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Light in August Light in August, a novel that contrasts stark tragedy with hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, which features some of Faulkner s most memorable characters guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child Reverend Gail Hightower, a lonely outcast haunted by visions of Confederate glory and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry


10 thoughts on “Light in August

  1. WILLIAM2 WILLIAM2 says:

    It occurs to me on reading Light in August for the third time in twenty years, that if America were ever to try to come to terms with its legacy of slavery unlikely now at this late date but if it ever were to empanel some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like the one South Africa had after apartheid, and which seems especially needed now that we are mourning the shooting deaths by cops of so many unarmed black men, then William Faulkner s novels, certainly this one, should be part It occurs to me on reading Light in August for the third time in twenty years, that if America were ever to try to come to terms with its legacy of slavery unlikely now at this late date but if it ever were to empanel some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like the one South Africa had after apartheid, and which seems especially needed now that we are mourning the shooting deaths by cops of so many unarmed black men, then William Faulkner s novels, certainly this one, should be part of the background documentation of such a study What Faulkner has done here is to lay bare the racial tragedy of the American South in the 1920s such as no one else has ever done Certainly the works of Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and others should be part of that documentation too But what Faulkner shows us in Light in August seems to me a wholly unique recounting despite the fact that it is fiction of a huge part of our national catastrophe.Joe Christmas lives as a white man but believes he has a little African blood in him He is left by persons unknown at a white orphanage one Christmas day, thus his name At age five, when his African blood is discovered by the staff of the orphanage, he is quickly placed in the foster home of a white man named McEachern who lives in a kind of perpetual, self dramatizing, Christian self abasement, which he forces on his new stepson, and which Joe ultimately rejects Perhaps if he had been luckier in his foster parents Joe would not have developed as he has, but his upbringing by McEachern is brutal, physically abusive, traumatic When he escapes his room one night to go dancing with a local harlot, about whom he entertains romantic notions of love and marriage, he is followed by his step father who accuses him of whoring Joe kills his step father on the dance floor and runs for his life For fifteen years he drifts The unfortunate and I would argue false dichotomy of black and white seems to rip Joe Christmas apart before our eyes Nowhere can he feel at home His self hatred becomes outsize, beyond reason Some people broken by misfortune become psychotic, as Joe does, though there is probably some genetic predisposition to become so Anyway, Joe starts to hears voices Who is he Can he truly be anyone After he wanders much of the country, at one point living in a black community in Chicago where he is condemned for being white, he winds up back in the American south, in Jefferson Louisiana, where he gets a job shoveling sawdust in a planing mill He has no friendships, no sense of humor, no apparent hopes, no dreams He is bitter and angry, deprived of all loving human contact despite his efforts to secure it.Joanna Burden lives alone in Jefferson and is the sole remaining representative of a family of northern abolitionists that moved south during Reconstruction to prevent the post slavery degradation of African Americans, which the zealous Burden patriarch was determined to stop They were despised by the white community When the patriarch accompanied by his grandson argued too vociferously for voting rights for blacks in Jefferson one day, they were gunned down by a single bullet from the gun of Colonel Sartoris Joanna s father buried them on the estate in unmarked graves, so they would not be disinterred and desecrated Joanna s family was one of means which maintained a dozen orhomes and schools for African Americans in the south, the administration of which she is still involved When Joe Christmas stumbles on Joanna s house five miles from Jefferson, he breaks into the kitchen pantry Unperturbed by the intrusion, Joanna starts to leave food out for him every evening while allowing him to stay on the estate in what were once accommodations for black household servants To the reader Joanna represents perhaps Joe s last chance to find, if not love, then some kind of mutually supportive relationship But he is too twisted by his misfortunes by this time and the only relationship with her he is capable of is one of unloving sex and disdain for her unattractive, manish ways Besides, who could possibly love anyone so undeserving as himself Her interest in him must therefore be misplaced.When Joe Christmas then does a bad, bad thing, which precipitates his flight across bog and bramble and forest and marsh of Yoknapatawpha County, pursued by the Sheriff and his deputies and a pack of honking hounds, why, the reader is in for quite a thrilling chase In this section you will find some of the finest descriptive writing in the book Faulkner is always so good with figures moving through landscape While we do not forgive Joe for what he has done, we understand him, and even feel for him in his travails How Faulkner is able to do this, to evoke the reader s sympathy for Joe Christmas despite his evil acts, is one reason this reader has returned repeatedly to this text I do not think it going too far to say that here we find in Joe something of what Shakespeare was able to embue Richard III, with Joe s half caste status standing in for Richard sapparent physical disfigurement.The novel s use of psychic distance is perfect By that I mean the distance the reader feels between himself and the events of the story Faulkner seems to stand off a bit and record everything from that seemingly objective remove, so the cascade of detail is neither overwhelming in its specificity nor too thin It is in fact stunningly consistent throughout The story is rich, emotionally complex, but rendered for the most part simply and cleanly The mannerisms of the author s late style polysyllabic words, outlandishly tortuous locutions, etc are apparent only fleetingly This masterpiece flows mellifluously yet plainly, without needless clutter Its story might be summarized in a paragraph or two, but its execution is so rich, so thorough, so vivid, that it takes the breath away


