Thursday, June 6, 2013

Faulkner's Voice

I have no desire to write like Faulkner. Yes, he is my favorite writer. Yes he is brilliant. Yes I would like to escape into one of his books, through which I am sure there are portals to all his other books, and I could wander Yoknapatawpha county forever.

But I don't aspire to write like Faulkner. If I did, as a self-published author on Amazon I doubt I would ever get any readers.

I recently joined the blog follows program on World Literary Café. I had abandoned my Stalking Faulkner Blog for several months. I was on WLC this morning and decided to join this program, and in thinking about which of my blogs to post, I decided on this one.

It's perfect to choose this one. Everyone who sees this site as a result of WLC will be a writer. Sure, maybe not all writers love Faulkner. But Faulkner is a writer's writer.

Sort of like jazz is a musician's music. Not all musicians love jazz, and not all jazz lovers are musicians, but it's a good bet that a high percentage of them are and vice versa.

Same with Faulkner. I'm not sure exactly why that is.

Perhaps it is because only another writer can appreciate the depth and brilliance of Faulkner's voice. Maybe it's because only another writer would wade through the difficult swamp of reading and trying to understand Quentin's section in The Sound and The Fury, or decide to go to the special website with color-coded text to understand and follow where we are in Benjy's memories.

But whoever does take the time to read and truly appreciate Faulkner's work will be delighted, I assure you. I am only getting started on my lifetime of reading him, who is without a doubt, one of the greatest authors of all time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Film of AS I LAY DYING in the works in Mississippi

Humble Productions, Inc. is filming a production of AS I LAY DYING in Mississippi this fall. There will be casting calls in Jackson August 8th 2012. Here are the details.
I only wish I could go to Mississippi and watch the entire process: the auditions, the location scouting, the filming itself, the discussions that go on in the back rooms. I wish I could have listened in on the decision to make the film.
I ashamedly admit that AS I LAY DYING is one I haven't gotten to yet. I guess it has to be next on my list and bumped ahead of finishing THE HAMLET, and INTRUDERS IN THE DUST.
This is also the first time I've ever wished I were a producer. I would love to make any Faulkner book into a movie.
If you have never taken the time to delve into the work of this Mississippi writer, please do give it a try. But do so knowing that it will require some effort to understand, especially if you choose THE SOUND AND THE FURY. It is worth the effort.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Faulkner Facts

It takes time to get around to learning everything there is to learn about Faulkner, so bear with me. There's a lot of other things I have to get to. Housework, parenting, working, worrying, complaining etc. So, yea I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't already know the things I learned about him today.

1. Faulkner thought he created his own characters. Here's what I think. He was so oblivious to the world around him that he maybe didn't realize he was getting his ideas from it. People who knew him said that he seemed to ignore everyone around him, finding them all ordinary. I just think he was in denial. He claims he could create better characters than God. Yet everyone in the town of Oxford was enraged at him. So, who knows what the truth is. Whatever the truth is, even if those people were angry, even if they were hurt, he had a higher calling than their feelings.

2. Yoknapatawpha county came from a real word or word combination. Of course it did. No one comes up with that. Turns out it comes from two Chickasaw words meaning split land. "Earlier maps of the area called it "Yokney Patafa."

That's all for today. Back to the chores.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chaplin and Faulkner

I am currently reading Chaplin A Life by Stephen Weissman, M.D. It is fascinating. So why, might you ask, would I, in the middle of reading say to myself, "I just know the name Faulkner is going to come up in the next paragraph or two. I sense a reference to Faulkner coming."

It is because of how alike they were as artists, believe it or not.

Charlie Chaplin grew up in such a unique, heartbreaking, unforgettable way that it makes perfect sense why his childhood haunts him. The way that it haunts him makes him yearn for the surroundings of his youth. The pawn shop where his mother pawned his brother's work uniform every week so they would have food, and bought back every Friday so her son could work to help support the family. The tiny room they rented above a barber shop. The house where he lived when they were at the height of their wealth, and the unit they rented at the depths of their poverty and despair.

It turns out that Chaplin spent his artistic life recreating his youth. He needed sets built to remind him of his childhood to prompt his creativity.

