I mentioned earlier in this space that I've been buying and reading out-of-print books on Thomas Mann—letters, criticism, autobiographies and reflections by his various children (many of who were famous in their own right). Alibris and Abebooks have been excellent sources for used books, and you can find some amazing deals. I spent only $10.50 plus shipping on my latest purchase, an oversized hardcover copy of Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900-1949, edited by Hans Wysling. The book is in "like new" condition and looks as if it has never been opened. A similar volume today might be priced at $40 or more.
As both Mann brothers were writers (Heinrich is best known for The Blue Angel, made famous in the 1930 screen adaptation with Marlene Dietrich), much of the material is about their work and their struggles with it. Thomas once wrote, possibly in The Magic Mountain: "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." In my reading last night, I ran across these two quotes from Thomas in the Wysling book, which may strike a chord with some of you:
As for me, [writing] mean gritting my teeth and slowly setting one foot in front of the other; it means exercising patience, lying idle for half a day, napping, waiting to see if it does not go better tomorrow with a rested head. To finish a longer piece, to remain true to what has once been undertaken, not to walk away from it, not to reach for something new, to be tempted by the blush of youth, all of that, given my style of working, requires in truth such patience—what am I saying!—such doggedness, obstinacy, such discipline and self-subjugation of the will as one can scarcely imagine and from which the nerves, you can take it from me, become strained to the breaking point.
For talent is nothing easy, nothing playful; it is not an ability to perform without more ado. At the root it is a necessity, a critical knowledge of the ideal, an insatiability which creates and intensifies the ability it requires, and does so at the cost of some torment.
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