Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain: "Research" and "The Dance of Death"

The onset of winter -- all thoughts on Christmas even six seeks out (a freeness with time that Hans has not quite accustomed himself to yet) -- Hans gains temperature, perhaps because of the exertions of his reading -- how little serious reading is done at the sanatorium, and how time is frittered away -- late nights, reading about the mysteries of life and matter -- an interest in the body which has a barely sublimated sexual context.

I am increasingly left with the impression that Hans is not as dull a lad as the narrator had made out in the beginning.

Christmas season -- Hans proposes to break the embargo on talking about and seeing death and dying -- the idea is met with hostility at dinner -- Hans proceeds with his project, pulling Joachim in his train -- first paying respects to the deceased gentleman rider (who Hans had heard coughing his first day) -- from there Hans makes it his mission to visit the dying -- his motives were not strictly charitable; for he also meant to fight for taking a serious and dignified attitude toward suffering, death,and the pursuit of the cure, much against the prevailing atmosphere -- Popoff's seizure at dinner , and the alarmingly rapid (for Hans) return to normal routine after it -- Leila Gerngross -- Fritz Rotbein, the businessman -- the silly Frau Zimmermann ("Overfilled") -- Settembrini's objection -- Tous-les-deux's son Lauro, who made a show of defying death -- Anton Karlowitz Ferge, the Russo-German insurance man who went through pleura-shock and three-colored fainting; a great storyteller --Frau Mallinckrodt, the spurned adulteress, who like the other women saw Hans' visits through the lens of courtship -- Karen Karstedt, an impecunious girl under Behrens' care who stayed in cheap lodgings in the village -- Hans and Joachim take Karen out for excursions to see the winter sports and the movie theater -- Frau Stoehr insinuates, with some justice, that Hans' attentions to Karen are a sublimation of his desires for Frau Chauchat --In February, Hans and Joachim take Karen, who is near her end, to see the graveyard

Friday, January 14, 2011

Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power: Chapter 5, "Public Prestige"

Public prestige means the judgment of insiders about how the public will react to their own reactions to the president. Public figures count on members of the larger public to accomplish many thing they care about. The politicians, in particular, care about getting elected. So they care about how the public will assess their interaction with the president.

Prestige isn't as simple as a raw measure of popularity. Much of the public is usually inattentive, so the esteem in which they hold the president has little consequence. The president's prestige will also vary in different constituencies, and even in regard to different issues.

The president's prestige also affects him more immediately, because he often wants things directly from members of the public, whether votes for himself and his allies or private actions that further his policies (for example, union members' cooperation with Truman's seizure of the steel mills).

Like his professional reputation, a president's public prestige does not guarantee that he will get his way, but it can gain him leeway.

A president's personality comprises a large, but mostly static component of his prestige. The more variable element to his prestige comes from changes in the public image of the presidency, which is to say changes in what the public wants the president to be. These changes are driven by events that affect members of the public, especially negatively, like economic trouble, military conflict, and social unrest. Since presidents have limited influence on such happenings, their prestige depends on their success in managing the hopes of the public. They must teach the public to see their role in a favorable light. But this instruction takes place under four constraints: (1) the public is chronically inattentive, (2) when they are attentive, it is in the context of pressing events not likely to be of the president's choosing, (3) deeds will influence public perception more than words, and (4) how the public understands the president will be influenced by the context of what he has previously done and said. In other words, both events and his own record will compete with the president's attempts to shape public perceptions.

A president's choices of action affect his bargaining power, his professional reputation, and his prestige. Since so much depends upon his choices, a key question is how a president husbands and preserves his latitude to make choices.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain: "Whims of Mercurius", "Encyclopaedic", "Humaniora"

A stretch of brilliant, warm weather begins a few days into October. Hans' infatuation with Madame Chauchat continues. He avoids looking at or judging her defects, physical and moral, and even tries his hand at simulating some of them, such as slouching and slamming doors. One day, Hans conspicuously gets up from dinner and adjusts the curtains to stop a ray of sun from vexing her, and is rewarded with a look and a smile. But Hans' isn't always so secure in Madame Chacuchat's affections. On another day, he converses with Joachim within her earshot in order to draw her attention, even dragging Hermine Kleefeld into the conversation, but she only gives him a glance that he interprets as one of scorn. Despondent, his temperature drops. Three days later, he overtakes Madame Chauchat on the morning walk and they exchange friendly greetings. His gloom lifts, and so does his temperature.

