing optional.
Make sure to stop by these other blogs to read their blog tour posts on Going Bovine.
Great News: I have a hard cover of Going Bovine to give away. Why do you want to read it? Answer that question and you are entered! Contest will run from now until 7th. US/Canada addresses only!