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Light In August (Modern Library College Editions Series)

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Several stories are woven together to show man's inner alienation from the society about him.


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Several stories are woven together to show man's inner alienation from the society about him.

30 review for Light In August (Modern Library College Editions Series)

  1. 4 out of 5

    William2

    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 or more homes 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's more apparent 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. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Light in August, William Faulkner's Portraits of Loneliness and Isolation A Note Regarding This Review Today 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 Review Today 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 anymore. 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 one more breath 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 on more than forty years If it were possible I'd have it in Faulkner Country.. Light in August, First Edition, Smith & Haas, New York, New York, 1032 "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders." William Faulkner, "Light in August," Chapter Six, Paragraph One. m It 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 Oxford We 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 some more years 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. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    "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 Jeffe "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 Jefferson that compares with the classic tale of Oedipus. "And 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 assured. 'He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself.' He 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 bastard! Or 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 blacks: "He 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 reading. "Then 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 comes ‘all 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 herself: "She 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 woman. 'He fell in love contrary to all the tradition of his austere and jealous country raising which demands in the object physical inviolability.' There 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 shrubs.' And at last, the murdered lady, Miss Burden; the mature lady that involved herself with the unfortunate Christmas. 'I 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 niggers.' Even 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 compassion? "He 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. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    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 reviewer more adept 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 reviewer more adept 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 alienation. "Nothing 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 look more lonely 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 many more. Since 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 place. "He 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 say more about 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. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    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. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    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 favorite 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. 5 out of 5

