Wednesday, 06 September 2006

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House as Bizarro-Quijote Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that there's no way this post lives up to its title. I had this epiphany, you see, and I'm committed to seeing it through to the dirty end; only I'm not certain I can, or that it'd even work if I could. But it's spent the day gnawing at the peripheries of my consciousness, so I'm obliged to address it, lest I sleep less tonight than the 45 minutes I've slept since Thursday morning. (I know what you're thinking. I thought it too. But since I'm not dead or in a coma, I'm going with ischemia. Death of brain tissue. Short-term consequence of paralzying insomnia. Not permanent ... just permanent enough to score me a night's reprieve from hyper-scrutinizing minds.) What was I saying? I was driving at something, I remember. Had to do w—w—w— (calm down, calm down. Don't want to scare yourself into stroking out.) w—w—with House and Don Quijote. I remember now. I wanted to point to the transition from the first season of House to the second and its counterpart between the first and second books of Cervantes' Don Quijote. The problem with my theory is that it depends on some creative mappings and convenient reversals to work. Still, I think the comparison interesting enough to deserve refutation. So here goes: Readers of the Quijote are already familiar with meta-spheric movement between the first and second volumes. The first consists of a conventional romance, by which I mean, a series of adventures connected (slightly) by the central character who has them all. The second volume, however, propels the novel into the aforementioned meta-sphere. In its prologue, Cervantes informs his readers that he will not, as expected, "spit in the face of whoever wrote that second Don Quijote": I'm not planning on to give you any such satisfaction: it's true, insults may make even the humblest hearts thirst for vengence, but the rule will have to let me be an exception. You want me to call him an ass, tell him he's a liar, and impudent, but the idea has never so much as occurred to me: his own sin can punish him, he can eat it with his bread, that's that. (360) Only that's not that. That is the beginning of the modern novel, according to its most illustrious historians, Ian Watt and Michael McKeon. Not only does it saturate the second volume with Cervantes' awareness of romantic convention, it also initiates Quijote's own questioning on those conventions. If you think the Quijote a tragedy, this is the moment it turns tragic. Once the good knight punctures his fantasy, his mental adventures stop resonating historically. He begins a descent that's all the more devestating for its increasingly perfunctory quality. He desperately wants the scrim to drop again, but even when it does, its opacity has given way to a translucence he finds blinding. House inverts this movement from comfortable convention to cold, hard fact. In the first season, the...

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