229-230: "We have as much right as the next person to our private thoughts about the story we are relating; and we would here hazard the surmise that young Hans Castorp would never have overstepped so far the limits originally fixed for his stay if to his simple soul there might have been vouchsafed, out of the depth of his time, any reasonably satisfying explanation of the meaning and purpose of man's life."

Hans' passion becomes evident to everyone at the sanatorium. Hans, in fact, does a great deal to advertise it. One day, he even holds forth on the peculiarities of Madame Chauchat's face to a small audience of fellow patients on the veranda. Hans begins to look forward to the Sunday afternoon wait for letters in front of the porter's lodge because of the excuse it provides him to be close to Madame Chauchat. One Sunday, Settembrini pulls Hans away from the gathering into a side room, ostensibly to announce his participation in the production of an encyclopedia of human suffering. (One might wonder who would read such a thing!) In fact, Settembrini's purpose is to urge Hans to return home from the corrupting influence of the sanatorium -- a suggestion that Hans resists.

On another day, Hans and Joachim are sitting in the veranda garden after dinner when Hofrat Behrens strolls by, and Hans wrangles an invitation to look at his paintings. Hans takes particular note of the portrait of Madame Chauchat -- he even removes it from the wall and carries it about Hofrat Behrens' house during their visit. Hans and Behrens converse at length about the human body: flesh, blood, lymph, its composition (mostly water), its life and death (both processes of oxidation). But the Hofrat becomes downcast and the visit ends when Hans questions the necessity of continuity of form, which for the Hofrat is the distinction between life and death.

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain: "Soup-Everlasting", "Sudden Enlightenment", "Freedom"

An authorial aside at the onset of the recounting of Hans Castorp's bed-rest establishes that henceforth the treatment of time will be telescoped, that much more time will be compressed into a shorter space of narrative. Hans' regular sick-bed regime is described. It is noted that the division of his his days into an unchanging pattern makes them seem shorter, but also makes it seem as if time is not passing at all. Joachim urges Hans to write a letter alerting his relations to the extension of his stay. Hans has some trouble bringing himself to write, but puts himself to it when his three weeks are up and the issue can no longer be avoided. Hans reveals as as little as possible, suggesting that he has been only briefly detained by a bad cold. This becomes part of a pattern of uncovering his true state only gradually, as we learn when he discloses, a week and a half later in a conversation with Settembrini, that he has he has written a second latter attributing further delay to mere suspicion about the condition of his chest. Castorp reveals to Settembrini his increasing alienation from his accustomed bourgeois society as a result of the perspective brought on by illness. Settembrini, alarmed anew, resumes his chiding. He first relates skeptical anecdotes about the diagnoses and cures of the doctors, and then launches a frontal assault on Hans' view that death and disease provide distance from and perspective on ordinary life. At the end of three weeks, Behrens releases Hans from bed rest, but only after he has been reminded -- he seems to have lost track of how long Hans has been confined.

A week later, Hans goes in for his first x-ray. In the meantime, he receives more intelligence about Madame Chauchat. His tablemate, Miss Robinson the schoolmistress, informs him that Madame Chauchat receives a Russian visitor who stays in town, and also that she is sitting for a portrait by Hofrat Behrens. This news distresses Hans, and causes his temperature to spike. He also observes that Madame Chauchat has another admirer at the sanatorium, a young man from Mannheim. Madame Chauchat ignores this other admirer. On the day of the appointment, Madame Chauchat comes in for her x-ray after Hans and Joachim and converses with Joachim in the waiting room. Hans speculates about whether she speaks to Joachim instead of him out of delicacy about their silent flirtation. Joachim appears to have perceived the goings-on between them, and seems uneasy with Madame Chauchat. Hans looks at the insides of Joachim in the x-ray room, at also looks at the skeleton of his own hand.

Some time later -- it must be a few days, for we learn that October is almost upon them -- Hans converses with Settembrini. After first mocking the put-upon pose of some of the young inhabitants of the sanatorium -- he contends that they are in fact enjoying their luxuriant irresponsibility -- Settembrini concludes with a cutting remark about Russians ("Parthians and Scythians"). An annoyed Hans concludes that Settembrini, too, has noticed his commerce with Madame Chauchat. Immediately after the discussion, Hans writes his third letter home, this time revealing that he must be expected to stay for at least the whole winter, and requesting supplies and money to cover his expenses. As he writes, his sense of dread about informing his relations evaporates, and a sense of satisfaction with his self-assertion comes over him.