    Colin McKay Miller

    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 are more concerned 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. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    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 three more in 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This novel is my first experience of William Faulkner’s writing. I was drawn to it partly because one of my favourite novelists, John Steinbeck, was a great admirer of Faulkner’s work and partly because I felt it was time to fill the gap in my literary education caused by my unfamiliarity with one of the great novelists of the 20th century. My research into which of Faulkner’s novels to start with indicated that Light in August is one of his more accessible works. This proved to be so, or at lea This novel is my first experience of William Faulkner’s writing. I was drawn to it partly because one of my favourite novelists, John Steinbeck, was a great admirer of Faulkner’s work and partly because I felt it was time to fill the gap in my literary education caused by my unfamiliarity with one of the great novelists of the 20th century. My research into which of Faulkner’s novels to start with indicated that Light in August is one of his more accessible works. This proved to be so, or at least, I found it very accessible. In it, Faulkner weaves together three stories. The novel starts with the story of Lena Grove, a young woman who has walked from Alabama to Mississippi looking for the father of her unborn child. It moves on to the story of Joe Christmas, an abused orphan obsessed with his uncertain racial identity, and to the story of Gail Hightower, a disgraced preacher living on the fringes of society. Their stories intersect in the fictional town of Jefferson and through them Faulker explores themes of alienation, religious intolerance and race and gender relations. Faulkner’s narrative structure is fascinating. It combines omniscient third-person narrative with interior monologues and extended flashbacks. Faulkner also allows characters to tell parts of the story to each other, relating their experience of particular events and speculating about parts of the action they have not directly witnessed. The point of view constantly changes from one character to another and the narrative travels back and forward in time and place, which allows the same scene to be described from different perspectives. As I listened to the audiobook I was irresistibly reminded of the writing of Thomas Hardy. In the past couple of years, I’ve learned to appreciate Hardy’s writing much more than I have in the past. This makes me think that I probably wouldn't have liked Faulkner if I’d read him in my teens or twenties. When I read Hardy now it feels like I’m reading Greek or Shakespearean tragedy in the form of a novel. That’s also how I felt when I listened to Light in August. While the narrative style of the two novelists is quite different, they both set their novels in a fictional location based on a real place - Yoknapatawpha County for Faulkner and Wessex for Hardy. Other similarities between Hardy and Faulkner include their focus on characters living on the margins of society whose idiom they capture in striking dialogue, as well as their use of powerful symbolism and imagery that is almost painterly in its intensity. Further, Hardy and Faulkner were both poets as well as novelists and their poetry seems ever present in their prose. And somehow I think I'm going to be as haunted by Joe Christmas as I am by Jude Frawley and Michael Henchard. Will Patton narrated the audiobook. His accent and speech rhythms brought the characters to life. Listening to the characters’ words and not just reading them transported me to their world - a world which both shocked and moved me. Listening to this novel was a very special literary experience.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    After some 45+ years, I have finally read Light in August again. What amazes me is how little beyond the basic character details I remembered. I also increasingly believe that I read Faulkner better with more life experience than I did when younger. I have been finding that true with many classics. As for the novel itself, I don’t plan a lengthy review. I have noted many sections I like using status updates (such a great way to sneak in a lot of quotations). Essentially this novel is many lives c After some 45+ years, I have finally read Light in August again. What amazes me is how little beyond the basic character details I remembered. I also increasingly believe that I read Faulkner better with more life experience than I did when younger. I have been finding that true with many classics. As for the novel itself, I don’t plan a lengthy review. I have noted many sections I like using status updates (such a great way to sneak in a lot of quotations). Essentially this novel is many lives coming full circle, it is the experience of subtle and exaggerated racism, a South that can’t let go of its Confederate past (which hardly seems past), of sectionalism which will not permit newcomers from “other”, northern, territories, of the continuing struggle of men and women (strength vs nurture perhaps). So many things here. My favorite section kept changing as I read but, in the end, I think it is Gail Hightower’s discovery of self near the end of the novel. Such a painful self-correction. Now that I have re-read Light in August it is returned to its secure place among my favorites of Faulkner’s novels. .................................................................................. My prior rating was 5*. I did my college thesis on characters from this book and how the language used to describe each reflected each person's character. I was amazed that this worked and have always wondered if authors work at this or do it unconsciously. I haven’t read this book since those college days and it is long overdue for this re-read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    Don't pray over no body. I knew that I would figure it out. It was something I already knew. That's how you don't feel bad about wanting to know anyone. Don't expect anything. It doesn't get rid of the falling feeling when you think about them, though. Light in August is an ultimate societal kangaroo's pouch of claustrophobic guilt for me. Where does anyone belong? William Faulkner writes to me in my favorite way of being talked to in stories (anything). If I could have this in every book I read Don't pray over no body. I knew that I would figure it out. It was something I already knew. That's how you don't feel bad about wanting to know anyone. Don't expect anything. It doesn't get rid of the falling feeling when you think about them, though. Light in August is an ultimate societal kangaroo's pouch of claustrophobic guilt for me. Where does anyone belong? William Faulkner writes to me in my favorite way of being talked to in stories (anything). If I could have this in every book I read I would be so happy. It's like being a real person and you're trusted with something precious, like a soul or mortal heart. It is so simple, really, but I can't get it enough. The characters live in their world, they look at each other and I can hear what they think about each other and their lives. He says about her what she might say about him. He thinks he's lying and then you get an idea of what he thinks a lie really is. It's a brilliant way of doing it, really. What they are saying has vibrations and I'm not wearing any shoes and if they haven't swept the floor I can feel that too, if the author has told me so or not. I'm not told everything as the end all truth. This is this is that is this. Bless you, William Faulkner. I can't tell you how much this means to me. I don't have a lot of (useful) smarts but I have this. It's the constant of my life, my one true love and solace. I can read a book and see the ways it could go, threads to the past and hopes and all of that stuff. If I could write about this well I'd be one hell of a book reviewer. Characterization is the master(bater) of my heart. King and queen and off with my head. I was going to write something about unrequited love. Memory believes before knowing remembers. Joe Christmas is my character. My living and breathing person. My suffocated person that reflects from space time years away too late. There are some other great ones in Light in August but it is Joe Christmas that spurred my unrequited love (for a lack of a better word. You can call it Marsian love, or plutonic love, or like celebrating Christmas for something other than Christ). Will you think me too sick if I confess that I felt that bit of envy in my mouth (it tastes like your own mouth flavor but you aren't used to it for once) when I see someone aloof, mysteriously inside themselves even in the middle of the shit? It is sick because I'm no different. I want to be outside of me too damned bad, that's it. I know too damned well how Joe Christmas felt between the black and white people. Cold spot, hot spot. Hot and cold doesn't make warm. Somewhere else to be and he doesn't make a third triangle point, not ever. He was that to me. Everyone you can make out in the fuzzy color spectrum (are black and white even colors? They don't make warm) are written by a writer you can't read using your own what makes you you. I'll call mine my Mariel intutition for this review. (I shouldn't. It's paranoid as fuck.) Listen to their foot falls running from the jail that houses you. Look back at me! They don't. You don't know because the speed of sound travels slower than the speed of your people reading eyes. Keep watching their faces for that look you could have sworn you felt when you weren't looking. Don't open the letter from your hot and cold like menopausal lover because you might start to pray over your body too. The warmth is like the camp kids putting your hand in a bowl of warm water to make you pee. You could keep getting up in the middle of the night just in case. It is the worst when you expect to pee and it doesn't happen. I couldn't think of anything else. Better stay close just in case. Better stay close in case you could go on being the same and no one is going to pray for anyone else to be anything else. Better get it over with. I felt a little freaked out for talking to him in my head to please don't do that. I had no right. It was not the hard work which he hated, nor the punishment and injustice. He was used to that before he ever saw either of them. He expected no less, and so he was neither outraged nor surprised. It was the woman: that soft kindness which he believed himself doomed to be forever victim of and which he hated worse than he did the hard and ruthless justice of men. 'She is trying to make me cry,' he thought, lying cold and rigid in his bed, his hands beneath his head and the moonlight falling across his body, hearing the steady murmur of the man's voice as it mounted the stairway on its first heavenward stage; 'She was trying to make me cry. Then she thinks that would have had me.' Joe Christmas is going to haunt me. I always say that. What can I say? Somewhere between my left and right ear is enough company to keep me grounded. Who else? Who else! The minister Hightower in his walled in from the rest of the world house. The faces are never going to hint at passion again. His own big body is enough to weight him down in his chair by the wi(n)dow to mourn those he won't love. Byron Bunch the man who never told a lie because he didn't have the letter F to put in lie. Steal it! It's on discount over on Sesame Street. He won't. Hightower would move hell on earth to stop him. Can I confess thay Byron Bunch did not move me? The pregnant Lena in search of her if you could call him a husband (er) all the way from Alabama did not move me either. What was interesting about them was that they were monuments for other sounds to bounce off of. Why, you're right kind. I'm doing the right thing at my own expense. Really? And I never asked for nothing. He would ask in the doing. I wasn't moved because there was a little bit of I already knew that for me before they were done. I wouldn't want the right. I didn't think that the mistrust of their niggers or women was what was important. (It COULD be anything.) It was what they were willing to pray over. You know, what you would look at- first glance only- enough to call it yours. They allow Joe Christmas's desmise in their peace of mind for the thousand dollar reward. Next place. Easy peazy lemon squeazy. Hey, it's all the same. Look how far we have come, baby. It's interesting to me what is easy for someone else. Lena's slow reponse. I could time it in my mind from the corners of the mouth to the crease by the eye. It doesn't move much. It's all right! Sure, a baby. Yeah, that guy fucked me and I'm pregnant and look I knew it was going to work out. If Faulkner had a fault it was her profound sigh over Brown (the fucker). Don't know if I believe that. I think she was just waiting for her cue for the response again. Lena is Lena when she's in a place of her own (that she won't eat unless she is was a perfect touch too). The sigh is withheld, I think. Anyway, who am I to quibble? (I might take characters as too real...) I don't care so much about her state as a loose women in a world of men who will do for her if she looks like she might ask for them to do so. Those things don't have to be true. It's interesting that they took for granted that it was true. I kind of loved Faulkner for getting that right. People are fucking sexists and fucking racists and it doesn't have to be that way. The people in Jefferson took it all for granted. Joe took for granted what wouldn't happen in his limbo of that not really a color of black or white. He's no different and yet he haunted me because he was pining for something else. Hightower too, even if his was dead. Bunch's is a phantom like one of Lena's smiles. Call it my unrequited love. I want to see it the way through and not if I can already see its shadow there. I know I'm more like Joe because I didn't relate to Lena at all. I would never have trusted those people. It isn't a comfortable thing to realize and then the person you can relate to wouldn't trust you either. My unrequited love descriptor of all my time on this planet is Lucy in Peanuts sitting by Schroeder's piano bench. I would want a violinist. Put my ear to the wood and listen to its winds going in one ear and finding some place between the two. Linus's blanket is this. Faulkner's sentences hook me and its worm goes in one ear. My security is knowing this. I can read this. Don't pray over no body. If Joe Christmas was a killer? There was a Joe Christmas that wasn't. There could have been a Joe Christmas after that wasn't. Don't pray for something else. Don't kneel at the sacrificial altar for something else either. It's something I already knew. Something about not writing people off. Write them enough to live. I don't want to be Hightower and never again see on faces anything else but judgement. My unrequited love would be Charlie Brown's sad walk home between the black cabins and the safe white houses that really aren't so safe either. It's not finished. Will I have the right to want it? I'm no different so okay. When he went to bed that night his mind was made up to run away. He felt like an eagle: hard, sufficient, potent, remorseless, strong. But that passed, though he did not then know that, like the eagle, his own flesh was well as all space was still a cage. Faulkner is great. He has their cruelty and their bruises and their community of what people want. I don't know why I'm not giving this the full five stars, really, except that what I already knew like looking out of a window after the sound has already happened thing. It could just be one of those feelings I have that I can't explain very well. (That's also my unrequited love.) There is that thing where I wish I was invincible and no one would know what I was thinking either. You get where you're not sure if you're being laughed at or not to where knowing you're being laughed at is better. Damn you, Joe. Stop reminding me! The review that I was going to write that was rolling around in my mind yesterday was better than this, as always. Still, I hope this will mean something to someone, anyway. I don't see how it could but I hope it will. P.s. Sorry for the repost an hour or so later. Goodreads and Alice in her chair are fucking with me. I know it's a crime against goodreads. I hope you can forgive me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I've read a few Faulkners now and this one left the least impression upon me, and yet it was still miles ahead of other novels! William Faulkner flogs words, he teases them, he primps and preens them pretty like. You'd be hard-pressed to find a wordsmith with more range. However, compared with his other works, specifically The Sound and The Fury and Absalom, Absalom, this one read like a plain old pedestrian story. It wasn't bad, it just didn't burn with the same fire as others. Still, he had the I've read a few Faulkners now and this one left the least impression upon me, and yet it was still miles ahead of other novels! William Faulkner flogs words, he teases them, he primps and preens them pretty like. You'd be hard-pressed to find a wordsmith with more range. However, compared with his other works, specifically The Sound and The Fury and Absalom, Absalom, this one read like a plain old pedestrian story. It wasn't bad, it just didn't burn with the same fire as others. Still, he had the ability to make the least of his ideas a pleasure to read. Even so, I read it and I forgot it. In fact, sitting here now a few years later, I couldn't tell you the plot to this one with much detail. Hell, I'd probably get much of it wrong. In prep for this review I was going to read a synopsis of Light in August, but then I thought, no, let this vague, forgetful impression speak for itself. Faulkner did not impress me with this one. I should let it be.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    We are in Mississippi, in Jefferson, imaginary Yoknapatawpha County town where Faulkner located many of his novels. It is between the two world wars with a racist south, still recovering from the civil war. Lena, pregnant girl, comes from Alabama to join the father of the child. A house is on fire. A murder has been committed. We will then follow the fate of Joe Christmas, and parallel those of the Reverend Hightower and Joanna Burden. It is a very dense book. The atmosphere is heavy. Nothing is t We are in Mississippi, in Jefferson, imaginary Yoknapatawpha County town where Faulkner located many of his novels. It is between the two world wars with a racist south, still recovering from the civil war. Lena, pregnant girl, comes from Alabama to join the father of the child. A house is on fire. A murder has been committed. We will then follow the fate of Joe Christmas, and parallel those of the Reverend Hightower and Joanna Burden. It is a very dense book. The atmosphere is heavy. Nothing is trivial. Each character has an unfortunate fate, tragic view. Faulkner describes much suffering among his characters mired in religion, in racism and hatred. This atmosphere is served by a beautiful writing, poetic and sensual. A writing that severe in us the feelings it evokes. Faulkner place his story in a nonlinear way. What I sometimes lost. But I remained glued to the story, even if the reading had to be in small doses, for all the reasons mentioned above. And I think he will stay me something of that reading for a long time. I will continue the discovery of this author, although I'll let a little time to immerse myself in this reading so rich and deep.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    The sins of the father, the sins of the mother, the sins of the deep and the golden dark. I've heard mentions of Light in August being one of Faulkner's most accessible works. Fitting, then, that it be the second of my readings, the first having been The Sound and the Fury. For I thought I found something in the first worth searching for in the rest, but as you and many an English Literature student know, TSatF isn't the place for certainty. Here, I found that Faulkner knew what he was doing. I ca The sins of the father, the sins of the mother, the sins of the deep and the golden dark. I've heard mentions of Light in August being one of Faulkner's most accessible works. Fitting, then, that it be the second of my readings, the first having been The Sound and the Fury. For I thought I found something in the first worth searching for in the rest, but as you and many an English Literature student know, TSatF isn't the place for certainty. Here, I found that Faulkner knew what he was doing. I cannot throw terms like "Southern Gothic" around, for what do I know of the South or the Gothic? I've lived in the United States and visited a specified architecture and read a certain style of literature, but never have I visited the South. So I will stick to what I recognize, and let the larger shine through. Race, war, and religion; man, woman, and child. Faulkner knew and loved them much as a deity might, I'd imagine. The Bible is a tract of violent imagery colluding with cries of peace, humanity's brutal instinct and divine idea, and it is no wonder that he drowns so often in its revelations while revealing his own. It takes a certain caliber of author to write with all the living beauty and horrific prejudice in place, the truth if you will for which words are less than useless, and come out with a message of power wrapped around a bleeding heart. Where better for an American author to start than at the origin, no matter how raw and flawed in scope? A work in full knowledge of its terror. Writing with a conscience that it refuses to hide behind. That is what we have here, bound up in generations of creed and color, as complex a weft as life itself and as inexplicable, except not, for what is literature if not an explanation of the murky depths melded with brightest glow? I'd speak of characters, but really, what more does one need to know beyond the result of the Civil War, the society of the white supremacist, and the viciousness of Old Testament patriarchy? This book, for one. I'd speak more of Faulkner, but there is not much else to speak on beyond the reputation he holds in the hallowed halls of namedropping. It's a shame as well as a pleasure, the weight his name carries, for as with every giant of experience there comes in his wake the gift to humanity as well as the pecking order. I will say, though, he will be afforded much more leniency in my future readings than other authors. For it is not so much a matter of personal preference as of recognized importance. If you wish to know both the US and the broader scope of humanity, here is Faulkner at his most accessible. I can't think of a better place to start. The organ strains come rich and resonant through the summer night, blended, sonorous, with that quality of abjectness and sublimation, as if the freed voices themselves were assuming the shapes and attitudes of crucifixions, ecstatic, solemn, and profound in gathering volume. Yet even then the music has still a quality stern and implacable, deliberate and without passion so much as immolation, pleading, asking, for not love, not life, forbidding it to others, demanding in sonorous tones death as though death were the boon, like all Protestant music. It was as though they who accepted it and raised voices to praise it within praise, having been made what they were by that which the music praised and symbolised, they took revenge upon that which made them so by means of the praise itself. Listening, he seems to hear within it the apotheosis of his own history, his own land, his own environed blood: that people from which he sprang and among whom he lives who can never take either pleasure or catastrophe or escape from either, without brawling over it. Pleasure, ecstasy, they cannot seem to bear: their escape from it is in violence, in drinking and fighting and praying; catastrophe too, the violence identical and apparently inescapable And so why should not their religion drive them to crucifixion of themselves and one another? he thinks. It seems to him that he can hear within the music the declaration and dedication of that which they know that on the morrow they will have to do. It seems to him that the past week has rushed like a torrent and that the week to come, which will begin tomorrow, is the abyss, and that now on the brink of cataract the stream has raised a single blended and sonorous and austere cry, not for justification but as a dying salute before its own plunge, and not to any god but to the doomed man in the barred cell within hearing of them and of two other churches, and in whose crucifixion they too will raise a cross. ‘And they will do it gladly,’ he says, in the dark window.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Nelson

