The Tin Drum

I got this edition from the library so I only decided to read the first story, The Tin Drum and the third, but due to the due date and subsequent move out of the city of “Hell’s” Angels, I’ll have to wait to continue to the third. This story, however starts with Oskar, who’s interested in writing his thoughts down on paper and resides in a mental institution. He has periodic visitors, among them a lawyer and Bruno whom he refers to as his keeper; the latter brings him reams of “virgin” paper whenever he runs out. He then begins to share a story about his grandmother, which is when it feels like the story truly begins. (This is also where I’m noticing if I continue to read German novels it might be in my interest to look for the Polish authors, since so far I’m distinguishing this text more easily read and less depressing than more Germanic writers are. I also learned this is where Alice Cooper got his inspiration for his out-of-school song. It’s so blatantly similar I was surprised to recognize it so nonchalantly mentioned near the beginning of the book.) Oskar is precocious and quick for his age, which is shown throughout; it’s mentioned he’s a Virgo and shows the personality traits of one, also with the large ego of being even more clever than everyone around him, he plays dumb so a neighbor will teach him to read (since he blew his one and only chance to be taught at school; ignorant rigidity of the teachers of the era).

Once truly in the story, it’s easy to delve into Grass’ world; or so I believed, soon changed. Oskar starts to become something of a super-hero with his precision glass cutting scream with a side of mischief making and also with his drum sabotaging anything instrument-related he discovers within stomping distance, but there’s bits which are quite dull to get through and I identify myself plodding difficultly. Although after a rough patch, I read an article which made me stick with it. I’ve now made the connection between Grass and John Irving. They’re both clinical in their descriptions at times, sexual in a backward interest topic, and extremely vivid. (It’s also quite like a reverse Benjamin Button, but only if I want to stretch the analogy as far as it can go. But once I plodded ever vigilant to getting finished with this book, I realized how obsessed Oskar was with his mother; it was a nice realization once it dawned on me, which made him protective of her. Although once I was 124 page’s deep, it made perfect sense why he would be allowed this odd relationship with her, since he ended up suffering far more due to the unfortunate circumstances which occur to them).

Oskar befriends Herbert Truczinski when he is around 14 because Herbert has a plentiful amount of scars with “back” stories; Ha-ha. He is an old friend who influenced Oskar. (Later on Oskar’s Western Astrological sign is mentioned yet again, for personality quirk purposes, I suppose.) It describes, in some detail, many streets and stores in the city, and then gets much more interesting. He convinces Herbert Truczinski to buy him a ticket to accompany him, since Oskar still looked so young he was able to get in for the kid’s price. The only problem and good thing about this book, is it’s detailed structuring. (Sometimes it’s wonderful, other times it drags on and I need frequent breaks. This is like the German Les Miserables. And I believe I enjoyed Hugo over this by a bit. And then it shifts again and I realize I’m enjoying the story.) It is a book with waves of good and tired bits.

Oskar then discloses of keeping a book of all his drums and their “careers” since 1949 (the list-taking is a Virgo thing for sure, I can relate, and know many who do, as well.) Oskar also deals with a point where he had to question who his father was. Which was entertaining to figure out. (This is also the only book I’ve read so far which could make a card game called skat, let alone any card game, sound exciting and maintain it’s feel of camaraderie. I’m also realizing I’m relating to Oskar having to begrudgingly take command of the situation whilst under the stress of being bombed and keeping up a game of skat with his Uncle/Father and dying postal worker and staying calm and keeping Jan focused and the postal worker moving so he doesn’t literally lay down and die.) The end of the story is a grim one, but fascinating none-the-less.

Then, once I start thinking this is beginning to sound Don Quixote-like, lo and behold, he’s referenced not too long after my thought. Also Maria sure does become a good friend to him in the way of drums for awhile. Which was satisfying in a small way, but then to learn she eventually becomes Oskar’s first love when he’s almost 16 feels awkward, but doesn’t linger; instead, it’s more embarrassing for Oskar, since he allows himself to be treated like a small child still, but doesn’t consider changing since he knows how to work adults more easily in his current state. (Due to many of the course sexual references, I keep wondering why I’m continuing the story: it’s well written, descriptive, imaginative, also Grass shares a birthday with Oscar Wilde, which I believe foretelling since I read Wilde’s complete works and it may be the qualities which are helping me stick with this: those being listed above.) Although, Oskar’s introduction to oral is quite surprising and amusing, but also odd since the reader has to catch the metaphor. Any 15-year-old would hate to remember or at least truthfully divulge a story like this, but he does “get lucky” in a lucky way.