  2. Lawyer Lawyer says:

    Light in August, William Faulkner s Portraits of Loneliness and Isolation A Note Regarding This ReviewToday marks the Anniversary of the Death of William Faulkner, July 6, 1962 In remembrance of him and in gratitude his works making me a man better capable of understanding others, I repost this review of my Favorite novel by William Faulkner, Light in August My Mother died following a lengthy and grueling illness I had been her caregiver as I had promised her I would I promised that she would Light in August, William Faulkner s Portraits of Loneliness and Isolation A Note Regarding This ReviewToday marks the Anniversary of the Death of William Faulkner, July 6, 1962 In remembrance of him and in gratitude his works making me a man better capable of understanding others, I repost this review of my Favorite novel by William Faulkner, Light in August My Mother died following a lengthy and grueling illness I had been her caregiver as I had promised her I would I promised that she would remain living in her home until the last moment possible I kept that promise until no commercial suppy of oxygen was capable of providing her the amount of oxygen she required to breathe Her last month was spent in an Intensive Care Unit It was an especially difficult time for both of us My Mother was a proud woman, refusing to acknowledge the severity of her illness On the morning of her death, I was summoned to the hospital She had breathed her last during a few hours break to sleep After being a caregiver for so long, I suddenly found myself totally lost I had nothing I had to do any I was haunted and remain haunted by her appearance as I last saw her I expected to enter her room and find her prepared to see, her eyes closed, covers neatly pulled up, her hands clasping one another Rather, when I entered the room, her bed was still in the upright position Her eyes were open Her mouth hung open She appeared to have died in the act of screaming Choking, strangling, gasping for onebreath of air It is a memory that haunts me to this day I cannot get my mother s appearance in death out of my head That morning I felt completely out of place Lonely, isolated, in a place I no longer belonged The hospital staff curtly asked where I wanted my Mother s body sent Numbly, I named the Crematorium I had chosen I left the hospital, went to the Crematorium, and made all the necessary arrangements The following day, I travelled to Oxford, Ms A trip my Mother had made with me frequently I simply had to DO something This is the review that I wrote following a visit to Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi I thank you for your indulgence in my re posting this piece For me, my experience was an inspirational one The trip forced me to put one foot in front of the other Within the following week, I formed the online group On the Southern Literary Trail Since the group began its first read in March, 2012, William Faulkner has been the author for whom many of our readers have chosen to read his novels and short stories This is one of them.While you may think it strange, I observe the anniversary of William Faulkner s death each year His favorite whiskey was Jack Daniels, Black Label This evening I will raise a Black Jack with a splash of water over ice and thank Mr Faulkner for all he has shared with me, now going onthan forty yearsIf it were possible I d have it in Faulkner Country.. Light in August, First Edition, Smith Haas, New York, New York, 1032Memory believes before knowing remembers Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders William Faulkner, Light in August, Chapter Six, Paragraph One.mIt takes guts to write a review of one of the great American novels by one of the great American writers I could call it chutzpah But I m not Jewish Just call it Irish American blarney with a bit of a Cracker twist and a streak of red over my shirt collar After all, I m from Alabama.The truth of the matter is there s been worse hacks than me that tried to take a hatchet to William Faulkner It s hard to believe any man could be that damned good Some men, critics for the most part, just can t live with how good he is So they say he isn t.But I m in Oxford, Mississippi this morning What Oxford hasn t torn down and replaced with high rise apartments and condominiums still leaves traces of William Faulkner that are there for anyone to see if they take the time to look for it.Last night I met a lovely young woman and her mother over at Square Books They were down from Joplin, Missouri, for the daughter to take the tour of Ole Miss She s already been accepted at the University of Alabama, but she thought she should take the Ole Miss tour Where you meet the most interesting people in OxfordWe met in the Faulkner section They were there first Both were lovely The daughter was seventeen Her mother was graced with a timeless beauty that must give her daughter a good deal of satisfaction at what she has to look forward to when she takes a hard look in the mirror in forty years or so Oh, the mother said, We re in the way No Ma am You re not I never step between a young woman and William Faulkner It s always nice to see Mom, I don t know which one to get Sweetheart, get all you want Wherever you go to school, you ll want them But if I get them all, then I ll want to read them all I ll read them too fast and I won t get what I need to get out of them The temptation was too great Miss, just how much Faulkner have you read I ve only read The Sound and the Fury I don t know where to go next I have to admit it I kind of let out a sigh, and sat down in one of those big easy chairs, conveniently placed by all the works of Faulkner and the many references published by various scholars through the Ole Miss Press Have you ever felt like you didn t belong somewhere Didn t fit in She had already told me she was seventeen going on eighteen I figured it was a safe bet she remembered being fifteen pretty well Fifteen year olds get not belonging anywhere.I saw her mother smile Well, sure Hasn t everybody Oh, yeah Everybody That copy of Light in August you re holding there It s all about that Nobody in that book belongs where they ought to be So over the next few minutes I told her about Lena, walking all the way to Jefferson from Doane s Mill, Alabama looking for the man that made her pregnant I told her about Joe Christmas, left on the step of an orphanage on Christmas morning, beaten by his foster parent because he couldn t learn his catechism I told her about Joanna Burden being a Yankee from an abolitionist family who was never welcome in Yoknapatawpha County And I told her about Preacher Gail Hightower whose wife left him and then committed suicide and how his own congregation wished he wasn t the man in the pulpit.I asked if she knew what light in august meant She shook her head no I told her how livestock dropped their young in August And I asked her if she d ever seen those few days of peculiar light on an August day when the shadows were at their deepest and just before dark, before the shadows turned to black how everything flashed gold for just a few seconds, so fast, if you weren t looking for it you would miss it She hadn t noticed I told her when she lived someyears she would see it.There was a tear in her mother s eye I wondered if she still hadn t seen it Tell me about the man Tell me about William Faulkner And I did I told her about how he wanted to go to war How he lied about being shot down How he wore his Canadian RAF Uniform around Oxford I told her about Estelle, how he loved her, how he lost her, how he got her back and then wished he hadn t William and Estelle Oldham Faulkner, who called the quality of the light in August to her husband s attention I told her to read, read everything that Faulkner said that I told her how he checked mysteries out out of Mac Reed s Drug Store and people started stealing his check out cards because they figured his autograph would be worth something one day.We ended up laughing and talking a good while Say If I went to Ole Miss, would you be one of my professors I don t know what it is that makes people think that Maybe it s the old cardigan sweater with the leather buttons Maybe it s the white beard I don t know It happens a lot, though No, I m not a professor I grew up and became Gavin Stevens I m a lawyer They both laughed We exchanged pleasantries, information I told her mother that if her daughter ended up in Tuscaloosa, she could always call me The daughter left with Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom The young man working the coffee bar brought me over a cup of coffee in a Flannery O Connor mug It s on the house You sold that Faulkner No I sold HER on Faulkner There s a difference Sir, you know something You should have been a professor Yeah Maybe so But everybody s gotta be somewhere, whether they fit in there, or not Well, it s 8 30 Store opens at nine They want me in the Faulkner section today if I can stop by I could use another cup of coffee Dedicated to the memory of Miss Maxine Lustig, my guide to Yoknapatawpha County and many other wondrous worlds.