    'He just stared at her, at the face which he had never seen before, saying quietly (whether aloud our not, he could not have said) in a slow amazement: Why, I committed murder for her. I even stole for her as if he had just heard of it, thought of it, been told that he had done it.' Light in August by William Faulkner is quite simply a superlative piece of fiction, it surpasses pretty much anything else I've read in 30 years. If you want to read an author who literally dances with words in a styl 'He just stared at her, at the face which he had never seen before, saying quietly (whether aloud our not, he could not have said) in a slow amazement: Why, I committed murder for her. I even stole for her as if he had just heard of it, thought of it, been told that he had done it.' Light in August by William Faulkner is quite simply a superlative piece of fiction, it surpasses pretty much anything else I've read in 30 years. If you want to read an author who literally dances with words in a style that sometimes beggars belief then go no further. This is the man. Every word slips into your mind, hijacks your conscious thought, rattles around and leaves you awestruck at what you've just read. Simple things such as feeling and thought become pressing, alluring, completely captivating as if his words are magnetic and your memory a receptacle cast with veins of steel. 'The father sat, gaunt, grizzled, and austere, beneath the lamp. He had been listening, but his expression was brooding, with a kind of violently slumbering contemplativeness and bewildered outrage.' The story centre's on two strangers who arrive in Faulkners fictional town, come home, Jefferson in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi at different times and affecting the town in vastly differing ways. The plot first focuses on Lena Grove, a young pregnant white woman from Alabama who comes in search of the Father and the promise of marriage. At the same time a fire brings the crime of murder and two obvious suspects into the public eye. The second story thread is the life of Joe Christmas from a young orphan to a whisky bootlegger, living on the property where fire and death bring grave attention, and the second suspect Lucas Burch the man that Lena searches for. We follow Christmas, his impending doom as clear as crystal, deracinated, alone and searching for identity, for a home. A complex and tragic tale, full of outcasts, misfits and those forever searching, no clear path in site, only hardship and endurance. 'Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.' This was my first read/listen from William Faulkner and narrated in a powerfully stunning performance by Will Patton, to be fair he had a hell of a lot to work with, definitely a classic and now a firm favourite. Honestly there's a memorable quote on every single page, that's what it felt like anyway. If I ever had the thought to write (luckily I don’t) then I think I’d read everything this guy had written in his life and pray that some of it rubbed off on me. I've since got another dozen of his stories and I'll be slowly devouring them with an all-consuming enjoyment. 'So they looked at the fire, with the same dull and static amaze which they had bought down from the old fetid caves where knowing began, as though, like death, they had never seen fire before.' Also posted at http://paulnelson.booklikes.com/post/...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    It happened earlier this week. I lost my Faulkner virginity (a short story not counting). Since there is no dearth of personal or professional opinions about his oeuvre, what can I add? Nothing really except a check off on my reading bucket list. I give this one all the stars because at different times ★I didn’t like it ★★ It was okay ★★★ I liked it ★★★★ I really liked it ★★★★★ It was awesome My overall enthusiasm settled between 3 and 4—round up or down? If you’ve never read him this is considered a mos It happened earlier this week. I lost my Faulkner virginity (a short story not counting). Since there is no dearth of personal or professional opinions about his oeuvre, what can I add? Nothing really except a check off on my reading bucket list. I give this one all the stars because at different times ★I didn’t like it ★★ It was okay ★★★ I liked it ★★★★ I really liked it ★★★★★ It was awesome My overall enthusiasm settled between 3 and 4—round up or down? If you’ve never read him this is considered a most reader friendly portal to his genius so a good place to begin. Whatever rating he exacts from the reader will come after some intense brain cross training. I choose to go up out of respect. I have never read anything like this. Surely he’s in a class by himself and has been a huge inspiration to a number of my favorite authors. I was left feeling like a wad of tobacco that had been chewed up and spit out. Not on the ground mind, into a solid brass spittoon more like.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eryn

