June 11th, 2007

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 13

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  1. Hardy, Thomas — Jude the Obscure (507 pages)
  2. Lee, Harper — To Kill a Mockingbird (278 pages)
  3. Mann, Thomas (Helen T. Lowe-Porter, transl.) — Death in Venice (73 pages)

Page count: 3,449 of targeted 12,500.

I wanted to read Mann's novella before I saw English National Opera's production of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice. (I guess this is an extension of the adaptation-from-literature thread from the previous post.) Pollard might be able to get me free tickets to Thursday's performance, so the time to read this was now.

I tried to read Death in Venice several years ago and only got a few pages into it before I walked away. Naturally, that was one of the books I left behind in Medford. I wasn't about to buy another copy, and due to my status here I can't use libraries, so I turned to the web. Fortunately, I was able to find the exact same version of the novella at www.questia.com, complete with accurate pagination.

Death in Venice doesn't lend itself well to being broken up, so I resolved to read it in one sitting. That decision put me at the mercy of British internet. Just as I was making the push down the final ten pages, the connection went down for about forty minutes. The smart thing to do would have been to go to bed and resume in the morning; clearly, I'm too stubborn to choose the smart thing!

My opinion of Death in Venice is unchanged. Maybe it reads better in German. I felt Mann was engaging in intellectual masturbation so much of the time, with gratuitous French and German quotations (or was that the translator's choice to leave a line of German untranslated?), constant obscure Greek and Roman references, and unnecessarily ostentatious descriptions of the very simple. I have no other frame of reference for Thomas Mann, but I felt at times he was trying to be another Joseph Conrad and at others (especially during the dream sequence, reminiscent of Walpurgisnacht) another Goethe. The story itself, once you sifted through the layers of pseudo-intellectual dross, isn't devoid of interest, but it seems to me Oscar Wilde told much the same story far more skillfully.

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 14

    Collapse )
  1. Hardy, Thomas — Jude the Obscure (507 pages)
  2. Lee, Harper — To Kill a Mockingbird (278 pages)
  3. Mann, Thomas (Helen T. Lowe-Porter, transl.) — Death in Venice (73 pages)
  4. Kempis, Thomas à — The Imitation of Christ (165 pages)

Page count: 3,614 of targeted 12,500.

Thus ends my Lenten reading. I did not want to race through The Imitation of Christ as I felt it would be better absorbed a little at a time. In a way, my timing is very fitting: the last of The Imitation's four books is a treatment on the Eucharist, and yesterday was the Feast of Corpus Christi.

I'm no scholar, but clearly The Imitation of Christ was written by more than one author. Each of its four books differ markedly in style. I don't think it's known whether Thomas à Kempis compiled this treatise from other sources or whether he was one of the contributing authors. It matters naught. This slim volume is filled with insight and illumination into Christian ideals.