Grass, through Oskar also makes known something which should become a more known disgust if not fret of men. Oskar says at one point he despises how his downstairs takes over at the most bewildering of times, with no rhyme or reason. There are also many strange and sexually ambiguous characters whom are thoroughly explored. Some are more fascinating and easier to read than others, but they are all well-written and the ones who emote a sense of respect towards one another and pure friendships bloom because they are good, but some are troubled more than others, as well. Oskar becomes more desperate after meeting Maria and she becomes a more constant presence in his life, until she decides a different path and he’s surprised by what she does and doesn’t do in this time in their lives apart. Oskar has some strange fantasies about his family revolving around his grandmother’s skirts. Oskar gains a crew when he is followed and then shows them his breaking windows talent. The leader takes him in as one of them, begrudgingly, and Oskar takes the opportunity to make himself seem beatific by introducing himself to them as Jesus. Oskar then becomes the new leader of the youthful gang and proceeds to get them to implement troublesome plans, which he designated out to his crew as he sits back and hears about the wonderful mayhem. Oskar becomes more egotistical, once Lucy starts ruffling his feathers. He at one point sees himself as a, “human unicorn” and the most important of his group, the Dusters. They certainly do undertake some blasphemous missions which Oskar shows mild guilt at the start of the discussion of his Catholicism, but by this point, he’s obviously reached a new more contemptuous viewpoint of what he feels acceptable sacrilege.

It starts to adopt a dark humor I enjoy, in the church during their prank and how one of the Dusters gives a speech so moving, even Oskar has the desired feeling of soul-saving sermonizing. The next episode of Oskar, preludes us with a story of a young man who climbs a high-jump dive-board at a public pool, to see the view, when his buddies put him on the spot whilst everyone’s attention was already being diverted by his climb, from the start. Oskar introduces his similar story with the Dusters, but for them, it’s Lucy who’s a part of a panel of judges who was to encourage the Duster’s to jump. Then she tries and fails to get Oskar to jump, proving one does not have to be conquered by suggestion. Even when Lucy tries her whispering tactic, “Jump, Sweet Jesus, jump.”, doesn’t work, Oskar makes his way back the way he got there. Matzerath is then approached by a court official mysteriously alluding to getting, “the child off the streets.” Calling him gullible and easily swayed by “bad crowds”, essentially. Lucy does become a thought of dread to Oskar since he doesn’t see her again, so when he hears of unexpected visitors at the mental institution, he fears it’ll be her. Oskar still does utilize his size and his ability to act toddler-like to get him out of trouble, if he can. Even though by this time he should be around eighteen or nineteen years old. (I must remind myself he wouldn’t necessarily have found maturity at his age since he became counter-obsessively using his “baby” act for so long.) Oskar has also kept his respect for Goethe and Rasputin since his first discovering and learning to read by them so long ago. Oskar usually feels the need to show off his talent to those who show talent themselves or to help others through his talent. He liked pretending he didn’t care, out of arrogance and ego, (in line with what I would expect) which doesn’t change through his childhood or young adulthood.

Matzerath’s cellar is shown, along with the rest of the family, plus Oskar to await the invading Russians with devastating results. The next bit gives background on the city name and who pillaged it. It goes on about the history of how battles started and how the people tried to defend their homes. The Russians are still about, so Oskar and the family stay hiding in the cellar, to wait. The man who takes over the grocery story helps the family deal with some hard tasks Lina Greff would have done, if not for her hosting a houseful of Russian soldiers. They move in to Mother Trucszinski’s flat. (Then I learn Matzerath hates margarine as much as I hate it, today!) Similarities throughout the ages. Also something similar is how the newly adult military “kids”, goof off during their tours. These Russians take what now is considered one of the world’s most beloved pastimes and wheeled transportation, free-style bicycling with items taken from homes and jumping ramps off them and using bathtubs, grandfather clocks and radios, among other items, doing stunts. Meanwhile Oskar is studying Fajngold the grocer to see if he can deduce what he’s contemplating. Whilst trying to get where they’re going, they accrue two young Russian cadets with tommy guns to escort them wherever they’re going and they make their unwanted presence known by their obvious clumsy inexperience trying to cover it up with silent, serious exteriors. How serious would you take a sixteen year old? Exactly.

Oskar starts feeling cheated by not having the shop go to him and only having Kurt and Maria to show for his years with his family. Their goal of destination is shared, and they continue on foot due to the obstacles being too large to get to where they needed with whom they had in tow. Kurt doesn’t change, his brandished reckless violence making him easy to see him as an expendable brat. No one is beyond Kurt’s abuse, but in this section, he goes after a caged lovebird. Oskar has come to a life-changing decision near the same time his son, Kurt does. A long coming confession from Oskar regarding the Party pin Matzarath almost got caught having in his possession is also confessed. Oskar’s main memorable moments of Matzarath being about his cooking and nothing so sentimental as his possible paternity. He lets his last Bebra-bought drum symbolize his farewell to Matzarath. Oskar believes the nosebleed which follows is the start of his growth. Shugger confirms this when reacting with fear as Oskar faints out the end of the scene,ths also when Oskar’s height is learned. Also, by this time it’s determine he’s older than 21 and he was only three feet by then. A reiteration of the cemetery and Heilandt’s strange reaction to Oskar’s growth spurt is gone over. He also tries to forgive his son his violent act against him by trying to believe he did it to help him accelerate his growth, so Oskar would finally get some acknowledgement from Kurt he is his father. Doctors also come up with a physical explanation for Oskar’s stop and then spurt of growth later, which Oskar doesn’t believe at all. His thinking was, he had started growing and stopped after, and before the physical “traumas” occurred.