    2.75 / 5 First piece of writing I actually somewhat enjoyed by Faulkner! This day ought to be marked down. Light in August was assigned by my senior seminar professor, and while I wasn’t entirely fond of the whole story there were certainly chapters I enjoyed; specifically the first few chapters. The books started to slow down around the midway point when we were back to the house being burned down. Basically, after we found out about Christmas and his backstory, the story fell to a dull point. T 2.75 / 5 First piece of writing I actually somewhat enjoyed by Faulkner! This day ought to be marked down. Light in August was assigned by my senior seminar professor, and while I wasn’t entirely fond of the whole story there were certainly chapters I enjoyed; specifically the first few chapters. The books started to slow down around the midway point when we were back to the house being burned down. Basically, after we found out about Christmas and his backstory, the story fell to a dull point. The writing is very Faulkner-like with how every name, event, saying, has some type of meaning. It’s a meaning either you’ll understand or never figure out (or will be revealed later). I enjoyed this difficult style of writing -- on days I wasn’t tired. On days I had work, tutoring, and classes, Faulkner’s writing exhausted me. On a side note, I’m glad Lena and Byron were “together” by the end of the novel. Byron is a good guy and Lena needs someone who will keep her from consistently wandering. Overall, Faulkner is not going to be a favorite author of mine — ever. That being said, this was probably the best novel I’ve read by him; and even though the characters are quite developed, I didn’t find them to be too interesting. Well, they dulled down after the beginning.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    So I'm back in school now, and for the first time in ages am being made to read books. Now I don't have any personal experience with desperately trying to get pregnant, but reading novels for school reminds me of that: there's this activity that I'm used to doing purely for fun when I feel like it, that I'm now grimly pushing through on an inflexibly dictated schedule, whether I'm in the mood or not, with this intense sense of purpose that seems to poison the whole event. The result is that I'm So I'm back in school now, and for the first time in ages am being made to read books. Now I don't have any personal experience with desperately trying to get pregnant, but reading novels for school reminds me of that: there's this activity that I'm used to doing purely for fun when I feel like it, that I'm now grimly pushing through on an inflexibly dictated schedule, whether I'm in the mood or not, with this intense sense of purpose that seems to poison the whole event. The result is that I'm not really enjoying any of the books I read these days -- I feel so oppressed powering through 700 pages in a week under the threat of a syllabus that it's impossible for me to tell whether I'd like the books I'm reading in more organic conditions. So I guess if my star-rating average drops a lot, that'd be why. This is my first Faulkner, and I didn't hate it or anything, but it may well be my last. I'm glad I read it, because never having read him was always more than a little embarrassing, but now I get the gist of what his deal is, and it's basically more or less what I thought: lovely and often startling language, legions of poetically insane and religiously fanatic and sexually rampant violent southerners, and frequency of n-word drops that'd make a rap star turn green with envy. It was less formally innovative than I imagine his other stuff being, I guess, so maybe I'll try one of those someday to see. There were some great things in this book -- mostly language, and the evocation of mood, power relations and place -- but I thought it was overly long and fell apart at the end into some sloppy-seeming bloatedness and kind of Hollywoodish whatever. I read this for a class the same week that we also did The Power and the Glory, and this made for an interesting comparison with its thoroughly created and self-contained nightmare world of terrorism and fear (though I liked the Graham Greene a whole lot more). I dunno, it was fine, and it did have its moments, but I really suffered through the last 150 pages. Admittedly this was because I had to finish it by the next day for class, but nonetheless that was my experience, and it was pretty brutal and bad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Juushika

