I didn’t know of Thomas Mann by name, but I have known of his Death in Venice story for quite awhile so I jumped at the opportunity to read this collection. I also didn’t know how much he struggled with his bisexuality, but after reading some of Death in Venice I’ll not be taken by surprise again.
“Death in Venice”
I first became aware of the character Tadzio through Rufus Wainwright’s song Grey Gardens when he played it on Isaac Mizrahi’s show. After hearing that song, I’ve had the interest in learning about the story behind it since. I learned the first part of the story tells of Gustave, his career, family, and how highly he esteems honor.
He takes a trip to Venice where he becomes enamored by the looks of a fourteen-year-old boy with his three sisters and mother. He continues to observe the boy throughout their stay marveling at his beauty.
(It’s a disturbing tale which I skimmed the ending of before finishing, but it only rejuvenated my resolve in finishing it quicker and once I truly finished I was still surprised. It’s a fascinating read.)
Another tale surrounding two 14 year old boys who live in affluent families and the relationship between them.
It becomes clear Tonio is deeply in love with the other boy he’s practically hiding passionate hysterics. It’s quite a tired way of seeing longing portrayed.
Then time passes and he gets an even bigger crush on a girl. Which is reminiscent of Mann’s real life.
(I then stopped reading the story for a short break due to too many German writers I’m reading at the same time, I perceive it depressing and dry, and by the mid-end it’s terribly dull but still gets easier to read by the last couple paragraphs.)
“Mario and the Magician”
It starts by describing people in a city. Laid-back for the first few pages and ridiculously slow to get to the point but once he does, it’s entertaining.
It’s spoken at the reader, instead of putting one into the story with dialogue. I considered this story one of the more difficult of the collection to get through.
And then he successfully turns it around by making it awkward, weird and violent at the end.
(I’ve decided to skip the rest of the short stories due to the troublesome pace they have. Even though these selected stories didn’t capture me, I definitely enjoyed my foray into his quaint, idyllic, yet depressing views on life and love and repressing one’s passion.) Here’s to happier reading!