Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Tin Drum (by Gunter Grass)

This is officially the first reading project book I've read all year (I think it's on the Time List and the MLA list). It's one of Ian's favorite books, but I didn't like it. I found it grotesque and unpleasant. That is such a princessy review, I know. But although it's extremely well written, it depicts a reality I did not enjoy experiencing. (And the attitude toward women is very creepy; though if that's coming from the narrator rather than the author, I guess it's appropriate.)

In addition to zoning out when reading descriptions of scenery, I also hate reading about bodily fluids or bad stuff happening to animals, and there was a lot of that in this book. Every time I was reading it while commuting with Ian I would crack it open and say "I'll let you know when I get to a disgusting bodily fluid!" and it was within a few pages. Like, I get the eel thing, but do we really need this gratuitous boil-squeezing?

I started off thinking it was fantastic, just because the writing is so amazing. I did enjoy certain passages very much (the Onion Club comes to mind as a late-in-the-game scene that I really loved.) You'd think unpleasant unreliable narrators would totally be my thing, but I guess for me, I like there to be an external reality that the reader can discover between the lines--as in two of my favorite books of all time, Pale Fire and The Remains of the Day. Even in the deposition at the end of the book, it ends up being more magical realism, whereas I was expecting to find out some crucial clue about the "reality" of Oskar's existence.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe I don't like magical realism! I also hated Midnight's Children. If I hate Garcia Marquez too, once I finally get around to reading him, then we'll know for sure.

I suspect that this novel is a whole lot of fun to unpack symbolically. I'm sure Oskar represents Germany There are way too many suggestive connections to be made there. I've just been sitting here for two minutes thinking about it and I'm like, "Of course! First he's like a child and he has blue eyes, and then after the war he grows, except he's distorted, and his two fathers are one Nazi and one cowardly Polish guy, and Oskar's cut off from his Grandmother in the East, and his grandfather is in America, and..." So that's interesting. But I am really ready to find something else to read.

7 Comments:

Blogger Kevin said...

You hated Midnight's Children?! (*horrified*)

Heh. I get it. Sometime's books just DON'T WORK for a reader, you know? I hated Lolita. Nabokov's skill at technical prose is undeniable, but his skill as storyteller (at least in that book) is highly overrated.

I started The Tin Drum a month or two ago, but didn't get very far into it before I had to turn it back in to the library. Maybe I'll try it again someday, maybe not.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

You hated Midnight's Children? (*horrified*)

Hey, I get it. Sometimes a book just doesn't work for a reader. I couldn't stand Lolita. Nabokov's technical skill with prose is not debatable, but his skill as a storyteller (at least in that book) is badly overrated.

Based on what you've said I highly doubt you'll like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, though you might be interested in tackling One Hundred Years of Solitude just for the challenge of reading it.

I started The Tin Drum a couple of months ago, only to get a few pages in before I realized it was due back at the library. Maybe I'll try it again someday.

10:22 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Lolita is marvelous. Brilliant. Incomparable. Sorry, I can't get behind you there.

But yeah, I've started One Hundred Years of Solitude a couple of times but haven't gotten very far. It's on my reading list, but once it's done, I can embrace my dislike of magical realism.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tin Drum is brilliant.

The layers are numerous. The political commentary is prescient.

Try again.

Before you discard your distaste for magic realism try Bulgakov's, "Master and Margarita." What fun!

7:35 PM  
Blogger K said...

Yes. Symbolism. I can say this without having read any Grass, because I proofread my now-husband's undergraduate thesis on symbolism in Grass, titled something like "When I say potatoes, I mean potatoes", which was a quote from a rather grumpy Time interview with Grass in which he denied ever doing anything symbolic, ever. Which we decided was probably a wind-up.

But. I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't like The Tin Drum either, or any of his other books for that matter. I have a phobia about teeth being damaged, and there's a novel where that happens and then some.

5:22 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Anonymous, I read The Master and Margarita, which is one of my husband's favorite books. I wrote about it somewhere. I did enjoy it, but not as much as he did.

Sorry I can't give Tin Drum another chance. I will continue to hate it.

11:15 AM  
Blogger dhvibe said...

While I do not agree with your assessment of The Tin Drum I sympathize. I despise Jane Austin's novels. I simply do not get them. I do recognize that they are meaningful for millions of readers and are therefore of great value.

3:57 PM  

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