Friday, November 18, 2011

Enough of That, Mister Mann

I'm nearly finished with Death In Venice and Seven Other Stories, the collection of Thomas Mann works I've been reading. This is my first exposure to Mann, and I have to admit that the stories are pretty uneven. "Disorder and Early Sorrow" may be the best thing I've ever read, but it's hard to say because I read it in the context of other Thomas Mann stories so critical distance isn't perfect. But it's a damned fine story. "Death in Venice" is a technical marvel, showing absolute control over the formal elements of the narrative and for a few hours after finishing it, I was sure it was the best thing I'd ever read. "Tonio Kroger," "The Blood of the Walsungs" and "Felix Krull" fare less well, being not as focused on character or possibly they're just too self-consciously symbolic and pedantic for my tastes. "Mario and the Magician" is a violent, mean-spirited tale that made me laugh all the way through it. "Tristan" is sad and quite fine. "A Man and His Dog" should be required reading for all students of writing, as a teaching tool for how to properly write a digressive story and how to write about nature.

Anyway, if you are interested in reading some Thomas Mann, the stories I recommend are "Death In Venice," "A Man and His Dog," and "Disorder and Early Sorrow." They are all on the longish side. Did I mention that Thomas Mann won the Nobel Prize for literature? Some day I'll read The Magic Mountain or Doktor Faustus.

I hope that this exposure to Mann has an influence on my own writing. Certainly I feel the urge to make my prose more like his, though really what I like about Mann is his observing eye and the way he lingers over expressive details. I'd like to steal that, though Mann knew a lot more natural history than I do.

Even so, I'll be glad to put the volume back on the shelf this evening and pick up something else. God knows what that will be. I have a surfeit of unread books at home and every time I look in their direction I am convinced that I have nothing to read. Possibly some Faulkner, though. Or some Camus. Or MacMurty. Or the last book of Beckett's "Malloy" trilogy. Or some Paddington Bear stories. Or I could start making an effort on my Variations on a Theme story, now that I've got a (fabulous postmodern) idea for it. Time will tell, etc.


  1. Oh, Scott, this makes me excited! I most definitely want to check out those stories. I wonder if I can get all that on my Kindle. Don't glare at me... ;)

  2. I'm awfully sure Amazon will sell you a kindled version of this collection. I try not to judge.

    Hey, I think I'll read The Awakening next. And then some more Woolf.