Re: Cervantes: Don Quixote
I'll defend Nabowkoff. (Probably a losing battle, but as JLB says, a gentleman only fights for lost causes.)
What he says about Cervantes and Don Quixote has to be taken with a grain of salt. He does admit the novel's cultural impact (Huge!!), but you're quite right to think he disparaged the novel's artistry.
It's an unfair criticism, because what Nabowkoff is essentially doing is comparing the mid-20th century novel, of which he was arguably THE MAN, to the 17th century novel. As with most things, with the passage of time, the way the novel is written has improved. It's a natural progression which can be applied to tennis, baseball, and usually most other things. Everything gets better, in terms of the new techniques and the new insights involved.
So to apply Flaubert's harsh aesthetics to Cervantes isn't unlike comparing how tennis is now played with how tennis was played in the 1920s. The level of ball striking and the athleticism involved aren't even close. So it's unfair of Nabowkoff to take the two eras out of their contexts and compare them mono y mono.
I will say this though on behalf of Nabowkoff. He knew how to write. He knew what he was talking about in terms of how to write the modern novel. And he spoke his mind. Next to artistic freedom, the freedom to speak one's mind, is democracy's most lasting legacy, Nabowkoff believed. And he lived it. That's rare, actually saying something and then following through. But I'm getting way off topic, aren't I? Back to Cervante's Don Quixote. I read it, and I enjoyed the consistency of the prose and the slapstick comedy. And in the end, I did shed a tear for the errant knight. One would've been heartless not to have.
If all the year were playing holidays/ To sport would be as tedious as to work--1Henry IV, Act I scene ii, lines 204-05, The Riverside Shakespeare, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974