When Oskar becomes ill due to his sudden growth a lady doctor is found, and he appreciates her upfront and terse countenance, which I can relate to, Grass was thorough in at least his astrological and most likely his geographical knowledge. I also learned more about the characters of Rasputin and Goethe both of which I haven’t read or done much research on, but soon enough, I will be. Fajngold realizes his family plus Maria and the children (Oskar included) were infested with lice where the explanation goes on with Oskar feeling more relief whilst his illness when Fajngold disinfected everyone putting him completely at ease. (It then mentions a concentration camp story involving Fajngold, which is engaging, but I’m indifferent to, since I’ve sworn off reading Holocaust related materials due to the overabundance of reading them in school.) Oskar’s illness continues to recede and flare through the spring. Fajngold changes the grocery store’s merchandise and Kurt becomes a prolific salesman at the age of 5. They get a visit from Oskar’s Grandmother where Fajngold and she swap stories. After, Maria decides to go live with her sister. Mr. Fajngold bids them farewell and Oskar uses a way of seeing the world which has become easy to adopt and quite calming to apply: He says, Fajngold waves them goodbye from the train station until he no longer exists. I use the same concept, depending on mental faculties and if the person has done everything in their power to combat it, if they haven’t I don’t consider them “real” and don’t necessarily give them the deserved normal courtesies all “healthy-minded” individuals worked at receiving through normal means.

The next section is told by Oskar’s nurse, Bruno, of when Oskar and family are on the train and it keeps being stopped by gangsters and such and when Oskar showed a picture of his Grandmother, it saves their belongings from being stolen for an odd reason, which is why I bring it up at all. Oskar also attributes his growth, lengthwise and of his, ahem, nethers, were aided by the jiggling and jolting of the tracks, also relieving the constant pain so much growing gives, another funny observation. He also lost the ability of breaking glass with his voice on this trip. After getting Oskar to a hospital, Maria gets him transferred closer to where her sister lives. By the close of this part, Bruno finishes his writing and a full description of Oskar’s person and also a mysterious charge Oskar was put in to the hospital for in the first place, is mentioned finally. Oskar continues saying he doesn’t even bother reading what Bruno wrote. He than says he’s grown another inch and was released from the hospital. He then goes to Maria’s sister Guste’s house to discover Maria dealing black market synthetic honey and Kurt begins a business venture of his own, even having a mysterious source which irritates Oskar for not knowing whom it could be. Oskar reiterates Bruno’s description of himself and what his view is toward himself: handsome, despite his hump which now developed on his back.

Oskar applies an everyday exercise I use, except he conceives it, perhaps more “fun” to label, in this case, happiness according to various types of stone since he was able to acquire a job helping a tombstone engraver, similar to Simon Birch now I think of it. Possible tsk-tsk on John Irving?Anyways, they both get fitted for suits and Oskar pulls off a demonic intellectual look whilst Korneff, his employer, who has boils all over his neck looked quite impressive as well. Oskar was feeling lucky, so he decides to ask Gertrude, a nurse from the hospital he stalks once in a while and they go out to dance. Oskar was going to back out of the date if he could when he realized Gertrude is normal looking outside her uniform, but doesn’t get the chance, so when they get to the dance hall, they wait a bit to get settled and then Oskar asks Gertrude for a dance, which is hesitantly accepted. The completion of the dance has everyone clapping to them and Gertrude becomes embarrassed and excuses herself. The night gets more eventful when he meets two young telephone-operators, one of which asks Oskar to dance. Gertrude isn’t seen again, other than the hospital. Oskar then talks of the headstones he’s carved and where they were put. He witnesses a woman’s exhumation and when he tries to help the diggers (since he had his spade handy) he shovels some of the woman’s corpse fingers and notices their beauty, oddly. Oskar spirals his conversational thoughts to himself until ending up acknowledging he may have hallucinated Lucy Rennwand when he thought he saw her on the train.

Oskar decides to move on from his telephone girls and their connections in favor of taking Maria out and recognizing he’s been responsible for Maria and Kurt’s financial well-being for over a month already and how he was in preference of this, also being told it was partly due to Kurt’s connection drying up. He proposes to Maria and gets strung along until she locates the scissors to finally cut Oskar’s hope of typical family living loose. Oskar mopes about his declined proposal, thinking it would have led to his career as a stonecutter being expanded etc., but because of the plan not working, now he must capitalize off his hump instead. He also spent his time sitting in the park for long periods and letting his appearance go, naturally. On one of his sittings he’s approached by a girl at the behest of her companions to uncover a model to paint. Oskar took to the offer seemingly readily, but he soon realizes being sketched may not mean it coming out flatteringly. He isn’t bother by this for long, since Oskar keeps an aloof exterior, and is soon offered a position to pose nude for the instructor who sketched and molded Oskar’s form in clay. They bonded over their previous careers and Oskar continues to pose for the students on the side. As he advances forth to posing, he becomes something of a hidden gem, until the painters on the floor above discover him and see what the sculptors have been studying and Oskar poses for them also, which seems to satisfy his obsession with wanting his blue eyes to be accounted for, but like the others, the students use blue for most of him, (which reminds me of Sacré Bleu) which describes the reason of some painters obsession and fascination with it.

