sorabji.com: Last book you read: Faulkner

By Rhiannon on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 08:59 pm:

    "Light in August," to be specific. I got a three-volume set of his novels for my birthday, and I figured I'd start with one I'd already read.

    Watch what he does:

    p. 486: "When he heard eleven strike tonight he was sitting with his back against a tree inside the broken gate, while behind him again the house wwas dark and hidden in its shaggy grove. He was not thinking *Maybe she is not asleep either* tonight. He was not thinking at all now; thinking had not begun now; the voices had not begun now either. He just sat there, not moving, until after a while he heard the clock two miles away strike twelve. Then he rose and moved toward the house. He didn't go fast. He didn't think even then *something is going to happen. Something is going to happen to me*"

    or even

    p/442: "He does not say even to himself: 'There remains yet something of honor and pride, of life.'"

    I love that. I love how he writes that the character *doesn't* do something in such a way that it serves the character development and plot while giving the reader the appropriate thoughts to think. Faulkner keeps one eye on the story and one eye on us.

    Other little good things:

    This sentence -- "And he cannot look at her, and he sits there on the stacked lumber when it is too late, and he could have bitten his tongue in two." -- I love the rhythm of that, and the finality and weight of the final phrase.

    This passage -- "There were some photographers waiting out in front, with the cameras all set up and their heads under the black cloths. The minister had evidently expected this. Because he emerged from the church with an open hymn book held before his face. But the camerament had evidently expected that too. Because they fooled him. Very likely he was not used to it and so was easily fooled, they told Byron. One of the cameramen had his machine set up to one side, and the minister did not see that one at all, or until too late. He was keeping his face concealed from the one in front, and next day when the picture came out in the paper it had been taken from the side, with the minister in the middle of a step, holding the hymn book before his face. And behind the book his lips were drawn back as though he were smiling. But his teeth were tight together and his face looked like the face of Satan in the old prints. The next day he brought his wife home and buried her."

    The minister Gail Hightower is a wonderful character. Just as there are people you meet in real life that make you feel heavy and sad when you're around them for no apparent reason, Faulkner makes Hightower like that. Everything becomes grave when he appears in a scene. You can even see this in his speech: he doesn't use contractions.

    I think I'll read "As I Lay Dying" next. I didn't finish it the last time I picked it up.

By Cat on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 09:26 pm:

    Rhi, go for "Absalom, Absalom" too..I think it's my favourite Faulkner.

    You've inspired me to pick up "Light in August" again, thank you.

    I love this part of his acceptance speech for his Nobel prize, which I purloined from a biography:

    "I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance"

By Isolde on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 11:13 pm:

    I love Faulkner. As I Lay Dying is quite possibly one of my favorite books, after To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember getting into a big argument with my high school English teacher about whether or not Harper Lee was a woman. I was convinced she was a man. Damn. I lost a 20 on that one, I was so sure.

By Spider on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 04:24 pm:

    That's funny. I don't remember getting a three-volume set of Faulkner. I hope I didn't lose it.

    My literary tastes have stagnated. I can only read authors I already trust. Faulkner's on that list.

By Spider on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 04:27 pm:

    But how scary is this?

    When I re-read the passages above, the passages concerning Joe Christmas, I pictured Frank Cotton. Frank Cotton, the guy who opens the puzzle box and tries to escape from the Cenobites in the movie "Hellraiser."

    Can you smell that?

    That's the scent of my brains leaking out of my ears.

By droopy on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 04:54 pm:

    mmmm, yummy brains.

    what you said about faulkner writing about what a character doesn't say made me think of what i like about kafka, especially in "the trial." he has a way of phrasing passages - like a description of a look or a way a character said something - with an "as though" or "seemingly," or else has the main character struggle interpret something, going through alternatives, that keeps the mystery in the story palpable. there's no truly omniscient narrator, things are unknowable. kafka characters stuggle against forces that are beyond their reach and ability to confront directly.

By Joe on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 01:42 am:

    here's where i admit i'm a fuckup. when i was a high school senior (1971-1972) i was given the chance to do an independent study in english. i chose william faulkner. the teacher assigned to me said simply, "read 'the bear', and we'll discuss it later". i read the book and got an "a" in the course but i remember nothing. i need to read it again.

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 01:55 am:

    i've got an old paperback with that story in it. i've never read it, but i think i now will. vladimir nabokov hated faulkner, called his books "corn cob chronicles." nabokov could be a real prick.

By Spider on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 09:33 am:

    Nabokov was too clever for his own good.

    I tried to read "the Bear" but gave up. I liked "Old Man."

