The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

Shop though these links = Support this site


Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Doctor Faustus

I’ve been slowly making my way through Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Despite recently reading proust, Grass, and Kenzaburo Oe, I can pretty easily say that this is the most challenging read I’ve embarked on in a long time. I’ve found myself retreating to the safe harbor of Bakhtin just to take on something a little less bracing.

Other than a too-early read of Death in Venice, this is the first Mann I’ve read, and I’m wondering if all of his books are this intellectual. By that I mean that here Mann is pretty explicitly working out ideas regarding art and culture (obviously, most pointedly as they relate to classical music) and how they parallel the "renewal" of German society brough on by the Nazis.

I think Mann can get away with this because of the form of Doctor Faustus; that is, the book is a biography of a classical composer penned by his friend (an academic), so it makes sense that this book is going to give character and plot short shrift and be more caught up in the ideas at play, and giving us a surprisingly-often rarified discussion of them.

It’s a kind of strange novel to read. You can’t help but marvel at the level of ideas being brought to the table and how Mann integrates them into the wider plot of Germany in the modern period, but I’m not entirely sure if I feel okay with Mann creating this mock-biography framework to work out his ideas novelistically. I suppose the continuity of the narrator is what holds this book together as a novel (as opposed to just a bunch of ideas strapped onto a fictive body)–that is to say, Mann nails the narrative voice right from the beginning, and he hasn’t lost it yet.

Reading Faustus does make me wonder about some of Mann’s other big books–whether they’re more fundamentally constructed as stories with people, or if the ideas there also predominate to the same degree as in Faustus.

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

9 comments to Doctor Faustus

  • DCN

    I am reading “Buddenbrooks” right now and it is very different. It is very plot and character based–all of the promissory notes remind me of “Madame Bovary”–and less heavy on the philosophy. Or at least by page 212 it appears that way to me.

  • You might be interested to know: Alex Ross uses the writings of T. Mann – but especially Doctor Faustus – as a counterpoint in his history of 20C music, The Rest is Noise. Ross shows a lot of parallels to the actual composers and intellectual debates that were going on at the time.
    Man, you set the bar pretty high with your reading!

  • Stephen Hill

    Dr. Faustus from all the Mann novels I’ve read is his most difficult.
    I think “Magic Mountain” is the stand-out, swirling with ideas, “Buddenbrooks” his first is also very good, and the closest Mann gets to covering the quotidian in offering the downfall or degeneration of a family line.
    I’d also recommend “Felix Krull: Confidence Man” which is proves just how playful and raucous Mann can be (as there is a sort of stereotype of the author as an austere intellectual). Krull was Mann’s last unfinished work (we only get Part 1) and it’s such a tragedy that we will never know what was goign to happen in the latest parts of Mr. Krull’s life as it is a novel of such infectious energy. Some of his novellas are also excellent.

  • Death in Venice is a foundational text, you should return to it sometime. Mann was a master.

  • Garth

    Scott-
    I think Buddenbrooks is the place to start; it’s a wonderful novel, rich with character. The Magic Mountain is even better – it’s probably the book I would write, if I could – but is more ruminative. I think Dr. F. has a reputation for being cerebral…I’m going to try it in the winter, not being able to read Germans in the summer. I guess it’s winter where you are?

  • All,
    Well, now I’ve finished reading it. It is very cerebral, but, my God, certainly worth the effort. Mann’s ideas on art are good enough on their own, but then the way he ties them to German culture and Nazism . . . this is some great stuff.
    Yes, I’m aware that Alex Ross uses Mann liberally in TRIS. Actually, what surprises me about Faustus is how much of a musical education it is . . . I suppose I thought Mann’s discussion would be a little more . . . academic . . . but it really gets at the heart of the experience. I’m listening in new ways now.
    I think The Magic Mountain is next for me, if only because that’s the only other one I own. But, yes, winter down here (thanks for noticing!), though not that cold and not for long (I’m leaving soon).
    It’s rather funny the way these things work, but the Bakhtin that I started reading to get away from Mann for a bit is the essay in which he discusses parody as the means by which narrative fiction escaped the epic. What’s funny about this is that parody is precisely how Adrian tries to escape classical music from its own calcified forms . . . I’m wondering if it was coincidence, of if these two were reading one another, or influenced by similar thinkers.

  • This is a great book – I named a blog Road of Peas in honor of his genius.

  • Mary Ann Whipp

    I’ve read “Buddenbrooks” and “Magic Mountain” (both of which I enjoyed), but “Death in Venice” is one of those books that I refer to as a perfect jewel. Thank you for your follow-up comment. At first I thought I had finished my “Mann thing” (when you’re intimidated, how could I muster the courage?) , but now I will add it to my list. Challenging is good!

  • I’ll join the chorus: Buddenbrooks is a good alternative, a full-on novel telling the story of a family. But I say that as someone who found Doctor Faustus impossible to put down–though I was 22 at the time, which might make a difference?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>