Oskar decides to join in what is known as carnival week where his costumes makes Kurt laugh so hard he can’t stop coughing. His costume didn’t have the same effect on the carni-revelers, though, but he makes it to the party, where the artists try to sell food and whatnot rather than actually partying. Oskar makes acquaintances with two Chinese lesbians, interestingly and they “make use” of his hump in a way which gives him confirmation of his hump being lucky for women. His companionship with them and the champagne turns him introspective, though and he contemplates the meaning of life. After, he is asked for a cigarette from an old acquaintance, meanwhile being captivated by the soldier acquaintance’s young, drunk date while reminiscing. The girl’s name immediately reminds me of Wonder Boys since they share the name Ulla. Michael Douglas’ character says, “I never forget an Ulla.” Which apparently helped me not to forget either. Oskar decides to help Ulla in her want to becoming an artist which makes Lankes happy. They all retire at Lankes’ place and Oskar gets a chance to be closer to Ulla; the horn dog. When Ulla confesses to them of not wanting to be a muse to artists, but only wanting to “belong” to Lankes, he institutes the usual acceptable response to women in those days and she accepted being a model to the academy, with the help of Oskar. For a “young girl” she is of model-esque height and Oskar and she become the popular duo with the title of Madonna 49, where Oskar poses as a broken Jesus. Maria is upset by the poster which is made of them, but it does get sold for a generous sum and Oskar and Ulla become a popular modeling team. Ulla doesn’t escape Lankes’ wrath, though, since he seemed to be of the malevolent nature he had shown from the start. Oskar also developed these feelings toward Ulla, oddly, but instead of succumbing to assault, he treated her to going out, either to a pastry shop or to buy her small gifts.

One of the artists had a more intimate relationship with Ulla, later described by getting her in a certain position and doing a similar act as those of porn-buffers without having to touch her; ha-HA. Oskar was used to being made to have some object put in his hands to offset Ulla and eventually he brings the one object Oskar had no desire to hold and he says so. Ulla convinces him otherwise, with much distress on Oskar’s side. Maria sees this version of the Madonna 49 and cracks Oskar with his son’s school ruler. She believed it was vulgar and felt above him due to her upstanding position in a delicatessen, she wanting nothing more to do with Oskar. She takes it back, but Oskar didn’t want to continue living with his son and her sister. Maria agreed and offered Oskar to look for a place not far from them, which he seemed to agree to. Oskar stays with the Academy of Arts to be painted and drawn for the winter through the next summer and has no trouble admitting his own foolishness, identifying with Parsifal, a fool also. Besides, he visits Korneff the stone-cutter once again and ends up being offered some part-time work on top of posing as a model due to rent being raised.

After starting a carving and finishing in 3 hours, Oskar’s paid and goes to look at an apartment, which he accepts and learns a nurse, among other tenants share Zeidler’s home. Then sufficient description of the abode and Oskar witnessing a spat between Zeidler and his wife. Zeidler’s outburst resulted in him breaking and cleaning up a glass which made Oskar remember his glass shattering days, minus the clean-up after. Before Oskar takes his leave of them to go to his room he demonstrates some acrobatic moves to show how healthy he is since Zeidler asked how he stayed so small and also about whether he still played the drum attached to his suitcase which he didn’t care whether he did due to his absence from the house on most occasions, which didn’t impress upon Oskar since he played little, if at all. Oskar begins to think of the nurse which he admits is an obsession he can’t and doesn’t want to give up on. Bruno believes only men make proper nurses since they give particular care and sometimes are cured whilst women have the ability to seduce the patient sometimes to recovery and sometimes through “seasoned” erotic death.

Oskar won’t let Bruno’s view mar his of lady nurses though, due to being saved by them every few years. Oskar believed Bruno’s opinion was a professional jealousy. He then lists all the nurses he’s loved and been saved by through the years until the one he’s rooming with is related. He explaining having to take a bus which brings him straight to the stop which picks up nurses and it’s the same as his own and at first he acts with distaste to them, but than hunts them, essentially for their smell coming off the uniforms. He begins noticing them pass him at work which costs him an indiscriminate amount of money. After, Sister Dorothea, the nurse rooming next door begins to catch Oskar’s attention more by her noise of coming and going. He also has a tendency to check the door whenever he hears her and when the mail comes, he would take special interest in what she received. Obsessive little Oskar even has an inventive fantasy involving becoming a physician to be closer to Dorothea. Oskar goes on to say how his whole life wasn’t completely overrun by nurses and how he had to stop inscribing tombstones once the summer semester started at the Art Academy. He teamed up with Ulla once more and they both made good wages from modelling. Lankes has left Ulla to which she easily forgot by immersing herself in the art of Meitel; she believes her relationships will be long-lasting and serious. She did learn one thing stuck from him and their engagement, which was an extended vocabulary which she tested on Oskar, after which another artist began collaborating ideas of Oskar’s which eventually included the addition of a nurse being portrayed by Ulla.

