Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Mann’
August 16, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- If you live in New York, you have to make your peace with Keith Haring—his public works are all over town. But the city’s murals rarely, if ever, showcase Haring’s once-in-a-generation gift for drawing cocks. To see that, you must turn to Manhattan Penis Drawings for Ken Hicks, a new book of Haring’s dicks that “envisions the city as a kingdom of phalluses”: “he transforms Manhattan’s churches, skyscrapers, and fire hydrants into architectural penises. The Twin Towers become twin penises. There are penises drawn in front of Tiffany’s, in front of the Museum of Modern Art, while ‘waiting for a yam.’ There are minimalist penises, composed of as few lines as possible. There are also Gucci penises, alphabet penises, flying torpedo penises, optical illusion penises, deconstructed penises, ‘actual size’ tracings of penises, and clusters of penises on the subway at rush hour.”
- Here’s one way museums have found to make money: they’ll let you watch the varnish dry. It’s not quite as lively as watching the actual paint dry, no, but for people with a new interest in the art of conservation, it’ll do. At the Musée d’Orsay, Doreen Carvajal reports, “the once mysterious craft is increasingly turning into a high-end reality show—long-running spectacles that appeal to donors who lavish money on makeovers, but trouble some conservators accustomed to quiet and absolute concentration … In the slow-moving drama of restoration, fishbone cracks vanish, figures that were muddy sepia become radiantly blush, and yellow clouds, thick with old varnish, transform into white gauze tinged with rose. The results are a publicity bonanza for museums; they tell a before-and-after narrative that attracts media attention and appeals to crowdfunding campaigns and companies that have never donated to art projects before.”
- In 1938, Gertrude Stein published The World Is Round, a book for children. Let her never be accused of condescending to kids—she dumbs nothing down. In fact, the manuscript sounds pretty much the same as her works for adults do: “Everywhere there was somewhere and everywhere there they were men women children dogs cows wild pigs little rabbits cats lizards and animals … Rose was her name and would she have been Rose if her name had not been Rose … Don’t bother about the commas which aren’t there, read the words. Don’t worry about the sense that is there, read the words. If you have any trouble, read faster and faster until you don’t.”
- It’s important to have a contingency plan. If life on Earth takes a turn for the apocalyptic, you won’t find me huddled around some garbage fire eating another man’s thigh, no, sir. I’ll be on the moon. The Atlantic has taught me how to claim land there: “You could launch a small rover—like China’s Jade Rabbit, which just ceased operations—to set up a research station at one of the moon’s more resource-rich areas, probably the poles. The rover would set down a copper wire, trundle a few meters away and unspool more wire. This length of wire is now a low-frequency radio antenna. Think of the rabbit-ear dipole antenna on an ancient TV set … Under the Outer Space Treaty, you would have to allow other countries and entities to inspect your new solar observatory. But the treaty also says that inspections cannot get in the way of your normal operations, and any inspection would likely interfere with your radio observations. So for practical purposes, nobody else can ever come to your mountaintop. You have become the de facto owner of that piece of lunar real estate.”
- Thomas Mann’s story “Mario and the Magician” skewered Mussolini as a man with “very ugly hair” and “small hard eyes, with flabby pouches beneath them”—a man who “talked without stopping—but only in vague, boastful, self-advertising phrases.” You see where this is going, don’t you? How this fascistic asshole might resemble another, more contemporary fascistic asshole? Don’t make me spell it out. Colin Campbell writes of Mann’s story, “The magician’s name is Cipolla, and his show is preceded by a flurry of cheap publicity. When Cipolla himself appears on stage, he spouts a lot of blather about his grand reputation and, after ingratiating himself and reading a few minds, he makes it clear that he leads and commands, while others willingly follow and obey. But could he make a gentleman who challenged him dance foolishly even against his will? ‘ “Even against your will,” answered Cipolla, in unforgettable accents.’ ”
August 1, 2016 | by Ben Crair
Chekhov, Thomas Mann, and the longueurs of vacationing.
After a proposal from a rich but ridiculous suitor, Tony Buddenbrook, the high-society heroine of Thomas Mann’s first novel, leaves the German city of Lübeck for Travemünde, a resort town where the Trave River meets the Baltic Sea. “I won’t pay any attention to the social whirl at the spa,” she tells her brother Tom. “I know all that quite well enough already.” Tony stays instead in the modest home of her father’s friend the harbor pilot, whose son, a medical student named Morten Schwarzkopf, is also on vacation. On her first day, he accompanies Tony to the spa, and she invites him to meet the friends she had pledged to avoid. “I don’t think I’d fit in very well,” Morten says. “I’ll just go sit back there on those stones.”