    Lena Grove travels, on foot and with the aid of strangers, through the South in search of the father of her unborn child. Her journey introduces the reader to a variety of characters, including the child's father, a man who falls in love with Lena, and a biracial man named Christmas. Like Lena, all of these characters have stories to tell, and Faulkner interweaves a number of back stories and histories in the body of this book. One of his more accessable texts, Light in August is easy to get in Lena Grove travels, on foot and with the aid of strangers, through the South in search of the father of her unborn child. Her journey introduces the reader to a variety of characters, including the child's father, a man who falls in love with Lena, and a biracial man named Christmas. Like Lena, all of these characters have stories to tell, and Faulkner interweaves a number of back stories and histories in the body of this book. One of his more accessable texts, Light in August is easy to get in to and builds up gradually to its complexities and confusing narrative traits. The result is a readable text that still manages to capture the character depth and human study that Faulkner does so well. While I prefer his more difficult/complex work, I definitely enjoyed this text and I highly recommend it. For the first couple chapters, this book doesn't feel like Faulkner. I was surprised by just how approachable and linear the text was. By the last few chapters, Faulkner is intertwining disparate narratives and times and using more streams of consciousnesses. The book definitely becomes more complex as it progresses. This gradual build up in style and complexity allows the reader to adapt to Faulkner's writing style and techniques, making the end of the book more rewarding because the reader has a better grasp of how to understand and interpret it. I highly recommend this text for readers new to Faulkner, and I think high schools would do well to use it in place to As I Lay Dying in schools. That said, I enjoyed both As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury more than this book. Because both books delve immediately into the complex end of Faulkner's writing style, they reach their full potential from the onset rather than building in to it. Characters have more stories, more thoughts, more key events; information is tightly packed, emotional, and raw, less filtered through the writer's lens. I don't feel like I found as much depth or character interest in Light in August, with the possible exception of Christmas, whose life story receives the most attention and time. I have no doubt that this was a good book: characters are real and descriptions detailed, almost physical; Faulkner attacks his greater issues of humanity, personal history, and fault and action from multiple angles both narrative and character-based. The book is compelling, both depressing and uplifting and certainly enlightening. Nonetheless, I believe that Faulkner sacrificed some depth by limiting the writing style at the beginning of the book. I do recommend this book, as well as any other book by Faulkner. He is an extraordinary author and conveys fascination with and insights on humanity: what makes a man, what insights him to action, and when, despite all justification, man is still at fault. This book is a good start for those new to Faulkner. While it may be disappointing, in terms of style and depth, to those that have already read him, Light in August nonetheless contains one of Faulkner's most complex and compelling character and is a rewarding read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    While Faulkner is a beautiful writer he is very depressing. I lost interest after 100 plus pages, so I really can't even say that I read the book. What did me in was his flashbacks. It was okay for one chapter, but chapter after chapter revealed flashbacks, and this during the time when I found the book so interesting. My thought was to skip them and get on with the book, but so many chapters were on it. I will keep the book and keep trying. P.S. I gave in and finished the book. It never got bey While Faulkner is a beautiful writer he is very depressing. I lost interest after 100 plus pages, so I really can't even say that I read the book. What did me in was his flashbacks. It was okay for one chapter, but chapter after chapter revealed flashbacks, and this during the time when I found the book so interesting. My thought was to skip them and get on with the book, but so many chapters were on it. I will keep the book and keep trying. P.S. I gave in and finished the book. It never got beyond boring and was so full of violence that I could hardly stand it. I remember trying to read, As I Lay Dying, and quit because it was a downer. I don't expect to ever read another Faulkner book, but at least I can say I did.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wyndy