One day though, Oskar tries Dorothea’s door, which is unlocked and he decides a bit of breaking and entering is in order since half the job was already done (her room was unlocked already). The room is described in a dilapidated way and Oskar identifies the smell he’s been noticing is vinegar and then wonders if perhaps she’s been having to use her meager sink to wash her hair with said liquid considering she may not have been able to use the more pleasant accommodations of the hospital bathroom facilities. He then discovers her hair color and she might be losing her hair to which, in his blind love of her, he wants to help her with by supplying her with some hair treatments as soon as he can. Then he takes some of her hair from a comb and stores it in his wallet, removing what was in there to make room. After slight examination of her bed he decides to give in to the temptation of curiosity to look in her cupboard. Oskar deduces even more about Dorothea from the cupboard which fascinated Oskar, making judgments about the articles she did have and the amount of importance she must have had of them. Oskar then becomes intrigued by the type of books she stored in her hat compartment. He wanted so much to become a part of her cupboard area, he moved into an area which fit him perfectly and closed the doors most of the way shut. An item he discovers in the cupboard behind his back brings a reminiscence to him of his mother, Jan Bronski, and Matzerath when he was three. Dorothea’s belt reminded him of an eel from his memory. Oskar’s recollection expands to eclectic thoughts of his mother, which ranged from her singing a particular song to how she would gorge herself on a particular foodstuff until she couldn’t divulge in it any longer, to her graveyard of choice. Then it’s alluded he may have masturbated and smudged the belt to the point of needing to buff it to make it look like it did, before leaving her room. Cheese and crackers, nasty little Oskar.

Oskar becomes quite interested in learning who a Dr. Werner was to Dorothea and searched her books for an inscription or picture and found neither, which pleased him since he seemed to have the upper hand in personal details about Dorothea. Meanwhile another tenant, Mr. Munzer seemed to want to get Oskar’s attention to which Oskar failed to notice nor care due to being consumed with Dorothea, but he did feel a little guilty after, since talk with Mr. Munzer would at least break the lonesome monotony. After a few days past, he continued his modelling with Ulla and they posed as different Greek mythological gods and demigods. Not long after, he was getting the mail and noticed a letter from Dr. Werner and Mrs. Zeidler set it at her door and Oskar bided his time calmly and then boiled some water to steam the letter into opening, the little blighter. He learned Dr. Werner did have feelings for Dorothea even though his letter was extremely conservative in intimate details. When finished he reseals it and leaves the letter where he found it, then hears Mr. Munzer speaking to him from the other end of the hall asking for water. Oskar makes an excuse for himself to comply with the request since he didn’t think it right to do it because he asked unless he were ill. Mr. Munzer or Klepp as Oskar began to know him as, had such a pungent aroma, from his first moment well into the times he would come to visit Oskar in the hospital which Bruno would open every available window once he left (similar to a character in Kingdom, another Stephen Fry TV show). Klepp, at the time of his bedridden-ness had taken to pissing in empty beer bottles; his living in filth is quite extensive. Oskar, at the time, introduced himself as Matzerath for some reason, since he was feeling humiliated at the moment. Only on rare occasions did he use the name Bronki, usually using his Grandma’s name Kojaiczek or by his first name. Klepp looked older, but proved younger than thirty.

Oskar then is told by Klepp of he believing in destiny, but doesn’t believe everyone may be born for a reason since he was certain he was born by mistake. He also discerns the length of Klepp’s stay thus far at Zeidler’s. They agreed it was a shame they hadn’t met sooner and blamed him for not mentioning it sooner. Oskar then learns the reason for Klepp’s being bed-ridden is because he’s determining the state of his health…(Okay). Then Oskar shares a pot of spaghetti which would make anyone pause, if not throw away all set before him and run to the nearest five star Italian restaurant, but Oskar, bless his heart, first stared and then ate it down like a little champ, then to his surprise and my disgust and dubiousness, enjoyed the contents. Oskar and Klepp share their interest as they get to know each other spending their day together, then Oskar decides to pick up his drum once more for Klepp and to Oskar’s surprise and pleasure, Klepp joins him with his flute. After finishing their impromptu jam session, Klepp gets up from bed and washes himself, like a purification process, then they congratulate each other warmly, for their musical moment was to them, like a resurrection. Klepp’s new lease on life had everything to do with Oskar deciding to team up in his jazz band idea. He bacame a new man, but because of this, Oskar believes Klepp is trying to do the same for him, to get him out of his mental hospital bed, because he had “deprived” him of staying in his own. Oskar is then mentioned to possibly not being in his bed on his own recognizance, but also because it was court-appointed and so Klepp, besides his futile attempts of convincing Oskar out of bed, also petitions the court, all because Oskar begrudged Klepp of his own and although they had the two of them in the band, they felt a guitarist was needed and took pictures and enjoyed the movie theater a lot. In the end, Klepp found a wife instead; ha.