    "The Sound and the Fury" is one of my favorite books, but I just couldn't get into "Absalom Absalom." Not enough suffering.

By Spider on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 10:02 am:

    And oh...further testimony to my dumbing down: I preferred the Hallmark movie version of "Old Man" to the story.

    Weep for me.

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 11:32 am:

    the last pages of the "the bear" in that book are missing. "billy budd" is in there, maybe i'll read that. maybe i won't.

    i'm really looking forward to the next lakers-kings game.

By patrick on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 12:25 pm:

    im really looking forward to game 7 of the Red Wings and Avalanche, so we will know who will face Carolina in the Stanley Cup.

    I suppose its a similar (do or die) situation for the Lakers.

By drpy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 02:50 pm:

    i'm one of those people who ultimately doesn't care who wins or loses (though i do generally root for a side), but loves to watch the game. especially at the levels you get during the playoffs. basketball is like watching jazz music - sort of chaos and order blended together. and the way kobe bryant or mike bibby work, usually with complete awareness where they are, what everybody else is doing, anticipation of where things are going, timing, and improvisation, is like charlie parker.

By patrick on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 03:04 pm:

    i watched that game sat in which the lakers won in the last .5 seconds of the game from Horry's 3-pointer.

    i love to give the TV shit and my friend, who is not a hockey fan foudn it interesting as my choice of words implied i wanted the goon-squad 4th line to come on the court and rough things up, to get the homecrowd and team going.

    im like "crash the net crash the net" and he's like, what do you want, cross-checking and boarding too?

    uh. yeah.

    the penalties in basketball are somewhat a distraction because they can often be so damned subjective and they slow the game down.

By patrick on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 03:05 pm:

    to your comparison, the penalties called are like interrupting any given C. parker song and playing a Modern Jazz Quartet tune in stead.

By Spider on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 03:25 pm:

    What is this doing in my nice Faulkner thread? Go start your own thread.

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 03:31 pm:

    because it's all interrelated. sports is like music is like literature like sports.

By Spider on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 03:39 pm:

    Stuff and nonsense. Go read your Melville.

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 04:27 pm:

    ok, but i'll be paying to attention to the same rhythms in the words that appear in the stan getz jazz i'm listening to right now and the upcoming kings game.

By patrick on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 04:28 pm:

    what's my reading assignment?

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 04:29 pm:

    the rachel papers by martin amis.

By patrick on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 04:41 pm:

    "The classy Rachel's seduction, which Charles styles The Pull, takes place against some sleazily funny counterpoint: Charles's life as a boarder in his sister's prole household; the retchy, pill- popping drop-ins of his school chums, a venereal-alarm visit to a homosexual doctor, his between-the-acts-quickies with a less refined but more generous girl named Gloria. All the while Charles, who finds more abandonment in language than in sex, reports on such matters as his bodily functions, the purchase of plonk (I can't figure out what the hell that is, but it comes in bottles), the smell of his room, the physical grossness of his brother-in-law Norman (also suspected by the family of being Jewish).

    His enchantment with Rachel fades when he discovers, alas, her corporeality: at one point she wets the bed, at another she sprouts a pimple and finally, from certain clues, he deducts that like everyone else she--defecates! With passing regret, he gives her over to a bumbling American, DeForest Hoeniger, and braces for the journey through Oxford."

    im SO there on this book. thanks drOUIppppppy

By droopy on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 06:19 pm:

    it really is a funny book. plonk means cheap booze.

By semillama on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 10:29 am:

    I just finished Portnoy's Complaint.

By Spider on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 10:53 am:

    God, droop, what a depressing book.

    I'm reading "War and Peace" and A.S. Byatt's "The Game" right now.

By droopy on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 12:40 pm:

    well, it would be if you were chaste and noble. i think patrick will be all right. actually, i just saw a list of "ten best comic novels" in an english newspaper, and "rachel papers" was on the list along with "northanger abby" (which you've obviously read), "right ho, jeeves", "cold comfort farm", and "lord jim."

    i read "r. papers" in high school. a friend of mine gave me that book and "confederacy of dunces." both of the main characters were monomaniacs convinced of their own genius, one trying to have sex, one trying not to.

    last night i was out with some friends and drank a lot. then i came home and went to bed. i dreamed something about being in a store or a mall, and i think a grocery store. i don't know what i was supposed to be doing. then i dreamed i was up in a tree, i think a tree house, really high off the ground where i was looking down into a park filled with kids. i often go around with a harmonica, and i pulled it out and started making noises with it. if i blew in the upper register, it sounded like a siren. if i blew on the lowest note, it sounded like a gun. so i was leaning on a rail making these noises and the kids were running around screaming, but i don't know if it was because they thought it was a game or if they were actually frightened and thought there was a massacre going on. then i stopped and sat down in the branches and got terribly depressed.

