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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What Thomas Mann, Bob Dylan, and The Cadillacs have in common

Haven't read Thomas Mann's stories (other than Death in Venice) in many years; went back to the old vintage pb volume I've had forever, am re-reading Tonio Kroger - not sure how well I understood this, or anything!, when I first read it as a teenager, but coming back to it - the homoerotic elements are so overwhelming and obvious especially in the first section, I wonder how much I understood of that years ago - and I wonder that more critics don't comment on this (maybe they don't because it's so obvious): Tonio has a huge boy crush on the tall, handsome, Germanic fellow student, Hans, who's much more popular and conventional and intellectucally limited. Both Tonio and Hans are sons of the leading burghers in the city, that is, they're socially equal, but Hans fits in much more - he's closer to the societal ideal. Tonio is ans sees himself as an outsider - not a particularly good student, dreamy, artistic - and not conventionally handsome, as least by the standards of his community - he's dark and "southern" (taking after his mother, who is apparently Italian). In 2nd section of the story, when Tonio humiliates himself in dancing class, his affections have now passed on to a beautiful German girl - again, the most popular girl, the ideal - who barely notices him - whereas he snubs the other artistic girl in the class, who's clumsy and not so attractive: this is the oldest story in the book, right? A sentiment that's been captured in millions of songs, notably two of my favorites: Gloria (It's not Marie) by the Cadillacs and Visions of Johanna, by Bob Dylan (Louise she's all right, she's just near ... she makes it all to concise and to clear that Johanna's not here). Well, that's not all Mann is writing about - the story is also apparently some kind of lament for the pains that the artist must suffer, especially in youth, to develop his or her sensibility - a truly Romantic notion, persevering into the 20th century.

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