Bobby, who led a dance band in a bar would let them play with him sometimes because he got a kick out of Oskar’s drumming even though, he also was a percussionist, despite a finger missing on one hand. Oskar meanwhile, was getting distracted with thoughts of Dorothea during their gigs and so would miss his cue periodically. Klepp would misconstrue these moments as hunger pangs and order sausage. Oskar let him believe this was so as to let him torture himself with thoughts of her independently from Klepp. Oskar had also given up modelling unless with Ulla, who was engaged to Lankes for the Nth time, but only if they needed cash for more movies, otherwise Oskar was dedicated solely to Klepp’s band. He also rarely visited Maria and Kurt since her new husband stayed present.

Klepp and Oskar then had a task of tacking down a fiber carpet-runner for Zeidler so as not to break anymore glasses, so when they finished and tested it, they were in the midst of congratulating themselves, when their doing so put Zeidler in a spiteful tantrum and began breaking glasses. After this Oskar finally meets Sister Dorothea. It was after a late night with Klepp and having left him to continue the search for a guitarist, Oskar goes home with the intention of sleep and failing to do so, comes up with the idea it was due to having stood on the leftover coconut-fiber mat and the stimulation had perked his brain into restless activity. He hears two doors of the front half of the home open and close and decides it’s Klepp, though not believing it at the same time. He resolves to actually stand on the mat since he kept thinking about it, then he uses it to cover his lower half, since he left his pajama’s at Maria’s for washing. He then enters the hallway and aims his trajectory for the toilet, determining one had occupied it already, but didn’t leave since it was the only un-fiberless-carpeted area, to the dismay of the female sitting there already. Oskar tried to make a light bantering response to her scream and cries of him getting out in the hopes of distracting from the awkwardness. She wasn’t having it and tried to push Oskar out, but aimed too high.

When Maria re-aimed lower and felt the fiber she screamed again and thought Oskar an evil entity, which amused Oskar when she asked again who he was. Oskar playfully goes along with her feared presumption and reveals to her he’s Satan, coming for her which makes her ask the reason and Oskar, given the opportunity to confess the truth, replies he’s in love with her, which Sister Dorothea wasn’t about to tolerate and said so. Then when trying to escape, she runs into Oskar and the pelt and his body made her feel faint. She fell and Oskar helped guide her descent onto the carpet outside the toilet. He continues his joke in the hallway and tries to “excite her with the carpet he had used as cover for himself; what a little pervert. Meanwhile Oskar couldn’t get excited himself to his own embarrassment and tried to think of his past exploits to help him along whilst referring to “it” as “Satan”; in this case, suitable, but he couldn’t unearth the feeling. When she felt his skin and humpback, Oskar admitted the truth of his name and feelings for her. She responded with sad tears and left him sitting there and locked herself in her room, rightly so. Then Oskar, still not having given up, goes to her door and scratches at the front whilst hearing what must be her packing up her belongings to leave; sensible lady. Oskar gets this confirmation when she opens the door finally, kicks him aside and leaves, to Oskar’s dismay. He also has woken the Zeidler’s with all the noise and should leave the hallway for his room, but he stays lying there whilst Mr. Zeidler instructs him he should get to his room, and when he stays silent, unmoving, admits to Oskar they should put him out because of his behavior, whilst Mrs. Zeidler giggles until being told to be quiet by her husband who is getting properly rageful, but Oskar is saved by the entrance of drunken Klepp with their equally drunken new guitarist. They pick him up and dress him, then get his drum on him and take him out as he continues to wax woe. They sit on the river Rhine and jam, during which they come up with a name and Oskar treats them all to breakfast.

Oskar and the band liked playing alongside the Rhine so much they befriended a restaurant and nightspot owner through mutual environmental interests. Whilst they played, Schmuh, the owner, “hunted” sparrows. They didn’t start off friendly, though and had met whilst both were occupying space in the area. Schmuh had been annoyed of their playing scaring away the birds whilst Klepp complemented his rhythmic shooting perfectly in time with their music, making Schmuh pleased. Schmuh’s wife thought it would be serendipitous if he employed them at his restaurant and he agreed. Klepp negotiated their salaries to everyone’s satisfaction. The Onion Cellar, was a newer higher class restaurant nightclub which a list of other quirky sounding titles are listed. It was like any dance club one would wait in a line to get into these days. The Onion Cellar was actually at one time a ground-level apartment, so whilst it didn’t have a cellar, the name still suited the place. (Similar to some cafe’s and restaurants in downtown Phoenix , as I’m told and I’m sure, as well as other interesting cities, but couldn’t say off the top of my head.) Anyways, a summary of The Onion Cellar and how artsy and classy it is follows, along with the other restaurants, old and new in the vicinity, the impression being about the reason for The Onion Cellar’s popularity revolving around Schmuh, a shawl and the entertainment he gives and interaction with the guests.

