Monday, July 14, 2008

Dental Agony

I had the latest in a long series of dental appointments today, all in service of saving Tooth #30, a large molar in my lower right jaw that has been plaguing me since January. Much pain and agony, much visiting of specialists, much wrangling with representatives of my truly inadequate dental insurance. There is, for example, a small piece of metal stuck irretrievably down one of my narrow, crooked tooth roots - just one chapter of this saga.

But Thomas Buddenbrooks, in Thomas Mann's juicy yet erudite family saga Buddenbrooks (first published in 1901), had it so much worse. Toward the end of the novel, he goes to the dentist, Herr Brecht, to find some relief from a decaying tooth that is causing him agony. The dentist's breath smells like cauliflower and beefsteak. During the extraction, undertaken of course without anesthetic, "the pain grew and grew, to limitless, incredible heights; it grew to an insane, shrieking, inhuman torture, tearing his entire brain." After a "violent shaking as if his neck were broken, accompanied by a quick cracking crackling noise," the dentist tells Thomas Buddenbrooks that unfortunately only the crown broke off - the four infected roots are still embedded in his jaw and will have to be pulled out, one at a time. But Thomas can't take anymore and says he'll return the next day. On the way home, he collapses. "He fell upon his face, beneath which, presently, a little pool of blood began to form."

So yeah, I've had a few very bad months, teeth-wise - but I'll try to count my lucky stars. Oh, and read Buddenbrooks for lovingly drawn portraits of some rather eccentric people. The Buddenbrook siblings alone (stalwart Thomas, self-important Antonie, hypochondriac Christian) are worth the price of admission, but there's much, much more.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding me of the pain and pleasure of reading Buddenbrooks. It may be time to revisit it.