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Bewildering Stories

Special Challenge: Donna’s Men

Book I: Windmills Everywhere

by Michael E. Lloyd

  1. Why do Donna’s unhappy imaginings usually involve the swapping around of book titles, building façades and so on?

  2. Why does Donna often think of Shaun as “Odette”? What “Odette” is she thinking of? Does her characterization of him prove to be justified?

  3. Gauloises, Gitanes and garlic pervade the atmosphere for Donna in Paris. What do they represent? Does anything serve the same purpose for her in Oxford and Cambridge?

  4. The reader is always a long way ahead of Donna in understanding what is going on and anticipating events. Does the story fail to hold one’s attention as a result?

  5. What makes Donna see the wrong subtitles of the two Molière plays, Tartuffe and Dom Juan? Why does she not take the hint?

  6. As they contemplate Seurat’s tomb, Donna persuades Shaun that they should not disturb the artist’s tranquil scene again. When was the first time they did that? And why?

  7. It is easy to observe that there are lengthy episodes, especially in Paris, where “nothing new” seems to happen to drive forward the surface plot. Is this a story weakness, or an intentional motif? Would it have been better if the Hound of the Baskervilles had barked? Or if Godot had turned up?

  8. Donna freely admits she has not fully read all the great texts of her favorite literary sub-genre. But which single work of criticism has she probably studied several times? Hints:

    • She makes this admission to Albert Camus.
    • The diagnostician in chapter 6 needs someone to tell him if it’s “some sort of cancer.”
  9. Which modern two-word catch-phrase sums up a core theme of Windmills Everywhere?

  10. Why does Nietzsche leave the reunion dinner in a rather dismayed frame of mind?

  11. Donna’s name, and Shaun Pesaner’s, and the title of Book I, and Donna’s quest to bring down the evil forces surrounding her, all carry echoes, of course, of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. How well do its themes sit alongside the many other works about “Outsiders” that fill Donna’s troubled mind to overflowing?

  12. Was Cervantes’ hero really a top-drawer “Don” in his society? Does Donna’s surname (Burgess) tell us anything similar — and ironical — about her? (Hint: conversations with Camus, again.)

  13. Who (thus far) are Donna’s Men? How long might it take to make even a partial list? Would it include any women?

  14. Why is the inscription on Jim Morrison’s grave singled out by Donna? Does she know why, at that moment?

  15. At the end of Book I, has Donna exorcised all her demons?

  16. Graham figures on the opening page of Book I, and is then barely mentioned again until he appears “in person” in the very closing lines. How does Graham feel about Donna?

  17. Donna frequently concludes her diary entries with cryptic abbreviations, such as “ASTB, “ASTS,” or “ASTBFQC.” The key is in the very first entry (24 April): “And So To Bed, peeps. Hah!”

    The simple references there are: 1) peeps = people and also 2) peeps (Hah!) = Samuel Pepys, the Diarist of the Plague and the Great Fire, etc., who often concluded his entries with “And So To Bed.”

    Subsequent entries reflect Donna’s ever-changing state of mind, and the challenge for the inquisitive reader is to work out what each one means!!

Responses welcome!

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd
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