It’s then shared why the place is called The Onion Cellar. (I also found a pairing of food I have yet to try, but am curious about: Onions with apples, and/or onion rings; I like the idea.) Also there’s a second, more “human conditional” reason people flock to The Onion Cellar, a sad and pathetic one, but still a reason we struggle with in this century as well. Meanwhile, Oskar and the band, have their out-of-the-way sitting spot and hear all the people confess here and Oskar goes on to mention a few guests appearances as well as a favorite confessor. Oskar is one strange character himself, suffering abuse from the same person the confessor spoke of. All for love, interestingly enough. Oskar loses both big toenails because of it. Oskar also speaks of a young odd-couple who meet through the train and end up at The Onion Cellar. (It worked out quite well for them, which I believe, the first couple had a good outcome as well.) The band was there to help get the people back to normal and move on for the next group to come in. Quite odd reasons for a band to be hired, but this seems to be Grass’ shtick. Also like certain jobs, the band had a clause forbidding them to use onions how they are used in The Cellar, which suited all of them one way or another: Oskar had his drum to help him, Klepp was backwards and didn’t understand the right time for such emotions, and Scholle was too happy of a person. I can identify with all three, some moments are easier to laugh at, plus a sunny/realistic disposition doesn’t hurt.

Then after Schmuh’s wife gets a hold of an onion whilst with her friends Schmuh is partial to, she confesses terrible habits he had making him give an extra round to the group after his wife and her entourage leave, which makes everyone go crazy to the point of Schmuh asking Oskar to do something since Klepp only found amusement in the debacle and Scholle followed Klepp’s suit. Oskar drums them like the pied-piper to get themselves together, out the door and apparently thinking they’re kindergarten age making them all have a surprising reaction, which stays with them, including Schmuh well after releasing them, leaving them all wet, but not worse for wear.

Schmuh couldn’t forgive Oskar his charade, though since it didn’t include the “power” of his onions. He fired Oskar and the band then goes so far as to hire a fiddler passing for a gypsy, but when complaints and steadfast refusal to continue attendance at The Onion Cellar from regulars, Schmuh had to accept a compromise. It being only to play three times a night with the fiddler playing three as well, plus a raise and tips. It goes well until the day of Schmuh’s death. The Schmuh’s and band had gone on a Rhine outing. On this day Schmuh goes against his 12 cap limit, the dope. When they’re ready to leave, Oskar decides to stay for a walk instead and they go on without him. Oskar takes the same direction and soon sees the Schmuh car overturned with only one serious victim. The reason behind the crash is reminiscent of The Birds, except with sparrows. At Schmuh’s funeral, his widow still in the hospital, Oskar is approached by a doctor who was a guest at The Onion Cellar and present for Oskar’s regression session, wanting to offer him a contract as a solo drumming act to perform large concerts for equally large sums of money. Oskar would have done so if not so shortly after Schmuh’s death and declines until a healthy mental-health vacation is had, to think it over. Oskar does accept an advance along with calling card, though and goes on his trip with Lankes, preferring Klepp, but hospital-bound and also Maria, but she would have had to bring Kurt and they both were still tied to Stenzel. Oskar also wanted to invite Ulla, but Lankes hi-jacked the offer as well as boxing Ulla’s ear for considering going. Oskar was now on vacation with Lankes and they head to Normandy where a taste of how stingy he is being related. He had brought his easel and Oskar his drum along with luggage.

They stayed on the Atlantic Coast and Lankes traded his picture for a fish, which Oskar cleaned and made ready to cook as Lankes found wood and cartons for himself to paint on. Lankes then, needing to make sure he got the best of everything wanted Oskar’s opinion as to which side of the fish was best, Oskar gave him the advice he remembered from both of his parents, which conflicted, and of a doctor which Lankes didn’t trust the advice of, anyways. He does the opposite of the doctor’s advice to be safe, but it didn’t fully satisfy him until not only did Oskar offer him to try his piece, but reassure him his tasted better, after trying his in turn. What a Seinfeld; his mother told an anecdote where he wouldn’t accept a slice, but wanted the whole pie or nothing at all. Then Lankes informs Oskar he ran into Lt. Herzog and how he’s been going to Cabourg for years and would visit them, which he did, surveying the area and then trying to inspect inside their nature-made abode, which Lankes refused to allow him to do. When Herzog wouldn’t take no for an answer, Lankes puts him on his back with fork from fish still in hand. Then Lankes made sure he got the point by dragging him, then tossing him over a dune. Herzog made a quick exit after. When done reminiscing about some nuns Lankes and Oskar had met way back when, some real nuns come walking along the beach, one young, far ahead of the others, which Lankes keeps an eye on from the start. At first she declines the advances and follows the others calling to her, but when the nuns are ready to leave, she makes her way back on pretense of shell-gathering for children and does naughty business with Lankes in their hut. After she leaves to go swimming, Lankes detects inspiration in her being a nun along with titles for the art inspired by her which he makes some success from which prompts Oskar to call up the doctor to do likewise for himself. Klepp was feeling spurned because of Oskar’s growing lack of interest to playing jazz, until he discovers a replacement.