  3. Lizzy Lizzy says:

    Memory believes before knowing remembers Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders Are there many such novels that delve deep into our souls and that makes us suffer and weep I believe there are many, but not many that imprison us in its tidings and with their beauty in such a way that escape is an impossibility Yes, we cannot run away any less than its wretched characters could Indeed, William Faulkner in Light in August wrote a tragedy set in the fictional JefMemory believes before knowing remembers Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders Are there many such novels that delve deep into our souls and that makes us suffer and weep I believe there are many, but not many that imprison us in its tidings and with their beauty in such a way that escape is an impossibility Yes, we cannot run away any less than its wretched characters could Indeed, William Faulkner in Light in August wrote a tragedy set in the fictional Jefferson that compares with the classic tale of OedipusAnd so as he sat in the shadows of the ruined garden on that August night three months later and heard the clock in the courthouse two miles away strike ten and then eleven, he believed with calm paradox that he was the volitionless servant of the fatality in which he believed that he did not believe He was saying to himself I had to do it already in the past tense I had to do it She said so herself And I cried with Joe Christmas, as with the rest of Faulkner s poor damned people Yes, damned, for that was their destiny since they came into the world Every page that I read, I felt amazed by Faulkner s beautiful and sad words I felt like closing my book every other page, but he caught me by my love of words and literature and did not let me give up on a life of pure hell The story of his damned hit hard on my poor souls, and I felt used by him Used yes, but in the good sense, by the colors of his spiritual disquiet transmitted to us in no uncertain terms I walked right along with him in the desolation of Yoknapatawpha County And despite my reticence and my torment, I submerged without conscious thought, always led by my feelings I felt forced by Faulkner s artistry to face a time of real racial prejudices, misogyny where the delusion of religion only deepened those terrible and fanatical hates of human over humans Christmas destiny was set as he was born, no, as he was conceived And with the rumors of his black blood, it was assuredHe thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himselfHe could not escape his ultimate end after being labeled a white nigger or a black with white skin, from his orphanage years Or from the first insult, Your little nigger bastardOr from the man with cold eyes that took him,I ve no matter I ve no doubt the tyke will do He ll find no fancy food and no idleness. Undoubtedly, he could not fight his fate it seemed too much, so he appeared to have embraced it and incorporated his abhorrent mixed ancestry His life encompassed all the sufferings of poor whites and disfavored blacksHe was sick after that He did not know until then that there were white women who would take a man with a black skin He stayed sick for two years Sometimes he would remember how he had once tricked or teased white men into calling him a negro in order to fight them, to beat them or be beaten now he fought the negro who called him white Had he ever had a chance Could he have escaped his birth as an innocent baby Was he ever innocent I don t know how to answer my own questions and simply have to keep readingThen he was home again Perhaps he expected to be punished upon his return, for what, what crime exactly, he did not expect to know, since he had already learned that, though children can accept adults as adults, adults can never accept children as anything but adults too But Christmas is not alone in his pain and his anguish Almost as damned is dauntless Lena Grove, the pregnant woman that comesall the way from Alabama a walking , searching for the father of her unborn child All the time Faulkner s prose catches by the gut and prevents us from abandoning his damned characters But of her we could at least imagine that she had some say in where she ended up, for she opened the window herselfShe had lived there eight years before she opened the window for the first time She had not opened it a dozen times hardly before she discovered that she should not have opened it at all She said to herself, That s just my luck But despite all her ignorance, she went after what she wanted and persevered despite the hardship she found on her way looking for Lucas Burch Lucas Burch, or Joe Brown, as he is now known as here in Jefferson Besides the guileless Lena and the no good Brown, there is Byron Bunch that was doomed to fall in love with the wrong womanHe fell in love contrary to all the tradition of his austere and jealous country raising which demands in the object physical inviolabilityThere is also the disgraced Reverend Gail Hightower, that after losing his Church survived by just watching as life passed him by outside his window and his drama lies out there,it too might have grown up out of the tragic and inescapable earth along with the low spreading maples and the shrubsAnd at last, the murdered lady, Miss Burden the mature lady that involved herself with the unfortunate ChristmasI reckon there are folks in this town will call it a judgment on her, even now She is a Yankee Her folks come