    ‘What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been’ ~ Grateful Dead, circa 1977 I’ve just spent ten “scarcebreathing” days, a mere two months plotwise, hanging out in 1920’s Jefferson, Mississippi with Mr. William Faulkner and his buddies Joe Christmas, Rev. Gail Hightower, Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, the McEacherns, Lucas Burch (aka Joe Brown), Uncle Doc Hines and his missus, and Joanna Burden, to name a few. And what a whirlwind trip it’s been. I met people damned from birth and a few that left me hopeful; witne ‘What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been’ ~ Grateful Dead, circa 1977 I’ve just spent ten “scarcebreathing” days, a mere two months plotwise, hanging out in 1920’s Jefferson, Mississippi with Mr. William Faulkner and his buddies Joe Christmas, Rev. Gail Hightower, Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, the McEacherns, Lucas Burch (aka Joe Brown), Uncle Doc Hines and his missus, and Joanna Burden, to name a few. And what a whirlwind trip it’s been. I met people damned from birth and a few that left me hopeful; witnessed alienation, abuse, racism, loneliness, religious fanaticism and death; heard rich dialogue that sizzled like steak in a cast iron skillet, and puzzled over vocabulary unlike any other in fiction: “pinewiney,” “swolebellied,” “fecundmellow,” “sootbleakened,” “cinderstrewnpacked,” “thwartfacecurled,” and “Augusttremulous.” And somehow, after everything that happened in this town these two months, I ended up almost where I started, a little dustier but infinitely more enriched: “My, my. A body does get around.” The way Faulkner brings this long, strange, complex novel full circle is genius. There’s no need for me to rehash the plot since most every Faulkner fan has already read this book - Joe Christmas is practically a household word. Instead, I’ll thank the members of ‘On The Southern Literary Trail’ for this month’s pre-1980 selection and for your encouraging comments to us Faulkner strugglers in the group. I can now lay down my burden of shame at never finishing a Faulkner. Four attempts. Four different novels. Abject failure. But ‘Light In August’ was finally THE ONE. 5 damn fine, better-late-than-never stars, and a few of my favorite non-spoiler excerpts from this 1932 Southern classic, written by one of the most revered authors in literature: “In the lambent suspension of August into which night is about to fully come, it seems to engender and surround itself with a faint glow like a halo. The halo is full of faces. The faces are not shaped with suffering, not shaped with anything; not horror, pain, not even reproach. They are peaceful, as though they have escaped into an apotheosis; his own is among them.” ~ Rev. Gail Hightower “He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet . . .” ~ Joe Christmas “His face was gaunt, the flesh a level dead parchment color. Not the skin: the flesh itself, as though the skull had been molded in a still and deadly regularity and then baked in a fierce oven.” ~ Byron Bunch describing Joe Christmas “It seems like a man can just about bear anything. He can even bear what he never done. He can even bear the thinking how some things is just more than he can bear. He can even bear it that if he could just give down and cry, he wouldn’t do it. He can even bear not to look back, even when he knows that looking back or not looking back wont do him any good.” ~ Byron Bunch “It seems to him that he has seen it all the while: that that which is destroying the Church is not the outward groping of those within it nor the inward groping of those without, but the professionals who control it and who have removed the bells from its steeples . . . He seems to see the churches of the world like a rampart, like one of those barricades of the middleages planted with dead and sharpened stakes, against truth and against that peace in which to sin and be forgiven which is the life of man.” ~ Rev. Gail Hightower

