Who are you calling Bourgeois?

December 14, 2010 at 10:32 AM | Posted in Annals of College, Writers | 1 Comment
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The serious Mann

In my sophomore year in college, at Hofstra, in the classroom of the great Professor William Hull, I fell under the spell of the German Novelist, Thomas Mann. First it was the short stories like Tonio Kroger and Death in Venice and then his great masterpiece, The Magic Mountain.

One day I was walking through the campus with my friend Pete Mularchuk and he mentioned, after I was going on and on about Mann, that his professor called him a bourgeois novelist. I was insulted and rose to the Nobel Prize Winner’s defense. I took “bourgeois” in its pejorative sense and only later did it sink in, particularly after reading Mann’s first masterpiece, Buddenbrooks, that Mann did indeed chronicle the bourgeois class and was of the bourgeoisie himself.

It is only lately though that I’ve admitted to myself that my tastes are, well, bourgeois. As I wrote recently, I saw Ginsberg in my youth but I read Tennyson now (It little profits that an idle king …) and Browning (That’s my last Duchess …); I reach for Chopin and Brahms and leave modern experimentalists to their experiments. I like stories of men and women in the combat of marriage and  family chronicles in the style of Franzen.

Indeed, someone may accuse Franzen of The Corrections and Freedom as being a bourgeois novelist and this time, instead of being defensive, I’ll say, Thank God!

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  1. Bourgeois is an interesting word with many shades of meaning, many continental and most of which I don’t really get. In fact there’s probably a book to be written if one hasn’t been already. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of though, especially if it means preferring Browning to Ginsberg, or Chopin to Taverner. ‘Bourgeois Pride’

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