down here in the Reconstruction, to stir up the niggersEven worst,they say she is still mixed up with niggers All together this most memorable group forms the picture Faulkner is painting us A picture of hate, sin, suffering, fate, desperation and injustice And what did drifter Christmas do that could not be pardoned in this very southern village in an era of persecution and no compassionHe never acted like either a nigger or a white man That was it That was what made the folks so mad For him to be a murderer and all dressed up and walking the town like he dared them to touch him, when he ought to have been skulking and hiding in the woods, muddy and dirty and running It was like he never even knew he was a murderer, let alone a nigger too Thus, Faulkner translates to us the darkness of the human heart to warn about the dangers that expect around the corner if we unchecked, unsuspected, follow the dark that creeps deep in every man As Faulkner paints to us, racism and misogyny often lead to the destruction of men and his home, and together they can destroy what humanity should represent.All these conjectures aside, if you have not read Light in August yet, I highly recommend it, even as my heart is still settling down At the same time, I have to advise you to prepare yourself for struggling with Faulkner s group of characters in their doomed world You will be enthralled by his captivating prose, but will not escape without shedding soulful tears.___


  4. Candi Candi says:

    I m not going to attempt to write an erudite review of this book, because then I would simply be revealing the glaring holes in my Faulkner education A scholarly write up of this brilliant man s work is best left to students of college literature classes or perhaps a well taught AP English course or another revieweradept than I Confession I was hesitant to read this, but I was determined to make another attempt after a failed one several years ago when I picked up a copy of Absalom, Abs I m not going to attempt to write an erudite review of this book, because then I would simply be revealing the glaring holes in my Faulkner education A scholarly write up of this brilliant man s work is best left to students of college literature classes or perhaps a well taught AP English course or another revieweradept than I Confession I was hesitant to read this, but I was determined to make another attempt after a failed one several years ago when I picked up a copy of Absalom, Absalom I vaguely recall reading Faulkner in high school, and the fact that I can t quite remember the details tells me it was probably neither a poor nor an exceedingly enjoyable experience I am happy to say that this time around I was sold Light in August is not only accessible, in my opinion, but is also a remarkable work of fiction This is what I would call Southern Gothic fiction at its finest Jefferson, Mississippi in the 1920s was rife with racism, misogyny and religious fanaticism The depiction of every single character is striking Their lives are tragic, lonely, and often violent I couldn t help but feel that each and every one of us must be damned in one way or another after reading this A man of mixed race, Joe Christmas is the epitome of a person consumed by an identity crisis He strives to find where he belongs, and in the process becomes completely alienated He cannot find his place as either a black or a white man Society feeds and inflames his feelings of alienationNothing can look quite as lonely as a big man going along an empty street Yet though he was not large, not tall, he contrived somehow to looklonely than a lone telephone pole in the middle of a desert In the wide, empty, shadowbrooded street he looked like a phantom, a spirit, strayed out of its own world, and lost The other characters that populate this novel are equally compelling and I won t soon forget Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, Lucas Burch, Reverend Hightower, Joanna Burden and manySince what truly sells me with any book is the writing itself I m not a plot only kind of gal , it would be remiss if I failed to mention the pure artistry of Faulkner s prose often poetic, deeply emotive, and highly evocative of this time and placeHe can remember how when he was young, after he first came to Jefferson from the seminary, how that fading copper light would seem almost audible, like a dying yellow fall of trumpets dying into an interval of silence and waiting, out of which they would presently come Already, even before the falling horns had ceased, it would seem to him that he could hear the beginning thunder not yet louder than a whisper, a rumor, in the air I feel at a loss to sayabout this book, except that we must continue to reflect on our humanity and our obligations towards others We must as a society strive to work harder on inclusiveness and acceptance of others Faulkner s message rings all too clear right now.It was with tremendous sadness that on the same evening that I finished reading this masterpiece, on May 22, 2019, I learned that a young classmate of my daughter s, a fifteen year old young man, had taken his own life A teenager who seemed always cheerful and one whose goal was to make others laugh at his charming antics He wanted to embrace others What amount of misery and feelings of isolation must have resided in his hurting soul for him to take such a drastic and irrevocable step I can t begin to imagine the pain he felt and now that of his grieving family