Oskar discloses how he couldn’t consider moving back in with Maria and how he’d occasionally drop by the Academy as a guest model. Ulla, proving to be a ditz or at least in the eyes of Oskar, dropped Lankes again because he kept cheating on her and didn’t beat her any longer; odd. Oskar seemed to be struggling with the idea of calling Dr. Dosch and so tore up his card to realize it was engraven to his memory. He was obsessed with the thought of calling, he finally did and was asked to come in the same day to meet with the boss. When he arrives he’s surprised to see Bebra in an interesting condition. Bebra begins by going through all the terrible acts Oskar’s committed. A contract is then set before him which allowed him to drum in concert and start touring. Though Oskar had the money advanced to him to move, he stayed on for Klepp’s sake who didn’t like Oskar’s official contract dealings, but Oskar didn’t care. When he started his tour, the publicist had made him out to be a faith-healer and so the crowds were drawn to him were of the mid-to later years. Oskar became so popular, a word was made from his name. After his third tour he made a studio album which made him a rich man, but he still didn’t move out of Zeidler’s, because of Klepp and due to the room where Dorothea resided. Oskar decided to proposition Maria with a promise most would consider difficult to refuse: He’d finance her own delicatessen if she didn’t marry Stenzel. She, being a proper business-woman, goes for it and now has two branches.

Oskar then has a nice inheritance given to him after learning Bebra had died many weeks before whilst he was touring. Due to grief, Oskar cancelled some tours without giving sufficient notice and was sued. To make matters worse Klepp had decided to get married and didn’t invite him, then left Zeidler’s, Oskar being the only tenant left. Zeidler had begun to treat Oskar with respect once he became famous. To prevent further depression and/or loneliness, Oskar rents a rottie named Lux and he’d walk him in the hall. They also ended up walking the Rhine where Lux would lead him. Oskar began disliking Lux’s loyalty, even when setting him off the leash, the dog still following and when Oskar kicked him and the dog would run, he’d loyally return, acting guilty. At one point at a rye field, he gets the dog to stay gone for longer and reminisces until noticing, upon Lux’s return he has some object of doggie desire with him. It turned out to be something of human relation and so Oskar took the object with him and then Vittlar, noticing Oskar and dog, compliments the dog. Oskar, not in the mood for conversation with Vittlar asks him why he’s up in a tree, and he responds it’s to do with apples. Oskar gets more annoyed when he’s dragged into an allegorical conversation and Vittlar asks what Lux found in the rye field. He continues to question Oskar until getting to his point, since he had seen more than he’d let on. Oskar, after being properly introduced to Vittlar, called him a friend from then on, even though Vittlar had, after turning him into the police. Then Vittlar’s testimony in court is shared, during which Oskar is described acting oddly with the object found, making stops to drop off Lux and visiting Korneff. Oskar then informed Vittlar of his intentions to keep what was found, giving his reasons.

After ending their day and making arrangements to meet again, they meet up three days later with a surprise for Vittlar from Oskar. Soon it is identifed whom the object belongs. Vittlar goes on to testify the goings on after they had commandeered a streetcar and thus ran into someone about to be executed from Oskar’s past from the post office during the war and the execution was going to take place where Vittlar’s mother lived near the rye field, which both protested. When Oskar drums at the execution though, it puts them off and Vittlar becomes bothered by Oskar’s indifference to success, which Vittlar hadn’t experienced, this being when it’s realized the reason it being Oskar whom was given up to the police and how they still could have stayed friends. Then a jump to present and on Oskar’s 30th birthday, his lawyer gives the news the police reopened the case due to uncovering the real culprit of the crime, to Oskar’s dismay. Now he’ll have to leave his comfy, life-blocking bed, which he’d stayed in for nearly 2 years and contemplated going to America to be with his Grandfather. Then it seems Oskar has the longest elevator ride as he awaits to be arrested and also at present contemplating his future and what to do now he’s thirty. He seems to digress into nervous confusion and being obsessed by running into the black witch and the poem accompanying it. Strange story, vast and not half bad with its winding interlinking characters.

Steppenwolf

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I had not heard of, nor found interest in reading Herman Hesse, until I had heard of Siddhartha (having now decided Buddha is enough when it comes to the subject of Siddhartha), but then I found Steppenwolf and thought this would be an interesting read as well, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a mysterious story of an old man who we learn is dead, while his story is being told in his own words by a manuscript found by a family he was staying with. We learn, he believes he’s a werewolf; which is probably why the preface covers how he came to the house and how the young man who met him discovers his strange behavior or lack thereof, due to his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, werewolf-type personality.

After my initial interest, it started to wane due to all of the long-winded conversations, sometimes idle, other times introspective ideas of what it’s like to live with two opposite kinds of personalities coexisting. It may sound interesting, but it’s a bit dry in description and since there aren’t any chapters it’s harder to soldier through it, but breaks between this book helps greatly. It also has bouts of easy to read spots and then I immediately realize I’m slogging through more mundane description; but after, Harry goes to a party and starts opening his eyes to his innocent sexual experiences, only not awkwardly.

From there on it’s still a struggle between wolf and man, but it’s also about his romances with multiple women without getting attached except for Hermine; but, there are also a social hallucinogenic dream and which is when the rabbit hole is reached. Harry completely loses himself in this hallucination and the consequences are obvious. I can’t deny it’s “emo” before it was fashionable, but it’s much better after his dream took him and how it ended in a way I didn’t expect; I don’t regret the effort.

Short Stories of Thomas Mann

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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.)

“Tonio Kroger”

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!