By the end of the summer, Tony and Morten have fallen in love, and “on the stones” is a “fixed phrase” in their relationship, Mann writes, meaning “to be lonely and bored.” I visited Travemünde recently and after a few hours felt rather on the stones myself. The Baltic Sea was impotent at raising waves, and an incontinent gray sky drizzled on the city. The riverside homes along the Front Row, where the harbor pilot lived, are now tourist shops and restaurants filled with old German couples not talking to each other. The other nineteenth-century landmarks of Tony and Morten’s romance haven’t aged much better. The Sea Temple, a waterfront gazebo where they sit so close their hands nearly touch, fell into the Baltic in 1872, drowning with it the records of young lovers who scratched their initials on the walls. Read More »
June 10, 2016 | by Matthew St. Ville Hunte
Building a library in Saint Lucia.
This summer we’re introducing a series of new columnists. Today, meet Matthew St. Ville Hunte.
The first book I consciously acquired for what became my library was V.S. Naipaul’s The Writer and the World. I purchased it at a Nigel R. Khan Bookstore in the departure lounge of Trinidad’s Piarco Airport. This was 2004; I was flying home to Saint Lucia after I spent a summer working for an Afrocentric radical while finishing my junior year in college. At the time, I was drifting into a literary life, thanks mainly to the lack of a serious commitment to anything else. I set myself a program: I would read not just for pleasure or to acquaint myself with the best of what had come before me but to find out where I could fit in as a writer. Naipaul—jaded, deracinated, and irredeemably West Indian—seemed like a natural model. Read More »
June 6, 2016 | by Thomas Mann
In December 1903, Thomas Mann wrote his older brother, Heinrich, a long letter reviewing the latter’s novel—with brutal candor. Some of the most scathing bits are below. The complete missive is in The Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900–1949.
My impressions? They are not exactly very pleasant—which impressions, indeed, don’t absolutely need to be. It didn’t exactly make agreeable reading—which, indeed, however, is absolutely not necessary either. I struggled back and forth with the book, threw it aside, took it up again, groaned, complained, and then got tears in my eyes again … For days, in the lowest barometric pressure in a hundred years (according to the meteorologist), I went about in the agony your book caused in me. Now I know approximately what I have to say to you.
That I am not in agreement with your literary development—that must finally be said … When I think back ten, eight, five years! How do you appear to me? How were you? A refined connoisseur—next to whom I seemed to myself eternally plebeian, barbaric, and buffoonish—full of discretion and culture, full of reserve toward “modernity” and historically as talented as could be, free of all need for applause, a delicate and proud personality for whose literary endeavors there would quite probably be a select and receptive public … And now, instead of that? Instead, now these strained jokes, these vulgar, shrill, hectic, unnatural calumnies of the truth and humanity, these disgraceful grimaces and somersaults, the desperate attacks on the reader’s interest! … I read them and I don’t know you anymore. The psychological constant of the work, the desire of weak artificiality for life, this desire that would gladly masquerade as amorous desire within the lonely and sensuous artist—how is it supposed to move, to work convincingly when not even an attempt is being made to come close to life, to observe and capture even the air of the inner impulse of this simple madcap? Everything is distorted, screaming, exaggerated, “bellows,” “buffo,” romantic in the bad sense … Read More »
September 30, 2015 | by Damion Searls
Robert Walser’s scrupulous art of translation.
Today is International Translation Day, an occasion of particular piety among the few who observe it. Translation, that glorious service to culture and human understanding!
There are failures, too, though. Some are of the sort that plague most any endeavor in this vale of tears: inadequacy, incompetence, ineptitude. A New Yorker cartoon, beloved in translator circles, shows someone approaching a horror-stricken writer and saying, “Do you not be happy with me as the translator of the book of you?” Read More »
August 25, 2015 | by André Naffis-Sahely
Joseph Roth’s hotel years.
“I am a hotel citizen,” Joseph Roth declared in one of the newspaper dispatches anthologized in The Hotel Years: Wanderings in Europe Between the Wars, “a hotel patriot.” It’s easy to see why: Red Joseph was nothing if not a cosmopolitan humanist, and the hotel was his natural habitat. “The guests come from all over the world,” he explains:
Continents and seas, islands, peninsulas and ships, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists are all represented in this hotel. The cashier adds, subtracts, counts and cheats in many languages, and changes every currency. Freed from the constriction of patriotism, from the blinkers of national feeling, slightly on holiday from the rigidity of love of land, people seem to come together here and at least appear to be what they should always be: children of the world.