    i woke up for a while, then fell back asleep.

    the next dream had jay leno in it. i am in a lecture hall, sitting in one of the seats in one of the middle rows. there's a single podium on the stage and jay leno appears and goes over to it. he starts talking about thanksgiving, don't fucking ask me why. as he talks he starts changing into baby blue tights and a jerkin - you know, like robin hood and all that. every so often you catch a glimpse of his genitals in silhouette; he's hung like a porn star. when he's got the costumn on, the jerkin doesn't cover his crotch and you can still see his package. he turns around and there's a back half of a turkey protruding from the backs of his knees. it's a replica of a turkey from the shoulders back hanging made from wicker and real feathers. he turns back around and starts fiddling with his penis, knotting it and tying it with string; then he does something to make his balls hang low. then he turns around you can see him from the side and a woman in the audience starts laughing shrilly and hysterically. the tied-up penis makes a head and beak and testicals a wattle and, with the turkey body sticking out of the back of his legs, it looks just like a turkey. the performance is over and i wake up.

    so the rachel papers ain't nuthin' to me.

By Spider on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 01:19 pm:

    Aw, shoot. How can I follow a performance like that?

    I'll tell you: poorly.

    I've never read "Northanger Abbey," though I have read "Right Ho, Jeeves." I've read "Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves" more than once....God, I love Wodehouse. His books make me giggle and snort. I've seen many of the PBS "Jeeves and Wooster" episodes, too. I've also read Stephen Fry's novel, "The Liar." You might like "The Liar." It's confusing and full of sex.

By drpy on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 01:32 pm:

    there's a line from northanger abbey which goes something like "i never read novels, they are full of stuff and nonsense", and i thought that's where you got that. i've never read it, but i know this.

    i laugh that i misspelled testicles.

    i just found an old vanity fair with tom waits interviewing a writer named j.t. leroy.

By Spider on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 01:41 pm:

    Sometimes you can be so cute, drpy.

    I think I got that phrase from "Anne of Windy Poplars." Maybe not.

By patrick on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 01:42 pm:

    jt leroy was just here for a reading. ive only bits and pieces of him online.

    he's quite the recluse. he never does his own readings, he has others read. the big deal here was that he was goingto attend this reading, but he never came out from the back. he supposedly wears obscuring hats, wigs etc and dodges all photos.

By drpy on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 02:37 pm:

    yeah - in the photo of him next to the interview (which is only one page long) he's sitting on the edge of an old bath tub in a cinderella dress, ballet shoes, a big curly wig, and one of those butterfly-shaped masks that rests on the bridge of your nose. he's wearing lipstick, his feet don't touch the floor, he's wearing a necklace made of a leather strap with what looks tusk or large canine tooth hanging from it. there's a new roll of toilet paper on the floor. his hands are resting on his thighs with the fingers spread, it kind of reminds you of a child waiting outside of the principal's officet. his fingers are short and stubby and very unartistic but the fingernails look manicured. he's 20 in the picture.

    they say he was a child prostitute. the description of him reminds me of oswald. he has an easy-going, humble way of talking and says things like "wow, thanks" when he's complimented. tom waits' writing sounds likes his songs: "j.t.'s stories are like stitches, like exit wounds, dispatches, depositions. he is brilliant, gifted, and a profound fly on the wall. you'll need handkerchiefs and novocain to get through his new book."

By semillama on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 03:10 pm:

    Tom Waits should write more. Rad his
    interview in the Onion A/V club this week?

By droopy on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 04:40 pm:

    no. i'll check it out.

    the more i think about that harmonica dream - when i first started blowing on the notes, they just reminded me of bullets, and the kids were just playing along. but the more i played the more real the bullet sounds became. when i blew a note, i could hear a real gun sound faintly underneath. then i'd blow more notes and the gunfire sound grew and grew until it was louder than the notes and the fear in the kids went from play-acting to real.

    that was it.

By Spider on Saturday, June 1, 2002 - 10:12 pm:

    I finished A.S. Byatt's "The Game." It was very sad, more so because the main character is what I fear I may become. She's a professor of medieval literature and lives almost entirely in her head, in a fantasy world that she and her younger sister populated and refined when they were children. The world always belonged to her, though, and she was very protective of it. She doesn't put it aside as she gets older; instead, she becomes increasingly obsessed with the notions of fantasy and reality and what distinguishes one from the other.