  5. Samadrita Samadrita says:

    Words That stew in silent torment, weep and curse, howl in pain and outrage Words that spill from his pen and bleed on to these white sheets to taint our neat black and white categorizations Universes stretch across the extremities of his fictional Jefferson, that swallow lives whole and spit back all the folly men and women are capable of And images emerge in an unearthly chiaroscuro of mortal agony and transient joy Colours of spiritual disquiet and alienation and uncertain footsteps towa Words That stew in silent torment, weep and curse, howl in pain and outrage Words that spill from his pen and bleed on to these white sheets to taint our neat black and white categorizations Universes stretch across the extremities of his fictional Jefferson, that swallow lives whole and spit back all the folly men and women are capable of And images emerge in an unearthly chiaroscuro of mortal agony and transient joy Colours of spiritual disquiet and alienation and uncertain footsteps towards expiation daubed on to the empty canvas of Yoknapatawpha Words That sing to the tune of all human frailty with nary a care for readerly reception Words that neither bristle with indignation nor rage against injustice but flay open the heartbreak of it all The colossal human tragedy shorn of its sheen of grandiosity Now it was still, quiet, the fecund earth now coolly suspirant The dark was filled with voices, myriad, out of all time that he had known, as though all the past was a flat pattern And going on tomorrow night, all the tomorrows, to be a part of the flat pattern, going on He thought of that with quiet astonishment going on, myriad, familiar, since all that had ever been was the same as all that was to be, since tomorrow to be and had been would be the same Then it was time. Words That do not merely align themselves in imperfect harmony to proudly proclaim artistic triumph but are wholly in communion with a sense of time and place Words brimming over with an abiding tenderness even when they speak of such disconcerting cruelty Race and gender and religious dogma segue into each other, but it is not just the deep south that is reconstructed from this thematic patchwork but a panoramic view of all human vulnerability These are words that serenade endurance in the face of inescapable defeat Words birthing an opera of anguished voices asking for reprieve, for redemption But there was too much running with him, stride for stride with him Not pursuers but himself years, acts, deeds omitted and committed, keeping pace with him, stride for stride, breath for breath, thud for thud of the heart, using a single heart. Words That forgive the sins of the doomed, the exiled, and the dispossessed of the earth and the ones who are shrunken under the weight of history They are filled with hope in the August of their lives, all of a sudden, these broken beings Hope of surviving decay and flowing into a future which has already severed all ties with them now and at last they had all played out the parts which had been allotted them and now they could live quietly with one another. Light arcs into this dreary abyss occasionally Light that flickers and wavers and fuels anticipation The light of new life that begets optimism in turn Who knows if it will purge the darkness of it all But it may.William Faulkner s soulful, mystical words whisper into the ears of eternity this dubious message of renewal amidst degeneration


