So, since DQ got the shaft in the reading poll, I figure there's no reason it still can't be discussed by those who still may read it (and anyone else who wants to jump in).
So far, I've read about half. I like it. It is quite bizzarre, but in a good way. I am also reading the Edith Grossman translation, which so far is very good and easy to read, and also not overly-filled with footnotes.
What I find most surprising about DQ is that it definitely does not read like something 400 years old, though I think that's more due to the translation than anything. But, diction aside, the story (or, more accurately, stories) move at a very brisk pace. There is rarely an over-use of description, which I am very much glad for. Sometimes older texts take some effort to get through (not saying this is a bad thing); so far, DQ has been quite easy.
As I said, DQ is bizzarre. It is funny, no doubt, and I've even chuckled a few times (which, for me, is akin to laughing uncontrollably at a movie; I just don't laugh that much while reading). Some of Quixote's speeches are just hilarious. But, the humor is quite dark, which I didn't expect. Quixote and Sancho do seem to get beaten quite often, usually to the extant that they are near-death. And the scene where Quixote "saves" the servant being whipped, which only results in the cruel master beating him worse, was a bit sad and disturbing.
Now, I admit I am reading mostly immersively, so I'm not explicitly doing an analytical reading, but I haven't stumbled onto much deeper meaning within the text. I'm sure there is plenty of political and religious commentary going on, but definitely not as much as some "deeper" texts (unless I'm just totally overlooking it).
One question, though. Why is DQ seen as the first great modern novel? It seems an odd book to be declared so (i.e., what reads often like a goofball comedy). Now, this isn't a criticism, just a question made out of ignorance. Throughout the novel, many chivalric novels are referenced. So, beyond being different than anything else that had been written, what made DQ stand out as the first modern novel?