Review: Thomas Mann – Death in Venice and Other Stories

Death in Venice and Other Stories
Thomas Mann
‘Death in Venice’ is an assigned text for one of my literature classes. It is a collection of short stories by Thomas Mann, including his possibly most famous – the same titled Death in Venice. Mann is the perfect example of a Modernist writer, and by no means are his works comfortable to read.
323328The title story, Death in Venice, is about Aschenbach, an aging writer who falls in lust with a younger boy when taking a holiday. The work is resplendent with images and symbols, and to be fair, it is a very good text to analyse. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but it wasn’t bad either.

I couldn’t tell you whether it is a great example of Modernism – but it is according to my tutor. The story lacks a concrete feeling to the ending, which is something I personally hate. I’m also not very fond of short stories, as I feel like I never get to know the characters well before they are killed off. This story is more like a short novella though, and there is room for some ‘plot’ development.

Although not required for my class, I read a number of the other short stories in the book. I found them all to expand on the same themes of death and wanton destruction, and felt like once you had read one, you would expect the ending of the next to be the same (and indeed it is, with some subtle twists).
This book of short stories is certainly not suitable for younger readers. Adults may struggle with the uncomfortable, and often graphic, contents of the novel. This is not something I would normally read, and I probably wouldn’t seek out any of his other works.

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Review: Peter Carey – Collected Stories

Collected Stories
Peter Carey
‘Collected Stories’ by Peter Carey is a set text for one of my literature classes, as it is a good example of Post-Modernism. As such, I was not very interested in reading it, but my other alternatives were Feminism and Constructions of Gender! The short stories are clearly critiquing society, and so are not particularly comfortable to read.
177473These collected stories are numerous in both theme and setting. Some, such as ‘Exotic Pleasures’ are set in our world, but in a future time. Others are in a complete fantasy world, such as ‘Do You Love Me?’. Possibly the most famous two short stories are ‘War Crimes’ and ‘The Fat Man in History’, so if you don’t read any other stories from this collection, read those.
Carey aims to shock and appall at all times. Why else would he have someone eat a dog turd, or consume the flesh of a fellow human? Other elements include vivid imagery, such as the snakes of ‘The Uses of Williamson Wood’, and interesting characterization ‘Life and Death in the South Side Pavillion’. He makes his reader think, and doesn’t encourage compassion for his characters.
Because I had to analyse these stories, and I’m not that fond of short stories to begin with, I could almost say I hated this book! Sure, the stories were interesting in an abstract way, but it certainly required a lot of thought. I like to have cohesion between short stories, some central theme, but there wasn’t anything. People who enjoy post-modernism and metafiction (exposing the constructs of fiction) will probably like this book, but it just wasn’t for me.

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