Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Venetian Blind

My ongoing quest to read books that I should have read before continues to yield mixed results.  Sometimes I come up with something amazing, like Pale Fire; other times it's a dud.  Sadly, "Death in Venice" falls into the latter category.  I don't think it's a bad story, it just doesn't do much for me.


Thomas Mann wrote this novella, in which a middle-aged writer mopes around and obsesses over a much younger boy.  The language of the book is great - it's hard to tell how much is the translation and how much is Mann, but there are some really beautiful passages.

But - and this is a failing of mine, not a failing of Great Writers - I want more than great language from my books; if I was satisfied with beautiful similes and thoughtful construction, I'd read a heck of a lot more poetry than I do now.  When all that great writing is devoted to the task of illuminating the sad, pathetic, often petty life of a rather pompous man, well, I just don't feel that thrilled.


I wasn't enthralled by this story.  I'm sure it didn't help that my copy started with a translation of "Tobias Mindernickel", in which a strange man buys a dog, pampers it, and then stabs it to death.  (Yes, that's an oversimplification, but I don't have a lot of tolerance for that kind of thing.)

I'm definitely not done with Mann - I'll probably pick up The Magic Mountain one of these days, and may also give Doctor Faustus a whirl.  I doubt that I'll return to his short fiction any time soon, though, based on what I read here.

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