What I Read This Week

I finished something short and something long this week:

  1. Mario and the Magician, a novella by Thomas Mann;
  2. Doc by Maria Doria Russell

First off, I read Thomas Mann along with an online reading group/program called #MutuallyMann. There were a series of short videos and articles from Mann experts to help ground me in this novella that’s about a strange vacation in Italy with a horrifying magic show.  I’ve never read Mann for class or in a reading group before, so I appreciated the background. Going slowly helped too, and that fits my level of reading concentration these days.

Next, I finished the quite wonderful Doc on audio, read by the wonderful Mark Bramhall, about Doc Holliday. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a western, but I’ve watched my share, including Tombstone, which happens years after the events in this book. Certain things jumped out at me as I read this in 2020:

  • Of course I pick a book about a man with tuberculosis as we’re dealing with a horrible respiratory virus. I try to limit my news consumption, but I’m still preoccupied, you know;
  • The focus on small-town politics, including shifting alliances and powerbrokers who tried to keep that status secret, seemed very of-the-moment. And in the author’s note, Russell said she simplified the political history of Dodge City significantly. I can only imagine how much more convoluted the power plays were;
  • There were no hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold, refreshingly;
  • The focus on building a city whose economy depends on ridding cattle drivers of their money was interesting because right before Michigan’s stay-at-home order went into effect, I was at a meeting about branding our county for tourism. I think that conversation is on hold for at least a year, but we’ll see. I mean, cowboys aren’t tourists exactly, but they are passing through;
  • Finally, there was a mysterious death that took up a lot of focus in the story, so I haven’t totally abandoned my love of crime fiction. This book focused a lot more on atmosphere and the whole town of Dodge City than a whodunnit, though.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, and happy reading.

3 thoughts on “What I Read This Week

  1. Glad you enjoyed Doc. I do agree that the small town atmosphere can be a very effective context for a story, whether it’s a crime novel or something else. I’m glad you thought that was done well here.

  2. Doc sounds like a very good book, and I will have to look into finding a copy. The author’s other books sound interesting too.
    — TracyK

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