  6. Michael Finocchiaro Michael Finocchiaro says:

    William Faulker, Light in August Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, I have come from Alabama, a fur piece Here Faulker presents Lena who has a passive role in Light in August as this phrase sitting, watching, thinking points out she is not actually doing an action here other than a purely mental one There is a lonely, languid feeling imparted by watching the wagon mount the hill that is shared with the wonderful title of the book The s William Faulker, Light in August Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, I have come from Alabama, a fur piece Here Faulker presents Lena who has a passive role in Light in August as this phrase sitting, watching, thinking points out she is not actually doing an action here other than a purely mental one There is a lonely, languid feeling imparted by watching the wagon mount the hill that is shared with the wonderful title of the book The southern drawl in fur and the reference to being far from Alabama, mark this book as one of the deep South, just as Faulkner himself The phrase is slow and takes its time to build up, just as the structure of the book for which it is the opening phrase There are a multitude of verbs in the phrase, but as I pointed out earlier, they are passive in the book, there is actually quite a lot of action and violence, but it is described at a slow, deliberate pace throughout.Light in August back in AP English was my first exposure to Faulkner and it was a mind blower His grandiose phrasing, the palpable violence and life in the characters, and the dark Southern gothic atmosphere mesmerized me Although it was years before I returned to Faulkner, eventually reading nearly everything he wrote including the 2 volume biography by Joseph Blotner, Light in August had always held for me a high and exalted place in 20th C American literature and remains one of my all time favourite books Cover to cover, it is exquisitely wrought out of the mud of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi painfully depicting the entwined destinies of Lena Grove, Byron Burch, and Joe Christmas what an extraordinary name for a character Equally impossible to forget is Faulkner s depiction of the preacher Gail Hightower only rarely Flannery O Connor comes to mind has anyone so vividly given a face as compelling and iconic to southern fundamentalism as this.An absolute must read especially if you are wishing to discover Faulkner


  7. Colin McKay Miller Colin McKay Miller says:

    A couple of thoughts I ll tie together 1 I read a BBC article that suggests a large percentage of people keep books on their shelf to impress others rather than to read them 2 As young students, teachers take us to the library and allow us to pick out whatever book we like as long as we re not just trying to avoid reading by picking out a pamphlet , but by the time we reach high school and college, it s assigned Though I believe an educator s recommendation to be valuable, I believe taking A couple of thoughts I ll tie together 1 I read a BBC article that suggests a large percentage of people keep books on their shelf to impress others rather than to read them 2 As young students, teachers take us to the library and allow us to pick out whatever book we like as long as we re not just trying to avoid reading by picking out a pamphlet , but by the time we reach high school and college, it s assigned Though I believe an educator s recommendation to be valuable, I believe taking away a person s choice can rob them of finding the book that will spark excitement and turn them into readers for life I believe far too many people are forced to read classics, when quite frankly, some of them will never be appealing For me, I usually have strong reactions, good or bad, to the classics, but I found my spark long ago For most people though, they know that reading is an intelligent practice, but they re bored by what they ve been forced to read, so books are used for the perception they create rather than the pleasure of their contents While some of it is taste and a blatant unwillingness to participate in any medium straying from the instant gratification culture, there are certainly a good number of masturbatory authors who areconcerned with coming off as intelligent rather than relatable I believe William Faulkner is one of those writers who lets his writing get in the way of a good story Published in 1932, Light in August is written in the Southern Gothic tradition set in Faulkner s fictional Mississippi county, Yoknapatawpha county where the grotesque is often perpetrated by horror romance archetypes without moral judgment from the author The plot consists of three connected strands 1 A pregnant woman, Lena Grove, in search of the father of her baby 2 An enigmatic alcohol smuggler, Joe Christmas, struggling with his mixed ancestry and 3 A disgraced Priest, Reverend Gail Hightower, who lives in near isolation after annoying the town with his sermons about his dead grandfather Much of the novel deals with the racism of the South, pulling in violence and observing Judeo Christian values if they were smashed into a funhouse mirror It takes a little while to find Faulkner s rhythm, but it s not a tough search and it s enjoyable until you realize he won t just tell the story The reader gets dragged through lengthy flashbacks even though the compelling plot line just found its adrenaline Then you ll get to the part you ve been waiting for and Faulkner will skip ahead, spoiling his own story then slowly backing through the incident without any of the tension There are obscure punctuation choices, too, and while it s not a major point of contention, it illustrates my frustration with his style He uses six ellipses when the standard three will do The second quarter of this book, about 150 pages, could have easily been trimmed back to a lean 30, and even though I liked the last chapter, at least 40 of the pages before that could have been cut out, too, but that s not Faulkner s style He believes in stream of consciousness, where thoughts expand and ideas ramble so that you understand the deepest recesses of a character While this has certain strengths as each character gets presented in differing ways, depending on who s viewing them I still find the style obese and much of the information superfluous I lean minimalistic by default though even I like a little meat on the bone , so I m not a fan of reading what I think a visceral editor should have cut Nothing seems to be minor in Faulkner s eyes As a result, none of the characters feel all that major either They re unique, distinguished, but with everything else, there s just too much to appreciate it It s like mixing all the beautiful colors After a while, you just end up with brown Sometimes you need to make choices and Faulkner doesn t make enough for my liking As a result, any other book of his will not come onto my shelf I don t care who thinks I look smart Two stars Barely


