by Gunter Grass
Over the past 15 years, I’ve read about 460 books, and all of them – fiction and nonfiction, short and long, classic and trendy – had one thing in common: I began on the first page, and I finished reading on the last page. Not so with The Tin Drum. I had to put this book aside after reading 52 pages. I simply could not stand author Gunter Grass’ style.
Last year, a good friend of mine died, and after his death I learned that this 1959 German novel was a favorite of his. I was aware of the book’s impressive pedigree: An Oscar-winning film adaptation was released in 1979, Grass was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize and, according to the new translation’s afterword, “It remains the most important work of German literature since the Second World War.” I was prepared to love the book.
I detested it. To me, Grass’s prose screams out, “I am a writer – look at me write!” Drum’s “groundbreaking” style (switching from third-person to first-person, magical realism – god, how I hate magical realism) and its cutesy characters … all of it seems like undisciplined Vonnegut. It is tedious reading, and self-indulgent writing. I really wanted to finish The Tin Drum but, like the book’s hero, the minuscule Oskar Matzerath, I’ve learned that life is simply too short.
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