Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Mann's Buddenbrooks, which I've finally gotten around to reading many years after buying a copy, is quite good--indeed, it is at times absolutely masterful, completely assured and amazingly good, for a first novel (important condition)--but it's far from beyond reproach. Without further ado, then, my reproaches: the Dickensian grotesques Mann uses to fill minor roles are all equally irritating; after a great beginning and an extraordinary first third, the narrative drags during the book's second half (and second third); the long epilogue-like chapter depicting Hanno's schoolday greatly disturbs the book's overall formal unity and reads like a late addition, an almost-independent fiction employed to pad out the volume. Still, it is a good book, an exceptional family saga with some indelible scenes and characters and a very good business novel that dramatizes the Christianity-Capitalism conflict (thus problematizing Max Weber).

I also noticed that Mann's characterizations become more psychological as the book goes on, as though he taught himself psychological characterization during the act of composition. Further proof of the only real rule of writing: Inspiration and discovery occur during the act of composition, not before. That's one of the things that makes the act so addictive...

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