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chazzbot

    Like some bemused god looking down on his creations with a trace of empathy, but also with a hint of disdain at their hopeless bigotry, indolence, and willful ignorance, Faulkner's keen, cool eye for the way humans can be chilly in its precision. But there is no denying that Faulkner knows his characters and, by extension, his readers. This is a somewhat grim novel, with little evidence of hope for any of the characters who manage to walk away, but you will be hard pressed to find a more honest Like some bemused god looking down on his creations with a trace of empathy, but also with a hint of disdain at their hopeless bigotry, indolence, and willful ignorance, Faulkner's keen, cool eye for the way humans can be chilly in its precision. But there is no denying that Faulkner knows his characters and, by extension, his readers. This is a somewhat grim novel, with little evidence of hope for any of the characters who manage to walk away, but you will be hard pressed to find a more honest and unsentimental writer. My favorite passage may provide an example of what I mean, a portrait of a wife who has been too patient for too long: "She was waiting on the porch--a patient, beaten creature without sex demarcation at all save the neat screw of graying hair and the skirt--when the buggy drove up. It was as though instead of having been subtly slain and corrupted by the ruthless and bigoted man into something beyond his intending and her knowing, she had been hammered stubbornly thinner and thinner like some passive and dully malleable metal, into an attenuation of dumb hopes and frustrated desires now faint and pale as dead ashes." And this is a minor character! Not every reader will have the stamina to wander around in Faulkner's world for long, but those that make the trip will come back with a richer, if more complicated, understanding of the people among us.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    A devastating and elliptical examination of race in America, Faulkner here absolutely dazzles with his approach. Entirely linear at days’ end, he slices up the novel in such a way that allows for examination from every possible angle (sideways being the favored direction). His CHOPCHOPCHOP cadence perfectly mimics the frustratingly apathetic and inert resistance to racial enlightenment in the South, post-Civil War. It reads with the intentionally arrogant pacing of a mule doing calculus, seeming A devastating and elliptical examination of race in America, Faulkner here absolutely dazzles with his approach. Entirely linear at days’ end, he slices up the novel in such a way that allows for examination from every possible angle (sideways being the favored direction). His CHOPCHOPCHOP cadence perfectly mimics the frustratingly apathetic and inert resistance to racial enlightenment in the South, post-Civil War. It reads with the intentionally arrogant pacing of a mule doing calculus, seemingly designed to make the reader butt his or her head against the nearest wall in absolute disbelief at the entrenched seed of self-appointed supremacy these hillbillies entertain. Which is to say nothing of the complexities of “Negro” self-identification and the self-loathing that can engender. I could go on, but why? It’s "Wild" Bill Faulkner—I think his legacy is pretty well-established without my (literally sitting in an) armchair theatrics. So I’ll say this: read it and then talk to me about racial equality. I’ll then talk to you about Christmas, first name Joe. Or, y’know, it’s almost baseball season.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    3.5 stars rounded up. This is a heavyweight story with big themes and fascinating characters. However, for me it was not an easy story to read, so I was happy to be reading it with a GR’s group, ‘On the Southern Literary Trail.’ Some in the group say this is one of the easier of Faulkner’s stories. Not sure I'd want to read a harder one. Maybe. It feels like multiple stories twisted into a braid; it’s not a loose braid either, it’s dense, packed tight. There is some stream of consciousness that 3.5 stars rounded up. This is a heavyweight story with big themes and fascinating characters. However, for me it was not an easy story to read, so I was happy to be reading it with a GR’s group, ‘On the Southern Literary Trail.’ Some in the group say this is one of the easier of Faulkner’s stories. Not sure I'd want to read a harder one. Maybe. It feels like multiple stories twisted into a braid; it’s not a loose braid either, it’s dense, packed tight. There is some stream of consciousness that makes it difficult to follow who exactly the narrator is talking about. For example, in one chapter, Reverend Gail Hightower thinks back on his own history, that of his grandfather, and of his father. It was incredibly difficult for me to understand what sentence belonged to what fellow. This was the worst (for me) of the stream of consciousness. Most of the time I could follow it. Sometimes Faulkner would write thinking, followed by what the character was thinking, and then write, believing, followed by the character’s beliefs. I found this interesting because our beliefs often commandeer our behaviors. Many of the characters are weighted down by their history. Joe Christmas, one of the central characters, was found on the doorstep of an orphanage on Christmas night, thus his name. His unknown parentage and a darker skin tone which Faulkner calls parchment, cause him to be bullied by the other children. When he is eventually fostered out, it is to a hard and abusive man, McEachern. We could call him hard luck Joe. Even when he catches a break, he reacts with disdain and occasionally violence, which brings him more trouble. Reverend Gail Hightower has been outcast by the town because of events in his past, and Miss Burden, lives on the outskirts of town, scorned by the townsfolk because she and her people are friendly to and try to help black people. This is a story largely about society’s rejects. Civil War history and the time of slavery live on in many of the characters. Faulkner is able to create a reality of what racism, narrow-minded gossip and censure were like in a small southern town. He paints masterful visual pictures, too. This is how he describes, Lena Grove, another central character, heavily pregnant walking on foot from Alabama, to Jefferson, Mississippi, to find the father of her child. “From beneath a sunbonnet of faded blue, weathered now by other than formal soap and water, she looks up at him quietly and pleasantly: young, pleasantfaced, candid, friendly, and alert. She does not move yet. Beneath the faded garment of that same weathered blue her body is shapeless and immobile. The fan and the bundle lie on her lap. She wears no stockings. Her bare feet rest side by side in the shallow ditch. The pair of dusty, heavy, manlooking shoes beside them are not more inert.” Pleasantfaced and manlooking are not typos. Faulkner freely uses conjoined words, creating his own adjectives. Here's another example, “He reached the woods and entered, among the hard trunks, the branchshadowed quiet, hardfeeling, hardsmelling, invisible.” They make you pay attention. He also uses interesting narrative paradoxes. “He looked like a tramp, yet not like a tramp either.” Also, “His eyes ruthless, old, but not unkind,” and “Her eyes were like the button eyes of a toy animal: a quality beyond even hardness, without being hard.” It seems more than an attention device; it seems he is saying there are thoughts and qualities in life that can only be described with impossible contradictions. Perhaps the characters of Lena Grove and Joe Christmas offer the reader a more complete insight because of their contradictions. Lena Grove, fecund like an orchard grove, pregnant with child, molds circumstances to fit her will. Joe Christmas, abandoned at birth and unfortunate in love has a conflicted, often contemptuous role with the women in his life and is therefore unlikely to produce children. Joe seems to be molded by his circumstances. While Lena relishes food, by the end of the story, Joe doesn’t even feel the need for food; he takes no pleasure in it. Even though women judge Lena, the men are always kind and she thanks them all, the men and women who help her in her travels. Joe is an emotional island, lacking connectivity. I feel deep sorrow for Joe because Faulkner makes me understand him. Although this is a difficult read, there are many things to appreciate about Faulkner’s narrative style, deeply fascinating characters, and the way he presents southern life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I have to imagine that Oprah Winfrey lost a bit of her, still colossal, political capital when she attempted to get the bored housewives of Middle America to read the works of Faulkner several summers back. I remember when we first received the Oprah Box, as we called the Faulkner box set that was released for the occasion, at the bookstore where I worked. A hugely prominent end cap exhorting neophyte readers used to books that never grew more challenging than the woe-is-me fiction of Wally Lamb I have to imagine that Oprah Winfrey lost a bit of her, still colossal, political capital when she attempted to get the bored housewives of Middle America to read the works of Faulkner several summers back. I remember when we first received the Oprah Box, as we called the Faulkner box set that was released for the occasion, at the bookstore where I worked. A hugely prominent end cap exhorting neophyte readers used to books that never grew more challenging than the woe-is-me fiction of Wally Lamb and Janet Finch to dive in headfirst to, what I consider, one of the most challenging and unforgiving authors of the 20th Century. Needless to say, we received a lot of returned copies of the box set, invariably with all of the books untouched save either Absolom, Absolom or Sound & The Fury. I always got a quiet thrill out of imagining these people first confronted with Faulkner’s stream of consciousness prose and balking within the first 50 pages. Admittedly, much of this schadenfreude was due to a massive reluctance on my part to take the plunge. What can I say? The man is damned intimidating. It’s been nearly five years since then and I have only now, after much arm-twisting and haranguing from a friend, gotten over myself and cracked the seal on Mr. Faulkner. Granted, Light in August is often held up to be one of Faulkner’s most accessible books, so it wasn’t as though I were reading Finnegan’s Wake or anything. Still, this wasn’t exactly easy reading. Within the opening twenty pages we are given multiple perspectives on the same scene, two simultaneous yet diametrically opposite trains of thought within the mind of a single character, and enough conjoined words to fill up a Bangkok maternity ward. While at times these literary tricks of Faulkner would catch me up for a few minutes, they went a long way toward heightening my enjoyment of this tale. Set in the small town of Jefferson, Mississippi, Light in August tells the tale of Joe Christmas, a mixed race man trying to pass in the age of Jim Crow, where just one drop of black blood is too much, Lena Grove, a woman walking across the state in search of Lucas Burch, the n’er-do-well who knocked her up in Alabama before disappearing, and the Reverend Hightower, a disgraced and defrocked priest stuck living in a past that may never have existed, aside from his imagination. While Faulkner weaves together the necessary racism, misogyny, loneliness, madness and lust that helps make a good piece of Southern fiction, what this book reminded me of the most was Steinbeck’s East of Eden. While Steinbeck’s work was primarily occupied with the tale of Cain and Abel and Original Sin, Light in August serves to remind that the past is never past us, but continues to reverberate through generations. Christmas can never outrun his mixed blood, just as Lucas Burch can never outrun Lena, and whether the tragic results of Christmas’ quest for a unified identity are rooted in his culture’s racist roots or are the result of a curse placed upon his grandfather by his grandmother are left open to interpretation. Regardless, Faulkner paints a fascinating portrait of a land and people mired in their past as thoroughly as if ghosts walked the street in broad daylight. I have to admit, though, that I am still quite unsure what I think of this book. While at times I flew through the story, anxious to know more and to see how it would connect with what I had read before, there were many sections where I just became bogged down and continuing on became more of a struggle with my vanity in not abandoning books and less about the actual joy derived in the read. I’m not ready to write off Faulkner yet, but I am definitely going to think long and hard before deciding which I want to read next.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    You start off with the one story, all right. In the background there’s something bizarre, and you can instantly make up your mind about what it is, or not bother with it at all, like you do in life or any story. Then, a few chapters pass, and like a boxer’s feint now that background is the story: and it’s so different up close, all your judgements are useless, it makes your mouth gape open to see what’s really going on. Now the original story is in the background and something new that’s bizarre You start off with the one story, all right. In the background there’s something bizarre, and you can instantly make up your mind about what it is, or not bother with it at all, like you do in life or any story. Then, a few chapters pass, and like a boxer’s feint now that background is the story: and it’s so different up close, all your judgements are useless, it makes your mouth gape open to see what’s really going on. Now the original story is in the background and something new that’s bizarre: well, it happens all over again, you’re thrown out of this story and into the new one, defiant of every previous conclusion. And on and on it goes, this one tornado of a story keeps whipping around, and these three weeks of events and all the people involved get refracted through all the other sets of events and the rest of the people involved, while it barrels along, in the foreground and background, from at least eight different points of view. Boy, have I missed Faulkner screwing with my head. One of the great myths of our age has to be Faulkner as this self-serious, highbrow literature, because this is about as bloody and pulpy and nasty and fun as it gets. There’s such a heart to this, and a brain, and a pitch-black sense of humor: Faulkner’s not afraid to keep ripping the rug out from under you, challenging everything you think about the depths of people, and then suggesting even his truth is absurd. In fact, that’s what I’d say Light in August is, all the crazy dog-leg turns are there to suggest the ridiculous and then justify it, and then undercut that as well, playing fast and loose with what you think a man is and why. All the while you can’t shake it, I dare you, the idea that Faulkner just wants you to think. He won’t tell you what to think. He’ll keep mixing up and muddling what you think he wants you to think. And that’s how he gets the South right. The perverse delight in it, less interested in morals and capital-T Truth than making you do it: look at the freak show, accept something uncomfortable, and think for yourself. [Byron] thought. ‘Like a fellow running from or toward a gun aint got time to worry whether the word for what he is doing is courage or cowardice.’

