In Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote, books are what drive the main character to his crazed notion of becoming a knight-errant in a world long deprived of such legendary figures. There’s an amusing chapter early on, in which the concerned friends and family of Don Quixote (the priest and the barber, with Don Quixote’s niece and housekeeper attending) inspect the Don’s library in order to determine which books about knights and chivalry have caused him to go off his rocker. For Cervantes, this episode is a chance for him to pass criticism on well-known works of the time (the early 17th century) through the voice of his characters. They debate which volumes to save and which to toss into the bonfire, a la Holy Inquisition, to supposedly purge their friend of these pernicious influences. And, in one of the many charming metafictional touches that have led critics to proclaim Don Quixote as the first modern novel, Cervantes does not spare his own work from his characters’ scrutiny!
When I started writing a naturist version of Don Quixote in early 2018, I decided to have some fun with this same library scene. Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha–whose name plays on Don Quixote de la Mancha while meaning, in a sort of Spanglish, “Take off your underwear for crying out loud”–has devoured many volumes about naturism. After Doff’s first “sally” as a naturist-errant, his three concerned friends–Dr. Nicholson, the neighbor Doña Mercedes, and the priest–take advantage of Doff’s temporary absence to pass judgement on his collection, and so the scene serves as something of a snapshot of the state of naturist fiction in March 2018. Admittedly, the characters discuss only those works that I myself had read or was familiar with at that time (and like Cervantes, I included my own works for their scrutiny). For that reason, there are quite a few more authors listed at the end of the scene, whose books Doff de Chonez has right there on his shelves, but his friends don’t have time to peruse because they hear Doff coming back into the house. All the books and/or writers mentioned in the chapter are linked to author websites or bookseller sites.
It’s important to say that there is no burning of books in my version of the scene! The books of my colleagues Paul and Robert, and those of other naturist or nude-friendly writers like D.H. Jonathan and Nick Alimonos, are all briefly and positively assessed. No true naturist books are disparaged in any way – they are merely commented on by the characters, who divvy them up so that they can read the volumes that have so motivated their friend. However, I did create two fictional foils – a pair of poor examples of naturist writing. The first one appears in the opening chapter as an example of nonsense filling the protagonist’s head:
“But there were none he liked as much as those written by the famous Brooke Lee Brookleigh, since their logical lucidity and complicated conceits were as pearls in his estimation, particularly when in his reading he came upon outpourings of adulation for the natural life such as “the natural nature of naturism is to appreciate nature naturally”; or again, “social nudity is a nude society of nudists living socially in the nude.” Over this sort of balderdash the poor guy lost his bearings, and he would lie awake at night striving to understand it and tease out its hidden meaning, though Maurice Parmelee himself could not have extracted any further meaning from it, not even had he come back to life for that express purpose.”
The other is a stray tawdry novel, the subject of this exchange among the characters as they evaluate Doff’s library:
“¡Por Dios!” exclaimed Doña Mercedes, who now held a different paperback open in her hands. “Este libro es muy sexy. That’s not naturism, is it?”
“Probably not,” spoke the doctor, “although, of course, a good novel might depict sex as much as any other part of life. What is the title?”
“Nude Beach X-capades,” she replied, “by Randy X. Riles.”
“I have never heard of this author,” stated Dr. Nicholson diplomatically, “and I suspect that our friend ordered the title by mistake. Let that one inaugurate our pile for the recycling center.”
“It is a most unfavorable circumstance,” began the priest, “that duplicitous people seek to exploit normal curiosity about nudity and naturism by turning it into eroticism and pornography.”
“The church could be more helpful on that account,” said Doña Mercedes, arching an eyebrow. “¿No cree Ud., padre?”
“Sí, sí, sí,” sputtered the priest, “and I do my best to encourage what we call body acceptance in my homilies. But, would you have me change an entire institution that has been going strong for centuries?”
“Change often comes slowly, this is for certain,” said the doctor, “and yet, simply reading a book can make a big difference.”
Doff de Chonez, like his literary model Don Quixote, doesn’t always fully understand the consequences of his advocacy, which he enacts with a fervor that is genuine but often misguided. Yet he is also capable of unbridled lucidity, and he successfully converts more than a few acquaintances to an attitude of acceptance and even participation in social nudism.
Cervantes published a second part (in 1615) to his original Don Quixote (1605). I may well add on to Doff de Chonez’s adventures at some point as well, and if I do, I will be sure to update references to the growing genre of naturist fiction!