Of course, it was around this passage in the book that I began to expect the reference to Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha county. After the mention of several others in that same genre, he was mentioned as expected.

It said they wanted to recreate a particular moment, or several particular moments--Chaplin and Faulkner.

Yep. I know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Images from the works of Faulkner

Why do the images from the works of Faulkner stay with me forever? Is it just me? No, I don't think so. There are people who dedicate their lives to studying Faulkner. Of course he's an amazing writer.
So, what I am asking myself here is, "What is it in his imagery that makes it stay with me forever?"
I will talk about a few of the images from my admittedly brief readings of Faulkner. I know, I know, I'm "stalking Faulkner." How could my reading be brief. My answer is, that's how good he is, and believe me, I intend to remedy the fact that I have only read five of his novels. First of all, I have read some of them twice. Secondly, I have some non-Faulkner books on my reading list that I intend to finish but then I plan to get back to my pursuit of reading everything he's ever written.
So back to these images that stand out. One is the image of Mink Snopes trying to farm his little postage stamp of uncooperative land. I can still see him standing there on that plot of land. I'm not sure what he looks like, mainly because his face is so unimportant. He is so unblessed, so--as they say of him in the literary journals--dispossessed. But there is something about him standing there trying to farm that unresponsive dirt that never leaves my mind. So I think I will take a look at that passage again. Here is an excerpt.

The book is called The Mansion. It is part of a trilogy. It turns out I read my copy of The Mansion until it was torn to pieces, a bad habit I have with books I love. I was able to see the first few pages for free on Kindle. The first two sentences immediately jumped out at me. I wonder if this could be part of the reason the image presented later is so unforgettable.

"The jury said "Guilty" and the Judge said, "Life" but he didn't hear them. He wasn't listening."

That sentence is absolutely riveting. What happened? What did he do? Why isn't he listening?

I scrolled down the pages and discovered that page 9, most likely the page that describes that plot of land, is mysteriously and intentionally missing. "Page 9 is not available."

Hmm. Bad luck for me. But I imagine that is the page that has the description of that plot of land, and I can't imagine why it needs to be missing. I know it contains that first description of Mink standing on that plot of land. All I have to use is my vague memory of the description of it that involved something about Mink and his relationship with that God Awful plot of land that he had come to hate, come to resent. It was the only thing he had, and he hated it. He felt more tied to it than grateful for it.

After a bit more googling I am ready to say that the reason the image of Mink and his plot of unfarmable land is unforgettable it is the resentment that Mink felt towards his lot in life.

Another image that stays with me is that of Cady in the tree looking into the house "the night Damuddy died." This image is famous. In fact, Faulkner says The Sound and The Fury is really just a story about a little girl who fell in the mud. She fell from that tree as she stared into the window as life on the plantation let go of the last vestiges of the Civil War, and the Anti-Bellum years in the form of the last living connection to it's regal past. A moment like that has meaning to all of us, of course, as we either imagine or relive the passing of a link to our childhood, our security, and a time gone by, a time of greatness, even if that greatness is long past, or long since tarnished. It was what it was once, and will never be that again. This is one of Faulkner's main themes. Time. And it is the main theme in the book The Sound and The Fury as Benjy cannot even conceptualize it at all, and Quentin tries to stop it with broken clocks, and Dilcey is the only one able to interpret the family clock, which is always set on the wrong time.

The third image that comes to mind immediately is that of the pregnant woman walking the red dirt road from one town to another in search of the man who told her he was going to a town to get a job so he could provide for her. The Light in August starts out with this image which immediately captures the imagination and fills one with questions. What did he do? We know what he did. That rotten scoundrel. That poor woman. What will she do?

In looking at all these images I can see that it is much more than any of his powerful descriptive abilities or impressive vocabulary that create these indelible images in my mind. It is some profound truth, some transcendent meaning that these images contain. It is so amazing that an image can contain such powerful truths. It is the reason I agree with Mikhail Bakhtine that novels contain a unique access to truth that philosophical arguments can never express. It is the reason I left the study of Philosophy to pursue a career as a writer of Novels, even though I knew how difficult it would be to make it in such a field. It is also the reason I refuse to write what sells. I only write what I want to write. Faulkner wrote what he wanted to write; clearly he did, or he could never have produced work like this.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Unvanquished

I have misplaced my copy of "The Unvanquished." I may just have to go down to the used book store down the street an buy another copy. I was half way through the book, set it down for a while, and then got caught up in other things. After all, Faulkner is not the easiest read in the world.