  8. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    I can t figure out if reading Faulkner particularly THIS one at the very time of the massive George Floyd protests is hideously inappropriate or exactly the right thing to do All I knew when I started was that I wanted to give Faulkner another shot Many years ago I laboured heroically through The Sound and the Fury and I seem to remember I thought it was brilliant, but maybe that was just because I survived it Thenrecently I read As I Lay Dying and that one was great, no equivocatio I can t figure out if reading Faulkner particularly THIS one at the very time of the massive George Floyd protests is hideously inappropriate or exactly the right thing to do All I knew when I started was that I wanted to give Faulkner another shot Many years ago I laboured heroically through The Sound and the Fury and I seem to remember I thought it was brilliant, but maybe that was just because I survived it Thenrecently I read As I Lay Dying and that one was great, no equivocation, I loved that one So maybe I m a Faulkner fan Let s see.Turns out, I m not There are major problems with this novel.FIRST PROBLEMThe story of Joe Christmas is the main thread here We get his whole life story The big thing about Joe is his race this is the Deep South and the 1920s, after all He looks like a white guy but he s been told he has some Negro blood in him This is just a rumour, no one has any proof He could and does live in white society without anyone raising an eyebrow The only way people get to know he might be part black is that he keeps telling them Knowing he might possibly be part what part, 5%, 10% this is never debated Negro crushes Joe s life, it drives him crazy And everyone he obsessively tells reacts as if he s just ripped off his human facemask to reveal a mass of wriggling tentacles They rear back in horror, they hiss, they throw him out with great force It s like if he sticks around they might catch blackness from him It s like there was an especial disgust in finding they were in a room with a part black guy without realising it.Reading this in the UK in 2020 is strange,than strange, it s virtually incomprehensible There are around 1.25 million mixed race people in this country No one bats an eyelid, nobody cares The only thing people are likely to say is oh those mixed race kids have such great hair Now this is not to say racism doesn t exist in the UK, far from it But this horror of racial mixing, of white people being in some way contaminated by black blood we would call it genes now I guess is not part of the picture So it seems to a modern reader as if Joe Christmas is suffering from an imaginary disease If he just shut up about it, no one would know But he can t So he suffers horribly Check this extraordinary passage Because the black blood drove him first to the negro cabin And then the white blood drove him out of there, as it was the black blood which snatched up the pistol and the white blood which would not let him fire it And it was the white blood which sent him to the minister, which rising in him for the last and final time, sent him against all reason and all reality, into the embrace of a chimera, a blind faith in something read in a printed Book Then I believe that the white blood deserted him for the momentI mean, WTF SECOND PROBLEMThe N word is used liberally on every other page If that s going to offend you, steer clear of Light in August Not only is it used a whole lot, it s used by the characters in the most offensive way possible THIRD PROBLEMFaulkner thinks us readers have got unlimited patience, so he just doesn t give a rat s or any other mammalian ass about moving the story forward At first you think hey, 100 pages, this is so straightforward, I thought Faulkboy was supposed to be tough And then everything screeches to a halt while a huge backstory is told in great detail Then we shoot off on another entirely different story Then we have to have this person s tiresome biography, and that character too, and then we jump back to fill in the bit of a part of the story only this newly introduced character was present at A good example is the very last chapter of this long book we get a totally new character introduced right there Cute This stop start monkey business was like to drive me crazy FOURTH PROBLEMThe writing style changes all the time, from chapter to chapter and within chapters I love this idea,of course, I am a fan of Ulysses, but some of Faulkner s styles are going to give you the heebyjeebies He knows what he s doing, he s being deliberately difficult, unless he was drunk in charge of a typewriter He seems to enjoy complication verging on bafflement for its own sake Joe Christmas is wondering about the two creatures that seem to inhabit his new lover Now it would be that still, cold, contained figure of the first phase who, even though lost and damned, remained somehow impervious and impregnable then it would be the other, the second one, who in furious denial of that impregnability strove to drown in the black abyss of its own creating that physical purity which had been preserved too long now even to be lost The neighbours poke about in the ruins of a burned house where a woman diedSo they moiled and clotted, believing that the flames, the blood, the body that had died three years ago and had just now begun to live again, cried out for vengeance, not believing that the rapt infury of the flames and the immobility of the body were both affirmations of an attained bourne beyond the hurt and harm of man A guy tiptoes into an old guy s room to wake him up There was a quality of profound and complete surrender in it Not of exhaustion, but surrender, as though he had given over and relinquished completely that grip upon that blending of pride and hope and vanity and fear, that strength to cling to either defeat or victory, which is the I Am, and the relinquishment of which is usually death Also Faulkner comes up with some really ridiculous similes here are eyes like beasts She watched him, holding his eyes up to hers like two beasts about to break, as if he knew that when they broke this time he would never catch them, turn them again, and that he himself would be lost And his pages and pages of loony old man preacher ravings about God s abomination i.e his grandson and bitches and whores i.e his daughter sound exactly like somebody s parody of the florid Bible soaked nutcases of The South And he just had to watch and to wait, and he did and it was in the Lord s good time, for evil to come from evil And the doctor s Jezebel come running from her lustful bed, still astink with sin and fear etc etc etc FIFTH PROBLEM WHAT FAULKNER DID NOT BELIEVERound about the time he was writing this book the Carter Family were recording one of their famous songs, you know the one, it goes Well there s a dark and a troubled side of life.There s a bright and a sunny side too.But if you meet with the darkness and strife,The sunny side we also may view.Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,Keep on the sunny side of life.It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way,If we keep on the sunny side of life.Faulkner did not believe in keeping on the sunny side No Not even slightly This novel is a gigantic miseryfest I saw a review that described all of this Southern Gothic genre of literature, including old man Faulkner, as morose scab picking Wow, that s a little harsh AND IN THE ENDI mean, the guy can write, he has command and he has immense material and he has a great milieu and all of that going for him It s just that three quarters the way through Light in August you may feel that you are going to die Probably in a bizarre agricultural accident BONUS TRACK his face sweating, his lip lifted upon his clenched and rotting teeth from about which the long sagging of flabby and puttycolored flesh falls awayoh shut up, William


