Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hey Hans, shut the window!

I don't know whether you've read The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann. Mann was a German writer who wrote long, wooly, pre-modernist novels that I used to read when I was much younger and more pretentious than I am now.

The main character in The Magic Mountain was a young man named Hans Castorp. He traveled to the Magic Mountain to visit his cousin, who was a patient at a tubercular sanitarium.

The story takes place when tuberculosis was still a very big deal. In the pre-antibiotics era, what a TB patient needed was Pure Air, and apparently the air in the Magic Mountain was amazingly Pure. The patients sat outside every day--even in the winter, when they wore fur suits that Mann describes with a wealth of detail that obviously made a huge impression on me, because I still remember those passages quite vividly.

Now what does this have to do with anything?

Nothing, really, except for my fur fetish (which I probably owe to having read this book.)

But there are some interesting parallels with my life. Hans is young and susceptible, and when he visits the sanitarium he falls madly in love with an alluring older, more sophisticated and worldly woman.

Well, the connection there is perfectly clear.

There's also the fact that my husband's great uncle started a tuberculosis sanitarium in Los Angeles. It's still there--it's over by Dodger Stadium (which might seem a strange location for a sanitarium, but at the time, in the pre-smog L.A., it was believed that the air there was particularly Pure.)

OK. Then there's the Pure Air mania. My husband suffers from this as well. Look, I like Pure Air as much as the next former Girl Scout, but I would like to lodge a protest.

Because after we go to the trouble of having the space-pack air conditioning retro-fitted to our tiny old-fashioned house, and I decide that it's getting rather warm and very humid, and wouldn't it be nice to turn on the a/c, and my husband agrees with me?

I really, really resent having to go through the entire house closing windows. All of which he opened. And some of which he opened from the bottom up and the top down.

Over 14 windows and three doors needed to be closed so that the air conditioning could do its thing.

I am now a sweaty MESS.

This alluring, worldly, sophisticated older woman is about to head upstairs and kick someone right in his Pure A**.


  1. Madness.

    In our house only -- wait, lemme count -- only 2 windows are, for a variety of reasons open-able.


  2. Oh man, I think your husband and I must be related. Sadly, I'm the one who has to go around shutting windows after myself when I decide it's too muggy. I need an alluring, worldly, sophisticated older woman to do this for me.

  3. There was an Alan Alda made-for-tv movie in which he played a newly divorced intellectual who dates an unsophisticated, sexy blond. To her dismay, he keeps trying to culture her by taking her to boring art-house movies and such. One day they're in a bookstore, and he tells her to read "The Magic Mountain." Relieved, she says, "Oh goody, that sounds like fun! Is it all about elves and goblins?" Her face falls when told it's about a bunch of people in a TB sanitarium.

    I remember the book for three reasons: there is a crucial chapter that is almost entirely in French, of which I know about three words (excusez-moi, Mlle. Teal), and I thought at the time, "If I bought the book in translation from German, why the hell would they assume I didn't need the French translated as well?"; there is a 100 page conversation about Freemasonry; and after I finished the book, I felt both bored and stupid.

  4. Then there are those of us who live in the South and we don't open our windows for any reason from June to October.

  5. Hey, I red that book too in my pretentious days. Did you also see the awful movie?

    And I think I've seen that sanitarium near Dodger Stadium.

  6. joke: Hey, maybe that's why the hurricanes do so much damage. Hey, Miami! Open the windows, already!

    green girl: We all need a sophisticated older worldly woman. And a maid. And a laundress. And a chauffeur. And a chef. And yet, somehow, I am stuck being ALL OF THE ABOVE.

    echo: The assumption is that only educated people read Mann, and of course, all educated people speak French.

    But bonjour, I sat through two years of French with you, so zut alors! this claim that tu ne parles pas Francais is just so much merde de cheval.

    jen: I know all about it. You sit indoors in air-conditioned comfort, getting frostbite and feeling smug that you don't have to deal with snow.

    Neil: I did not see the awful movie, thank God. But I did see the awful movie of Death in Venice. And I also saw the Benjamin Britten operatic adaption of DIV as well.

    Mark my words, there is nothing more cheery and uplifting than three hours of atonal caterwauling, unless it's three hours of atonal caterwauling about pedophilia. It's peda-licious!


Gentle Readers:

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xxx, Poppy.