I am Don Quixote

11ABE7BK82Not the Don Quixote,
But definitely A Don Quixote.

On the backside of life.
I have accomplished little of note.
Obscure, unremarkable, unknown.
Yet I have dreams…
Impossibly bright, impossibly distant stars I have never come close to touching.

Quixote gives me hope,
Courage to keep dreaming, to keep reaching.
Quixote may have been crazy.
I don’t know. My opinion?
Decades of mere survival convinced him that reality wasn’t
All it was cracked up to be.

And so he donned his makeshift armor
Mounted his unimpressive steed
Found his muse in a common village girl and
Set out to live a life of raw, crackling adventure.

From a distance, he certainly seems mad.
Yet isn’t it Glorious Madness?

By the sheer power of his belief,
Quixote transformed and ennobled all he touched.
The common village girl became an Immortal Muse, Princess Dulcinea.
Windmills morphed into giants.
A mere donkey became a glorious Charger,
And a humble servant found himself squire to a great knight.

This life  of mine – closer to its end than its beginning – does not impress me.
And since my opinion is the only one that matters…

I wish that I had tilted at a few more windmills
That I had my own distant Dulcinea to whom I pledged my troth
That I had a nemesis with whom I jousted
And my very own Sancho Panza to shake his head in wonder at my folly.

I want to feel like I seized life by the collar, and shook it until the quarters fell out of its pockets.
(My god, it really is the things we don’t do that cause the most regret.)

I suspect Quixote regretted the pain of his wounds.
But did he regret his quest?

No way.

He could not have regretted playing the fool…
Loving with a whole heart or
Riding into battle against a worthy foe.
Quixote he had a Star.
And a Star is – by definition – unreachable.

The beacon that taunted his quest also illumined his path.
(That’s some deep stuff right there.)

I mean, isn’t that Life?
This constant striving after something we never reach?
We desire so much more than we can grasp.
Even those who command great wealth
Yearn for something unnamed and unnameable.

If it is intrinsic to the soul of man
To yearn for more,
If unfulfilled yearning is our curse,
Then why not make it glorious?

Why not tempt death on the field of battle?
Why not endure terrible wounds from imaginary giants?
Why not make an utter fool of myself and be laughed at by sensible folk?
What difference will it make?
They will never touch their Stars either…

Does it pain them knowing their Star shines down, beckoning from above?
Or are they too dead inside to look up
To let their hearts be ravished by its beauty
And broken by its elusiveness?

I think I’d rather play the fool on a mule, tilting at windmills
Than be sensible and safe at home,
Never gazing in wonder and longing at the midnight sky.

I am Don Quixote.

“Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson

Pattern RecognitionNeuromancer is apparently the William Gibson book I should have read 20 years ago. I didn’t. And still haven’t. But I did just finish his Pattern Recognition.

Quick impressions: It is – on the one hand – unlike anything I have ever read. On the other, it is a fairly typical but engaging mystery story.

His protagonist, Cayce Pollard, is a “coolhunter” with a bizarro allergic response to American advertising. She inhabits a world at once far cooler, far techier and far more strange than the humdrum one most of us experience. (It’s also a wee bit contrived. But hey, it’s a novel.)

Cayce is part of an online community focused on an underground film which is being released into the world one clip at a time. The mystery to be solved is the identity and motives of the filmmakers. There’s a Russian mafioso, an Italian high-fashionista, an Oklahoma-born Asian-American hacker, a couple of eastern European entrepreneurs, a Belgian advertising genius and lots of jet-setting around the world on unlimited expense accounts.

You know, pretty much like a normal day for any of us.

Things I loved: Gibson does an absolutely masterful job of creating a mystery that kept me completely engaged from beginning to end. He gets the technology world we inhabit now, (or at least the world we inhabited when this was published in 2003.)  The plot clips along at a nice pace throughout and the writing style is quirky but refined.

Things I didn’t love: Super strong plot, super undeveloped characters. I guess I’d describe this book as an internet-age version of a John Grisham novel. Also, the denouement felt, frankly, a bit contrived and a bit rushed. Almost like he looked up at the calendar and realized, “oh crap, this book is due at 5:00 this afternoon”.

I’d give it 3 stars out of 5.