  9. Brian Brian says:

    You re an American author, dead almost half a century, and there s this thing called television and a host ess talking about books with half the population of a country you once inhabited, you re on the list and why Race I really hate the term Great American Novel, how we capitalize it in the middle of sentences GAN, anyone and talk about examples of it with reverence It s a questing beast for authors that strive for it and an oddity for those who write something that receives the tag You re an American author, dead almost half a century, and there s this thing called television and a host ess talking about books with half the population of a country you once inhabited, you re on the list and why Race I really hate the term Great American Novel, how we capitalize it in the middle of sentences GAN, anyone and talk about examples of it with reverence It s a questing beast for authors that strive for it and an oddity for those who write something that receives the tag Through the years when I ve heard Faulkner and Light in August there s a downbeat before someone brings out the big GANs and people nod appreciatively I ve not looked up whatever passes for a definition of the GAN, but I ll take this as my personal one a novel that describes an immutable trait of what it is to be American Technological advances be damned, there are things that are going to seemingly always remain the same Our miserable, never ending racial inequalities and frustrations line our cultural fabric like toxins So to Faulkner I tip my hat for writing a Great American Novel Light in August is brilliant, my Exhibit A, as such.I ve managed to read a lot over nearly half a century but somehow have missed Faulkner I cracked As I Lay Dying as a 16 year old and ran screaming back to Dragon Lance fantasy I see both sides of the argument professing love or hate LIA is a master craft of a novel with modernist leanings and a narrative bent displaying an author s contempt for humanity Sentence structure, dialogue, narrative flow, characterization it is all a matter of taste, truly Fans of Southern Gothic will find plenty to love detractors, not so much But for this reader everything in this novel worked like LitMagic.I spoke with a friend last night that is an avowed Faulkner fan who said after finishing his first Faulkner he then read threein quick succession To me that would be like eating filet mignon followed by a ribeye and then a T bone steak One needs time to digest Faulkner, me thinks I want to ruminate like a four stomached beast on the gristle and marrow of what it means to be a white man in a country that can t seem to look past skin color any further than Faulkner s characters could in post Civil War Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi


  10. Steven Godin Steven Godin says:

    A dark and compelling slice of Southern Gothic with a prose which is easily recognisable as Faulkneresque that showcases his ability to write about the awful deep south at a time of serious racial prejudice, misogyny and the preaching of religion through the eyes of both men of the cloth and those who are deluded and fanatical Featuring some of Faulkner s most memorable characters including the dauntless Lena Grove searching for the father of her unborn child, Reverend Hightower who is dealin A dark and compelling slice of Southern Gothic with a prose which is easily recognisable as Faulkneresque that showcases his ability to write about the awful deep south at a time of serious racial prejudice, misogyny and the preaching of religion through the eyes of both men of the cloth and those who are deluded and fanatical Featuring some of Faulkner s most memorable characters including the dauntless Lena Grove searching for the father of her unborn child, Reverend Hightower who is dealing with many issues to do with faith and morality and the enigmatic drifter Joe Christmas where he is consumed with inner turmoil and evil minded thoughts all tied in with feelings for his mixed ancestry The narrative skips around between different characters and time zones making you really think about what is there in front of you, and there is no plot as such just interlinked small stories that tie off violently towards it s climax But it s not long into proceedings that he spells out quite clearly just where and when we are, with dialogue containing the N word on a scale that is both shocking and sadly all too realistic of this time, it s here that Faulkner is a master at creating a truly harsh and unforgettable world, certainly deliberately so, though I am not entirely sure that he fully meant it to be this way, all the folk that are presented before us seem like both victim and victimizer, unsympathetic and at a loss with life Even after all the sad and tragic events play out we are only really left with semi hope for a brighter future


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