As usual, it was very difficult for me to figure out what was going on in the story, not because it isn't well written, but because it is Faulkner. I sort of had a sense of what was going on, but needed the cliffnotes to be sure.

It turns out I was right about my hunch. The grandmother has some sort of scam she was pulling on the Union soldiers where she was selling them mules and stealing them back an selling them back to them all over again. I got the sense that she was only getting away with it because the captain had a soft spot in his heart for this spitfire granny.

Part of what makes Faulkner so hard to understand is, he's not trying to make sure you understand. I get the impression he could care less. He's telling a story, and if you're smart enough to figure out what's going on, you get to listen in. He almost makes you feel more like an eavesdropper than a reader, like if you're not careful, he might reach right out of the book and swat you away for being so nosy, if you bother him with questions.

Another thing that makes Faulkner challenging for me is the preposterousness of the situation. It really does make you want to do a double take to read what Granny is doing to those Unions soldiers. Is she for real? How is she getting away with that?

Yet another reason it is difficult to understand is, Granny seems to be doing this on the sly, trying to hide it from everyone in the story, reader included, and if she makes her plans too loudly everyone might find out!

Ringo is my favorite character. I don't mean to give the story away if you plan to read it, maybe don't read the rest of this blog, but one of the most memorable lines of dialogue is from Ringo. Granny is killed, and I didn't realize how attached to her he was. He was the same age as her white grandson, and every bit as much part of the family. After Granny is murdered, Ringo, the grandson, and Snopes, the man who originally seemed to get Granny involved with the scam she'd been running, all go on a quest to find the killer or killers and avenge her death. At one point, the grandson is trying to figure out how many notches are on the stick he is using to keep track of how many days they'd been gone. He forgets how many days it's been. He asks Ringo to help. How many notches are on his stick.

"I only got two notches. One for the day Granny was killed, and one for the day we find that son of a bitch that killed her."

I really didn't know how he felt about her till then. What a great writer Faulkner is, to keep that affection that Ringo had for Granny withheld till the moment he says that, while whittling on that stick.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yoknapatawpha County

I'm an escapist. I love chess. Nothing makes me happier than playing a six hour chess game except maybe one thing. Escaping to Yoknapatawpha County. That's where I want to be.

When I go to Yoknapatawpha County, and immediate feeling of peace washes over me. And I don't just plan to go there in my head either. I plan to go there for real. I've already driven to Oxford, and gone to see Rowen Oak, Faulkner's home, but that was before I had read The Sound And The Fury.

When I went to see the plantation, I looked at the rooms, the kitchen, the upstairs bedroom, the room where Faulkner wrote on the walls. I imagined things from The Mansion, because that's certainly what this was. Ok, I even acted a little silly. I imagined that everyone who'd ever read Faulkner felt the way I did. I asked the plantation tour guide if she knew anything about who the character of "Flem Snopes" was based on. She looked at me like I was crazy. Oh well, that wasn't the first time anyone had ever looked at me like that, and as I get further and further into my Faulkner obsession, I'm sure it won't be the last. But I'll be honest, I don't even think she knew who Flem Snopes was.

Now that I have read The Sound And The Fury, my determination to go to searching Mississippi for clues has grown. I want to see the tree that Caddy climbed, and even more, I want to see the window on which Lettie scratched the words "Lettie was here." I've heard it's still there. I've heard that scene appears in several of his books, and I haven't encountered it yet. It is supposedly a scene where a little girl scratches her name in the glass while the confederate soldiers march by. It's from real life, as real as it gets. A friend of Faulkner said when he saw that glass he said, "She's still there, like a ghost." I have to read more by Faulkner, and find that scene, and then, if it still exists, I have to find that glass window and see those words scratched there.

I love books. I am currently reading Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. Amazing book. I'm enjoying it. I'm also reading lots of indie books. I don't want to wait till I finish all these other books to get back to Faulkner. Maybe I will set aside a little time each day to visit Yoknapatawpha County.