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    It inspired Boris Vian and that's enough in my book. Joe Christmas is one of the great fictional characters in fiction. I can smell Southern culture right off these pages. Taste it and live the tale.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Hands down the best Faulkner I've read yet. Faulkner touches on alot of themes. This was an intense book that was hard to put down. I guess I would say I'm a plot junky and Faulkner delivered but he also presented some fascinating and diverse characters. To date, this is the easiest Faulkner I've read and it starts out strong, never lags and ends strong. 5 stars no doubt and it's added to my favorite shelf.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    The most obvious reason why one would choose to read this book is the magnificent way in which it evokes the atmosphere of the South in the 1920s. The hatred and distrust between the races was all pervasive. Such despair! To say the book is about racial discrimination is like saying a "painting is pretty" ……..and leaving it at that. It is the emotional response that Faulkner’s words evoke in the reader that is so exceptional. Faulkner's sentences usually say more than the bare words; think prose The most obvious reason why one would choose to read this book is the magnificent way in which it evokes the atmosphere of the South in the 1920s. The hatred and distrust between the races was all pervasive. Such despair! To say the book is about racial discrimination is like saying a "painting is pretty" ……..and leaving it at that. It is the emotional response that Faulkner’s words evoke in the reader that is so exceptional. Faulkner's sentences usually say more than the bare words; think prose poetry. Many of the sentences have a deeper meaning. For me this is a plus; I enjoy grappling with the meaning. At the same time as one is groping to understand the message implied, one is also grappling with a plot that can be confusing. A new chapter will start with - he did this and she that! "Who, who, who?" one exasperatingly asks. Calm down and wait and listen; you will find out. What is he saying? What does he mean? I certainly asked myself this many times. At times I was annoyed! Don't expect an easy read. Faulkner’s writing is full of metaphors. Some of them worked for me and some didn't. The book is dark in tone. It is gritty. I can't say there is a smidgen of humor in this book, except maybe the ending. I smiled, but don’t get me wrong, one is not happy while reading this book. The narration by Will Paton was superb. The slow drawl and southern dialect further evoked Faulkner’s written words. When I read this book I immediately recognized the style. It is hard to mistake a Faulkner from another author. For this reason alone one should read a Faulkner. Should I say simply say that everyone should suffer through at least one Faulkner to experience the challenge of his writing? I like the way, Faulkner writes – his style of writing. I was drawn in by the plot and my emotive response was total.

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