    She's very much like me, the way I was when I was younger. She's very constrained and reserved, fixated on maintaining her dignity and preserving herself from humiliation, and humorless. She had a religious conversion in her late teens, fueled by her innate violence that she sublimates into spiritual fervor. She falls in love with a strange skittish young man who's also very religious and obsessed with snakes.



    She wrote: 'It was kind of you, Father, to write as you did of my nightmares and fears. As you will have guessed, I have regretted intermittently what I told you of this. It was a moment of weakness'....

    She paused agan.... Father Rowell had expressed only a imited understanding, and what he had said was not entirely untroubled. She should have said nothing: she had lost dignity, exposed herself, forfeited, perhaps, some of his respect.

    ....(much later)

    Cassandra regarded her letter with slight distaste. It was a distaste already familiar.... It seemed to her that she was capable of only two kinds of approach to me: a constrained dignity, an an overwrought and vague appeal for help of some kind. And her undignifed outbursts produced, invariably, from those to whome she exposed herself, a defensive professional reaction. I am not a woman, she thought sharply, her intelligence restored by renewed sense of her own isolation, to be comforted in that tone of voice.


    God, how I know that feeling. The whole book is full of frighteningly familiar feelings and ideas.

    In the end, her fantasy world, which she had shared with her younger sister as a child and called the Game, is developed into a novel by the younger sister and published. She is humiliated, and kills herself.

    You know how I'm living by myself after July? When I lived by myself in college, I was very unhealthy. I became withdrawn, and wouldn't speak for days, and lived in my head, in my own world I created, where I was someone else. I'm afraid of that happening again. God preserve me.

By kazu on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 01:20 pm:

    in the last month I have read three more Faulkner
    novels. *As I Lay Dying,* *Requiem for a Nun,* (which
    is a sequel to Santuary) and*Absalom! Absalom!*
    Of those three, I enjoyed Absalom the most, but *Light in
    August* is still my favorite. So much so that I intend to
    read it again over winter break because there were
    parts I read too quickly. I am also going to read *Sanctuary*
    because I haven't yet and I just looked over on my shelf
    and saw that I must have purchased it for this class
    I am taking even though I don't remember doing so.

    I do not like studying Faulkner. Although I did enjoy
    the class discussion we had on the books, the kind
    of reading required is not how Kazu should be reading
    Faulkner. Although all the recreational reading I do has
    a critical edge, it's not always academic. I must say that
    *Requiem for a Nun* lends itself to a critical, rather than
    recreational read. It's actually kind of boring otherwise. But
    it has one of the greatest lines ever:

    STEVENS: Any of them? You dont have any idea who its
    father was?

    NANCY: (looks at stevens impatiently) If you backed
    your behind into a buzz-saw, could you tell which
    tooth hit your first?


    Right now, for the same class, I am reading Cormac
    McCarthy's *Blood Meridian* which is really well
    written but otherwise extremely disturbing. I know
    that Spider posted that she didn't like it. Anyway, I like
    disturbing, for the most part. But I prefer a more
    invisible, cerebral, haunting kind (think Beloved) than
    this kind of blood and guts. True, Beloved is bloody,
    but terrifying in so many other ways. *Blood Meridian*
    is so far just violent. I'd still recommend it though, because
    it's really nicely written. It makes me want to read more of
    his work.

    I don't want to do any work today, but I've wasted so much
    of the weekend already.

By Spider on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:08 pm:


    (That's my reply in a nutshell. YES.)

    But, yes. I'm reading both "Absalom! Absalom!" and "Light in August" now, and I skimmed "Sanctuary" (I'll read it for real soon), and I will read "Requiem for a Nun" after "Sanctuary." I am giddy in love with Faulkner, and I'm so excited that you're reading his works, Kazu. Yay!

    And, right, I didn't like "Blood Meridian" -- the language was very beautiful, but the story line was unpleasantly disturbing and so full of random, unrepentant violence that it was boring. The plot was uninteresting, the characters were undeveloped...there was nothing to hold to hold my interest except the poetry of the language, which isn't enough. I should probably read it again, but not when there's so much Faulkner in the world.

By Spider on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:11 pm:

    Hey, I just re-read my post above Kazu's.....how funny is it that this -- "It seemed to her that she was capable of only two kinds of approach to me: a constrained dignity, an an overwrought and vague appeal for help of some kind." -- is just what I was struggling with last week.

    Man, I told you I identified with that character.

By agatha on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 10:47 pm:

    Cormac McCarthy is brutal.

    Have you guys read "the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay"? It's totally awesome.


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